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Convocation Message - Dr. David Turk

Posted by Deborah.Walker on Wednesday September 14, 2005

Sept. 2, 2005

Convocations are usually lofty affairs, with faculty in regalia, the press in attendance and an expensive outside speaker brought in to deliver an address which students soon forget.  Ben Stein (Win Ben Steins Money) recently wrote in The New York Times that convocation speeches often focus on the great metaphysical and spiritual issues of life and miss what makes up so much of life the material issues.  In focusing on the material, he offers the following advice to new students: learn to get rid of a bad roommate, learn to think, learn to value work, choose the right field in order to make a good salary, make good connections, and finally, invest in retirement early.

Ben Stein is onto something with these six bits of practical advice.  I would like to offer my own take on his advice based on Nyack Colleges Core Values.  These core values are the foundations of our educational enterprise at Nyack and are the reasons why the staff and faculty are at Nyack and not somewhere else.

I agree with Ben Stein that college students need to value work because when we are fulfilling Gods call for our lives, our work is joyous.  Most of Nyacks students say that they eventually want to serve others and hence they tend to choose careers in one of the four areas listed in Core Value 1 (Preparing students to serve in ministerial, educational, healing and community-building professions).  My advice to students is not to wait until they are in their careers before they begin serving othersfind the value in working to serve others while in college. We need to learn to take seriously Jesus statement, Love one another and put this into the practice of serving one another while we are in college, not once we are in our careers.  So, students need to think twice before following Ben Steins advice to dump the lousy roommate.

I also agree with Ben Stein that students need to learn to think.  Core Value 2 (Pursuing academic excellence in a spirit of grace and humility) makes it plain that we are a college and that learning to think is central to what students are doing here.  Profs give assignments and students who dont attend classes and hand in work will fail.  My advice is to learn to value the life of the mind and see this time in college as Gods gift.  This is the time when students think about what their career will involve, how their talents match up with that career and what Gods plan for both the student and His whole creation are all about.  This is heavy stuff; we shouldnt avoid thinking about it.  A good servant-worker should have done some thinking about service to God.  Ben Stein is right onlearn to think.

I have a different take on Steins advice to invest early in ones retirement, get ahead through networking and choose a lucrative field.  Core Values 3 (Fostering a global perspective within a diverse multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Christian academic community) and 4 (Providing educational access and support to motivated students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds) really ask us to invest in the lives of others.  The gospel is replete with promises that when we invest in others, our lives will be rich and abundant.  Nyack was founded by an individual, who ministered to immigrants in New York City and who became passionate about reaching a lost world for Christ.  Even if a student is not planning to become a missionary, Nyack wants all its students to develop a missionarys perspectiveto begin to truly see those who live on the margins and boundaries of the worlds societies.  We Americans need to get over the mentality that the USA is number one.  Jesus will NOT return holding the Declaration of Independence in one hand and the US Constitution in the other.  We need to learn to look for the good in all peoples in the world, to see their needs and empathize with them.  My advice is to learn the value of seeing the world through the eyes of Jesus.  Find ways to serve people in other countries.

But find ways to serve the many different people on our own diverse campus.  Nyack is the fifth most diverse private college or university in the US; the most diverse Christian college on the planet.  However, racism and prejudice exist at Nyack College.  We need to learn to acknowledge the prejudice that binds us and learn to open doors for others as we wish to have them opened for us.  Let me say again that Gods investment strategy for each of us is different than the prevailing societal view.  God says give and we shall receive.  We need to give by reaching across the ethnic and class boundaries that divide us to make sure that all are treated fairly in our own community.

Ben Stein doesnt touch on my last piece of advice that relates to Core Value 5 (Emphasizing the integration of faith, learning and spiritual transformation): we need to be open to Gods continual working in our lives.  As a Christian college we want our students to learn to follow the path of Jesus and be open to the work of the Holy Spirit.  So we dont punch out our roommate for speaking in tongues, and if we do speak in tongues, we dont become proud and call those who dont, dead in the spirit.  We need to learn to see that we are all at different places in our walk with God and give God some space to work differently with each of us.

Jesus says that because of Gods love we are to love God and love one another.  My advice that grows out of our Core Values is:

  1. Begin the good work of servant-hood now;
  2. Value the life of the mind as a gift from God;
  3. Invest in others by seeing Gods potential in them and helping to open doors for those who are different from us; and
  4. Listen carefully to what God is doing in our lives and dont expect God to be doing the same thing in everyone elses life.

Nyack College will be a great school for all of us if we let God work in our lives so that we will become His servants and begin investing in other lives and, hence our own.  Four years is a gift to be able to think through all of this.  Take this gift and have a great year.

Dr. David F. Turk
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

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