Stories By Margaret D. Smith
Photos By Jimi Lott
Photos By Jimi Lott
Using one's gifts in a worthy endeavor is an excellent way to watch those talents multiply. At the fourth annual President's Recognition Convocation on May 8, Seattle Pacific University recognized years-of-service anniversaries for 62 faculty and staff members. In addition, SPU highlighted six people whose gifts have made a special impact on the University.
Seattle Pacific President Philip Eaton commended the six honorees for investing their talents in the University and inspiring others to do the same. "These awards recognize our people for their gifts," he said. "But these awards are also about contributing those gifts. These people have shared their gifts in a way that has built up our community to be a better place."
Using collaboration and innovation, Ruth Adams is, according to President Eaton, "admired for a life of integrity, warmth and sense of humor." Besides keeping a hand in committees and projects all across campus, Adams works creatively with her staff in Student Academic Services to enhance administrative systems. In the past year, she played a key role in two major projects: developing the new professional studies major and analyzing the new Common Curriculum.
According to Registration Coordinator Andy Anderson, Adams' gift to the University "can be summed up in three words: dedication to students. A student's successful academic college experience means more to her than anything else."
How does Adams manage all this without losing her balance? One way is by devoting time and energy to her relationship with God. Her devotion is apparent in the way she encourages her staff with inspirational Scriptures and leads them in prayer for others at SPU. Another way she keeps going is through a network of supporters. "I have wonderful people in my life," says Adams, "including a fantastic husband who knows I love what I do and an amazing staff with very strong shoulders."
Mary Jayne Allen
Mary Jayne Allen encourages students to make connections between what they learn in class and what they choose to do for the rest of the day. According to Linda Wagner, acting director for the Center for Learning, Allen "sees students as whole learners. She finds ways to integrate classroom learning and life learning — she's a bridge."
For example, Allen works with Residence Life staff on ways to help students connect their classroom learning with life in the residence halls. She teaches a University Seminar (USem) course on the topic of community and supervises USem student mentors, encouraging them to pursue a spiritual as well as an academic education. Her love for students means she also maintains ongoing contact with graduates.
In presenting Allen with the award, Associate Director of Development and Staff Council President Dean Carrell called her "a servant leader who lives out her faith thoughtfully."
Allen sees it this way: "If we don't think of the entire university as a classroom, where students see the connections between their learning and their broader lives, we run the risk that students will not consider how the 'life of the mind' should inform who they are becoming as people of faith and global citizens."
Since 1974, Janet Blumberg has taught English — with a passion. For thousands of fortunate students at SPU, she covered everything from "Literary Theory" to "Chaucer and the Pearl Poet." Blumberg's "enthusiastic dedication to truth and scholarship," says one student who nominated her as Professor of the Year, "has inspired anyone who had her as a teacher."
After encouraging several decades of budding writers, Blumberg is taking an autumn sabbatical and then leaving the University to pursue her own writing career. She will be officially honored as a retiree next spring. Said Professor of English Luke Reinsma during a reception in her honor, "Janet has nurtured both her students and colleagues with her dedication, her sighs, her tears and her love."
What has fueled her passion for teaching? According to Blumberg, she drew from a well of writers who believed in a God-centered world. "The writers of earlier works of literature infused into me a sense of the goodness of Nature as the dynamic work of God," she said. "I've tried to convey this grace-centered cosmos to others whose hearts are broken by the modern, mechanized vision of the universe."
According to President Eaton, Gordon Nygard is "the epitome of the admirable, gracious and wise steward." Leading his staff in managing millions of dollars for the Seattle Pacific Foundation, he maintains a reputation of integrity and skill that attracts supporters of SPU. Over the past 10 years, despite market volatility, the Foundation has posted impressive returns, ranking in the top quartile of institutions with endowments under $100 million.
Beth Oppenlander, program coordinator for the Foundation, says that Nygard's dedication and commitment to the University are infectious. "He is a man of great competence and Christian character, and he's been a wonderful mentor to me."
Investment executives across the country seek his counsel, and he has led discussion groups at the Commonfund Endowment Institute at Harvard University, where the nation's top investors learn about managing endowment funds. But Nygard's love for Seattle Pacific and its mission of stewardship has kept him working here.
"It's rewarding to know that our efforts are contributing directly to accomplishing the mission of the University," he says. "And the incremental returns we can generate will allow more students to attend SPU."
Maintaining a database of approximately 50,000 names for the Office of Development, Nancy Rock has information management down to a science. Having worked on and off at SPU since 1980, she knows how important relationships from the University's history weave in and out of its present.
It is Rock's kindness and joyful attitude that make her attractive to student staff and coworkers alike. She oversees seven student employees, training them and sharing in their lives, and they respect her in return. Her coworkers find her to be a hardworking supporter of projects and a positive asset to the department. According to Associate Director of Development and Staff Council President Dean Carrell, "Nancy's generous spirit is perhaps one of her greatest gifts. She pours that gift into all she does."
Rock believes that her work at Seattle Pacific has a higher purpose. "Working for an institution with such a wonderful Christian mission has been rewarding. It's nice knowing your work is helping further God's work."
Concerned with the psychological and social effects of war on individuals, Mícheál Roe, whom President Eaton calls "an extraordinarily gifted teacher and scholar," stays proactive both here and abroad. Often conducting research and presenting papers in Northern Ireland, Roe has made peacemaking his passion. Closer to home, he provides research support to the Cowlitz Indians as they petition the U.S. government for formal recognition.
Somehow he does all this while heading the Psychology Department at SPU and graciously offering his time to students who share his passion for making a difference in the world. "I can't imagine anyone being more dedicated to the integrity of a program and more invested in students," says Les Parrott, professor of psychology. "Not only that, Mike's dedication to righting social wrongs broadens the horizon of compassion for students as well as colleagues."
With so many international interests, what attracts Roe to Seattle Pacific? "Teaching, scholarship and social activism are more than my profession," says Roe. "They constitute my vocation as a follower of Jesus. SPU actively encourages me in living out this vocation. Quite simply, this learning community and I are a nice match."