By Gretchen Cleveland, '00
I remember having tea with Alicia, one of my dear friends, in Seattle a month before I got married. I was simultaneously finishing one job, beginning another clear across the state in Spokane, planning a wedding, and trying to figure out how my apartment in Seattle was going to get packed up before Josh and I moved into our apartment in East, the newest residence hall at Whitworth (where Josh worked as a resident director). I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and wondering what I was going to do without my community of friends and family around to support me through the transition -- not to mention pondering how living in a residence hall would look at age 31 and newly married. As my entire world seemed to be in flux, Alicia calmly looked at me and said, "Well, you'll be wearing the same clothes." God bless my friend for helping me find one constant in a sea of change.
In my three-year career at our alma mater, I have watched as Bill Robinson retired and Beck Taylor took the helm. I witnessed the groundbreaking for Robinson Science Hall and watched the new addition of the HUB go up. I provided logistical support as we established Whitworth's presence in Costa Rica and have listened to students and faculty as they return from their semester experiences and tell of how their lives were changed. I've seen leadership changes in the School of Global Commerce & Management, and I've seen the university catch up with its growth by organizing into schools under deans, which has resulted in the hiring of a brand-new dean. Kathy Storm is moving from student life to academic affairs, which led to a national search and Dick Mandeville being called into his new position as vice president for student life. Oh, and I'm getting a new boss as the current provost, Michael Le Roy, '89, takes his leadership skills on the road and moves into the presidency at Calvin College, in Michigan. Whitworth has benefited a great deal from Michael's vision of what it can be; every decision he has made has been grounded in his love for the university and the students, faculty and staff. And while the move is good for him, his family, and Calvin, we will miss his presence and his love for this community.
Yes, it feels like a lot of change to occur in one place in such a short span of time, and while at times I feel overwhelmed by it all and want to curl up in a ball until calm returns, I also admit this is a powerful time to be working at Whitworth. At our wedding, my dad preached on the verses from Isaiah 43 in which God speaks of doing a brand-new thing in the midst of his people. It feels like a fitting word in this season at Whitworth as we're at that point where God seems to be inviting us to "Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand new. It's bursting out! Don't you see it?" (Isaiah 43:19, The Message).
When I returned to Whitworth when Josh and I started dating, and then after we were married, I remember thinking it had changed significantly. The "Camp Whitworth" signage was long gone, the fine arts building no longer was home to families of squirrels, and -- oh, dear lord -- the students had suddenly become much younger than I was as an undergrad. But I also saw familiar faces around campus; the same faculty and staff who knew me as a student welcomed me home and embraced my return as a staff member. (Case in point, Laura Bloxham still encourages me to come hide out in her office when I need to.) In the words of my friend Alicia, Whitworth is still "wearing the same clothes." The mission of the university remains unchanged, and the faculty, staff and students still understand what it means to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity. The mind and heart of this place remain on the narrow ridge, and I continue to be proud of the university and of the people who make it what it is.
Frisbees still fly on campus, obstacle courses are still built in the residence hall lounges by RAs in the evenings on Prime Time (or "duty," to those of us from the '90s era). Forrest Baird is still lecturing about C.S. Lewis, and Doug Sugano keeps reminding me to not take myself too seriously, even when I'm hounding him for information about the new honors program. Meaningful conversations continue to happen in classrooms, in coffee shops, in the dining hall and in residence halls. And yes, faculty still know students by name and continue to welcome them into their homes. Whitworth is still Whitworth.
Gretchen Anderson Cleveland, '00, is executive assistant to the provost at Whitworth. She is married to Josh Cleveland, '01, assistant director of alumni & parent relations.