Who would suspect that a small town on Route 19 — a town without a single traffic light or a shopping mall — could be a crossroads of God’s global activity? Yet that is just what we are privileged to witness year in and year out here in Houghton. I marvel at the multiple and often mysterious ways that students find themselves in this place. I marvel at the magnetic connections of this community that hold students here until they graduate. Finally, I marvel that they keep coming back to be renewed, sometimes by the people, sometimes by the music, sometimes by the peace and quiet.
All of this has been much on my mind in these past few weeks as we welcomed a new class, hosted our third annual Faith and Justice Symposium, celebrated Homecoming, and learned of our highest ever persistence rates among our returning students.
Paul and I always host a meet-and greet with our incoming students. This year’s entering class included students from Rwanda, China, Korea, Mali, Kazakhstan, the Dominican Republic, Belgium, as well as California, Colorado, Ontario, New Brunswick, and a host of other U.S. states and Canadian provinces. I always want to hear the story of how they heard of Houghton College. Of course, in today’s world some of them have heard of us on the web. Most still come to us because of an alumni connection. They had a teacher, a mentor, a pastor they admired — and found out they were a graduate of Houghton College.
Their coming to Houghton is wonderful, but the community that emerges from their connections once they arrive is even more so. Our rich community life as well as our strong educational programs, translate into student retention. Our formal nationally benchmarked “retention rates” were the highest in ten years. This is the best answer to the persistent media question — “Is a private college education worth it?” Houghton students answer “yes” year after year by coming back. They are drawn back by their friends, their commitments to choir or an athletic team, or the opportunity to be a resident assistant or to go on an off-campus program, or an internship. Most of all, it is their professors, respected adults who are helping them to imagine what God is calling them to do in the world — and preparing them for that task.
During the last week in September, we hosted the third annual Faith and Justice Symposium (this year in partnership with Bread for the World) on Global Poverty and Hunger. Among the speakers was a 2012 Houghton graduate who had majored in political science and international relations and minored in Spanish. During his time here, he also did research in Sierra Leone with Professor Oakerson and carried out an internship at the Salvation Army International Social Justice Commission in New York City, a position usually reserved for graduate students, I might add. Our current students hosted many of the panel discussions and organized the Art-for-Justice evening which included a range of interactive art activities for the conference participants, as well as a silent auction to benefit various local organizations that address hunger issues in our region.
At Homecoming weekend, we honored two Alumni of the Year, Dr. Myron Glick and Dr. Joe Harvey, both members of the 25th reunion class, for their extraordinary commitment to providing excellent health care for those of our world who would not otherwise have it. Dr. Glick works among the immigrant and refugee populations of the West Side of Buffalo; Dr. Harvey in the Congo. Our Homecoming chapel speaker, Bob Van Dyk, spoke about how God had used him in expanding our country’s capacity to care for the elderly.
On Saturday at Homecoming, we dedicated the new Alumni House, formerly Walldorf House. We trust that this will quickly become a place of welcome and hospitality where alumni and current students can share with each other the astounding stories of God’s providential activity that works in and out of this small town on Route 19 and that surrounds us wherever we find ourselves today.
Celebrating His Grace and Faithfulness today,
Shirley Mullen, Class of 1976