The Rev. Eric Peterson, '85
It seems a bit presumptuous for a self-identified village pastor like me to bring greetings on behalf of the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Jesus Christ, but I am honored by the invitation to add a voice to the long and necessary relationship which exists as we celebrate our mutual work of integrating heart-mind discipleship through the enduring collaboration of church and academy.
As a member of the presidential search committee, I met and was impressed by a number of people who have the unique gifts to be a university president. But I was, and I am now all the more convinced that you, Beck Taylor, are the right person for this institution for this season of its life. I am very glad that you are here.
Having gotten to know you and your character a bit I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. But I want to offer a reminder to you, nonetheless, because I think we all need to be reminded of some important things on these kinds of occasions when individuals ascend to positions of influence.
I wish to remind you on this inaugural day that the purest and most virtuous form of leadership, in any arena – whether in the church or the academy, in government or business – is a reflection of the servant leadership of Jesus who came not to be served, but to serve.
My pastoral encouragement to you on this day is to resist and defy whatever forces, whether internal or external, which may tempt you to exchange the humble way of servant leadership for the acquisition of power. My own sense is that staying closely connected to the student body will keep you established in that orientation toward a servant-leader presidency.
I know this is how you are wired. It's one of the reasons we unanimously recommended you to the board of trustees. It is the primary reason you are here. And it will be the cornerstone of a presidency that is God-honoring, Christ-following and humanity-serving.
As audacious as it sounds to my own ears, I dare say that the Church of Jesus Christ is glad that you have joined the many existing servant-leaders of Whitworth University for such a time as this. May the blessings of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit be yours. Amen.