Response Online


Big Ideas Engaging the Culture, Changing the World

A Grateful Community Says Goodbye

By Dennis Weibling, Chair of the SPU Board of Trustees

President Philip Eaton and SPU students

This is a bittersweet moment for me. While I am honored to pay tribute to Phil and Sharon Eaton for the extraordinary leadership they have provided Seattle Pacific University for the past 17 years, I am saddened that this chapter is coming to a close.

It has been a great pleasure to watch the significant ways in which Phil and Sharon have influenced the Seattle Pacific community, the city of Seattle, and the world.

Perhaps most important has been the steady and compelling vision Phil has communicated here and across the nation. Who doesn’t know the phrase engaging the culture, changing the world and associate it with SPU and its contributions to equipping graduates who are making a difference for good?

This vision drives many program initiatives Phil has championed at SPU. For example, the Center for Biblical and Theological Education sends Lectio, a web-based guided Bible reading, around the world. The Center for Scholarship and Faculty Development is a thriving commitment to faculty and academic quality. And the Perkins Center for Reconciliation is evidence of SPU’s commitment to a gospel view of reconciliation, and of Phil’s partnership with the great John Perkins.

Through the annual Downtown Business Breakfast, the annual Sacred Sounds of Christmas concert, and service in numerous civic roles, Phil also took the vision of Seattle Pacific into the city — and far beyond.

When future students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends walk across the SPU campus, the Eaton legacy will be evident. From the Science Building to Gwinn Commons to Emerson Hall to Otto Miller Hall and other facilities, Phil has helped shape Seattle Pacific for the next generation.

I know I speak for the entire extended SPU community in thanking Phil and Sharon Eaton, and bidding them farewell with our great pride and with our deepest love.

The Eaton Legacy

“Dr. Eaton sets himself apart in many ways, not the least being his incisive mind, his powerful spiritual discernment, and his winsome personality. But, as Dr. Eaton himself says, ‘the greatest leaders are those who lead with ideas,’ and in this manner, he is peerless. His unflinching vision of God’s grand purpose for a Christian university in today’s world is an inspiration for us all.”

Josh Norquist
SPU Senior, ASSP President
Business Administration Major

“One of the brightest threads in the rich tapestry of Phil Eaton’s SPU legacy is the University’s School of Theology. The steady growth of its on-campus programs and national influence is due in large measure to Phil’s unwavering support and engaged partnership with SOT faculty. This support is not only grounded in friendship, but in his keen sense of the importance of biblical and theological education in shaping the citizens of a good society.”

Robert W. Wall
Paul T. Walls Professor of
Scripture and Wesleyan Studies

“From President Eaton we have learned and applied ideas such as ‘grace-filled,’ ‘human flourishing,’ and the ‘radical middle.’” His vision for SPU is inspired by his respect for the Scriptures and desire to show this city and world that a university that elevates Christ can be a very attractive place. Thank you, President and Mrs. Eaton, for your investment in SPU and its people. You have made a lasting mark.”

Jennifer Feddern Kenney ’91
Chair, Alumni Association Board

“I admire deeply Phil Eaton’s navigation of the broader culture. Our Christian universities must speak against social injustices and moral compromise. But we have to do it in a way that keeps secular culture from covering its ears. We can’t yell from a distance; we must be engaged. And that’s exactly what Phil Eaton and Seattle Pacific University do so well. They engage culture, warmly but faithfully. Phil has embodied a redemptive relationship with culture.”

Bill Robinson
President Emeritus,
Whitworth University

Share Your Thoughts for President and Mrs. Eaton

Share your memories and send your best wishes for President and Mrs. Eaton as they begin a new chapter of their lives on this moderated bulletin board.




  • Mbugua Robert Chege (Wawa) '07

    Posted July 3, 2012, at 3:51 p.m.

    It is with heavy hearts and fond memories that we send you this message of well-wishes, for the best of luck and joy in your next journey. Throughout my time as undergraduate student, and later as staff in the Office of Admissions, your leadership and guidance shone throughout the entire university and provided inspiration to students and staff alike. Thank you for blessing all of SPU with 17 years of your time, and thank you Sharon for being the never-failing support to Phil in all these years. Blessings to you both.

    Dean and Jill Matro

    Posted June 21, 2012, 3:24 a.m.

    President Eaton, blessings to you as you remain obedient to God's call in your life. Unashamedly, you are first and foremost a disciple of Jesus Christ, proclaiming his power and love wherever you go. Mrs. Eaton, you are a woman of tremendous restraint and grace, choosing to remain in the background as your husband assumed the public life. Thank you for your steadfast support of him. Maybe in this next chapter of your lives, he will take the supporting role and God will use you more visibly. May the two of you continue to reflect His love to those around you, and continue the good work! We recently learned that the Hawaiian word for work "hana" can be translated to mean "to empty yourself in the moment and release grace in an unbridled manner." You may be leaving SPU, but your work is not done. Much love and aloha! You will always have friends in Hawaii.

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