As academics, we are well trained in seeing the world through the lens of neat packages called disciplines— even though we know they don't perfectly reflect reality. As humans, we love to make plans and craft lists as if we are sovereigns of our futures and our days—even though we know that we are not.
This past spring has been a powerful reminder of what we know in our minds but so often fail to remember in our daily lives. We are not in charge!
Just as our “normal” routines here at Houghton were summarily disrupted on March 19th when we traded in person residential life for the less familiar routines of remote learning, all of our personal and professional lives have been similarly disrupted by the intrusion of COVID-19. We are all getting used to a new kind of life that, even six months ago, we could not have imagined. Part of this new reality is the prolonged and vexing uncertainty of when it all will end—and what life after the pandemic will look like. We know from history that the future never returns to exactly like the past—so we all wait nervously to see what “normal” will be at some future point that is equally unknown.
But just as life does not fit into neat packages of our own making and planning, so reality does not meet us in ways that are fully uniform or consistent. Births and deaths happen on the same day. New opportunities come whenever things are shaken up—and, indeed, often because things have been shaken up. Our very happiest moments are laced with the underlying knowledge that they cannot last. We are reminded in the imagery of the New Testament that kernels of wheat must “die” to bear fruit. This strange intertwining of dying and living—of sorrow and of joy—is part of our world.
And so it has been for us here at Houghton this spring. When COVID-19 hit, some wondered if we should slow down the pace of the IMPACT Campaign and delay the closing date. We chose to continue moving forward. Instead of what some had predicted, we experienced an overwhelming outpouring of generosity in this April’s One Day Giving Challenge, which continued through the end of May. Thanks to generous gifts—some of which we knew about, some of which were total surprises—we not only reached our $70 million goal; we exceeded it.
It is this amazing story of the generosity of Houghton alumni and friends, partnering with God’s faithful purposes, that we want to celebrate in this issue of the Houghton Magazine. We wish we could be all together in person at Homecoming to share together in this climax of IMPACT. Instead, we are seeking in this moment—as in all of our lives—to focus on the unique gifts that are available to us in Homecoming 2020 rather than wishing things were different.
We thank you for your part in IMPACT, look forward to seeing you soon, and wish you God’s richest blessing on this season in your journey, even as we celebrate together God’s gracious provisions for our beloved alma mater.
Shirley A. Mullen, Class of 1976