Kuyper College Inauguration - Dr. Patricia R. Harris
November 13, 2017
Dr. Patricia R. Harris’ inauguration as president of Kuyper College took place on Friday, November 10, at the College’s Boonstra Center.
Surrounded by the Kuyper Board of trustees, faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as representatives from Aquinas College, Calvin Theological Seminary, Cornerstone University, Grand Valley State University, Hope College, Azusa Pacific University, Western Theological Seminary, and the Christian Reformed Church North America, Dr. Harris became Kuyper College’s fifth president.
During the program speakers representing various College communities gave the
traditional Greeting to the President.
Called upon to do so on behalf of the faculty, Dr. Judy Ravenhorst Meerman, Professor of Social Work said: “We are thankful for Dr. Harris commitment to excellence and her spirit of collaboration. She has modeled how to care and value each person at Kuyper whether their work is in or outside the classroom. As a faculty, we are confident in the leadership of Dr. Harris and are excited and committed to work with her to move the College forward for years to come.”
Student Body President, Geoffrey Hulsether, described “President Patti” as someone who is always smiling. “In every interaction she has with students there is genuine happiness and you can feel that you’re valued,” he said. Speaking directly to Dr. Harris’ Hulsether added, “We are very grateful that you are involved in all of our lives—you know our names, you know many of our stories, you’re very willing to talk with us and are very interested in listening to what we have to say.”
A poignant moment came when Dr. Libbey Horton, Assistant Professor of Education at Hope College, and Kuyper College class of 2006, gave the Presidential Greeting on behalf of the Kuyper Alumni. She spoke of Dr. Harris from a perspective that only she and her three siblings could when she said: “Eleven years ago I had the opportunity to share my hopes and dreams for my graduating class. It is an honor to stand once again here, but now talking about the future of Kuyper College as my Mom steps into the role of President.”
Dr. Shirley Hoogstra, President, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, delivered a moving Keynote address. She spoke of the heroes of obedience found in Scripture, who were called to take up an assignment from God. “The stories always reveal something about the person called,” she said. “And always reveal something about the caller—almighty God.” As she described the calling of Moses, she detailed how he had been prepared by God, both in Egypt, while living in Pharaoh’s palace, as well as in the land of Midian, as a Shepard to his father-in-law’s flocks. And how, he had been given both resources and promises from God: 'I’ll be with you, and I will be in the midst of it all,’ which, she said “God always gives to leaders who’ve been given a complicated and worthy Kingdom assignment,” and then she added, “Moses obeyed God’s call and Moses was a life called into being. And Patti Harris,” she continued, “you have a life that is being called again into being.”
Hoogstra shared about the period when Kuyper was seeking to find its new President, and time she spent with Dr. Harris in “the idyllic green and lush Northwest corner” of Washington State. “You [Patti] were talking about the possibility of God’s call on your life to lead this beautiful community. And you shared with me your vision for Kuyper and expressed your deep love and affection for this mission. You also spoke knowingly of the challenges, which did not repel you, but actually compelled you to offer your academic prowess, your steadfast heart, your deep faith to a cause; to a community of students, faculty and staff. So, Patricia, I am so grateful to be a witness today, to your presidential investiture, and like Moses, God has called your name. And so, when the days are glorious or when the days are difficult remember God’s promises to those he calls, ‘I am with you, I am in your midst.’”
During the Investiture of Dr. Harris and before he presented her with the Kuyper College Presidential Medallion, Board of Trustees Chair, Matthew Nelson, delivered the Charge to the President, on behalf of the Board. Paraphrasing Psalm 16 which had just been read by Board of Trustees Secretary, Karen Helder, he charged Dr. Harris “To in all things, take refuge in God for apart from Him there’s no good thing. To keep the Gospel always before her and lead Kuyper College in the path of life. And that in her leadership of Kuyper College, to always share the joy of God’s presence—for the joy of the Lord will be her strength.”
After the presentation of the Presidential Medallion, Dr. Harris addressed the audience. “Today I stand before you as the new President of Kuyper College,” she said. “But more importantly I kneel before our Lord and God offering Him the work of my hands, and asking Him for wisdom, for strength, for grace and for courage.” Then, as she held it in her hand, she called attention to the three-word motto engraved on the Medallion, which she described as encapsulating the history and way of life of the College since its very founding. “Ora et Labora, Pray and Work, is a motto that has been lived at Kuyper since its foundation 78 years ago,” she said. “These words are partners, one does not supersede the other, but rather these two activities interact to create a balance in the way we live as Christians”—she continued, as she quoted Benedict of Nursia who coined the motto back in sixth Century. “This motto is purporting an attitude as well as an activity—and at Kuyper, prayer permeates and punctuates our work.” She then proceeded to share several events where the praying and the working by students and board, faculty and staff members was crucial in the formation and continuity of Kuyper’s mission. Referring to the continuity of mission she said that “while times change, cultures change, jobs change and academic programs change one thing is certain; at Kuyper College we are still very intent on preparing our students to be ready, to be ready for their careers, to be rooted in a Biblical Reformed worldview and to be called by God to serve.” She added that, “Lord willing, at the next presidential inauguration,” and then with a smile interjected, “I’m not suggesting that happens anytime soon, there will be more flags around this gymnasium representing more students that are ready for their careers and who are called by God to serve every square inch of His world. And along with more flags there will be more stories of God at work.”
In closing she said, “As I reflect in the abiding mission of this College, the stories of our students and alumni, and the incredible expertise and dedication of our faculty and staff I am so grateful to serve as the next President. And I humbly, I eagerly and gratefully accept the charge placed on me as President, God helping me. And I turn to all of you, asking for your support—Ora et Labora—may those be your words as well.”
After Dr. Harris’ remarks, Dr. Doug Felch, Emeritus Professor of Theological Studies, gave the Benediction, and after the recessional—“Now Thank We All Our God,” the assembled gathered in the Walters Dining Room for a reception.
If you would like to view a recording of the Inauguration please click here.