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Summer 2003 | Volume 26, Number 2 | My Response
Of Glossy Brown Chestnuts and My Academic Home
By Joyce Quiring Erickson 

I CALL SEATTLE PACIFIC my academic home to evoke all the positive connotations the word “home” can elicit. Despite Thomas Wolfe’s suggestion that you can’t go home again, I’ve actually come back to this place twice, although some might think the lines from a Robert Frost poem more apropos: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

My first homecoming was as a fledgling professor just completing my doctorate. That was 12 years after I had come to SPC as a freshman. Though I was here for only one year (I married at the end of my freshman year and went to work to support my husband in school), that year was life-changing for me in many ways I don’t have the space to articulate. Those of you from older times will know why I mention three legendary professors: M.B. Miller, Roy Swanstrom, Joe Davis.

And then to come back to this place as their colleague (though I certainly didn’t address them by their first names): I remember weeping at my first faculty retreat during the worship service in that drafty hall at Camp Casey — weeping with the joy of being home. On the desk in my Tiffany Hall office, I collected a row of glossy brown chestnuts that dropped from the trees in the Loop, just as I had on the desk in my dorm room.

Those glorious trees in the Loop, or the vista of Ebey’s Prairie at Camp Casey, remind us that home is place as well as people, and just as I longed for my colleagues — by then my contemporaries and best friends — when I left SPU the second time, so I longed for Seattle and for the breathtakingly beautiful landscapes of the Pacific Northwest.

When we moved back to Seattle over a decade later, I felt like a person in love. I was suffused with gratitude for this city and the blessing of being here. In fact, I was so astonished by the intensity of my response that I read geographers, philosophers and literary critics on the meaning of home, which resulted in a published article. “Fields of care” is the phrase one writer uses to describe our attachment to a home place, and it is both the place and the people who are in our fields of care.

And then, praise God, I was invited in 1992 to return to a teaching position at SPU. And once again, I picked up chestnuts in the Loop and arranged them on my desk in Tiffany Hall. How many of us have the blessed experience of coming home for the second time?

This love of home, this attachment to people and place, is, I believe, part of our created nature as humans. Certainly many passages of Scripture affirm this. The Promised Land is nothing if not a homeland — place and people. So many of the prophetic books look forward to the time when the poor, the sick and the oppressed are cared for, and all the people sit under their own vine and fig tree. At home.

Other passages of Scripture, however, remind us that our ancestor of faith is a “wandering Aramean” who left home for a city prepared by God (Hebrews 11:8–16). Lovely and beloved as our home is, God has prepared a better one.

Still, our only models for the place God has prepared come from this one, and all the biblical metaphors rely on the best of this world to describe the indescribable, ultimately unimaginable place God has prepared for us, the place with many rooms, as Jesus says in John.

Does that make us love this place less? No. Because this place is our present “field of care,” a gift of which we have been made stewards. That is really what a Christian university is about: understanding and learning about all of God’s creation and creatures (including ourselves) and how to care for them. And we look for the connections between the visible and the invisible, between this world and the next, between this home and the one that God has prepared for us.

But as we look honestly, we can also see the disorder in the world and in human lives that sin has created. Humans beings and the creation long for God’s promised redemption (Romans 8:19–24). Ultimately, it is this longing and hope that motivates our work as faculty: hope that our students will come to understand their redemption and their calling, hope that our work will care for the creation, hope that the world will be redeemed. Hope that we will all find the home God has prepared for us.

Joyce Quiring Erickson retired this year after 25 years at Seattle Pacific University as a professor of English, dean of the School of Humanities and, most recently, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (see the article on page 41). During her career, Erickson also held academic leadership positions at Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon, and at Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, Connecticut. This essay is adapted from a devotional she presented to the SPU Board of Trustees on May 16.

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A Gift at Any Age
The Young Alums are supporting the Campaign with the Young Alumni Endowment. They plan to provide scholarship support to students already engaging the culture. [Campaign]

Like Grandfather, Like Grandson
On Commencement Day, 80-year-old Sheldon Arnett finally received his bachelor’s degree from Seattle Pacific. His grandson, Jeremiah Johnson, earned his SPU bachelor’s degree on the same day. [Campus]

The Retiring Class of 2003
Five professors, with a combined 162 years in the classroom, retired this year. They tell of their careers and the impact students had on them. [Faculty]

Still Exploring
Missionary bush pilot, Roald Amundsen ’41, founded Missionary Aviation and Repair Center (MARC) — becoming an explorer just like his famous Norwegian namesake. [Alumni]

Second Wind
A marathoner, wife, mother and business alumna comes back after tough times. As a 45-year-old senior, she was part of the SPU cross country team that ranked 14th in the nation. [Athletics]