Response Online


From the Senior Editor

The SPU Story

Jennifer Johnson Gilnett

In 1922, Frank Warren was about to graduate from Seattle Pacific College. He planned to attend seminary, then serve as a missionary and teacher in Japan. “The life that counts is the life lived for others,” he wrote in the Cascade yearbook.

Ninety-one years later — on June 9, 2013 — Brandy Sincyr received her diploma from Seattle Pacific University. She aims to use her life experience and her degree in political science to advocate for homeless children. “I guess my life has been sprinting toward this issue,” she told a Response writer. “There are millions of people, millions of children, who need help.” Though much has changed at SPU since its founding in 1891, one thing has remained the same: SPU graduates consistently choose to apply their education in service to others.

This issue of Response celebrates both change and continuity. We mark the inauguration of SPU’s 10th president, take a brief tour of Seattle Pacific history, and tell stories of alumni who are living out the University’s mission to engage the culture and change the world in deeply personal ways. And we explore, with author James Davison Hunter and SPU faculty members, the challenges and responsibilities of faithful Christian engagement.

In his April 2 inauguration address, President Dan Martin told his audience that “our rootedness and institutional health” are “directly related to our capacity to remember.” At the same time, he said, “The pace and depth of change in the future will be different, faster, and more difficult to predict. … We will need to be nimble, proactive, prepared, and ready to adapt.”

To prepare for the future, Martin has been conversing with faculty, students, staff, and alumni in one-on-one meetings, coffee groups, lunches, and online forums. He has been asking questions and gathering information about SPU’s mission and how it should be implemented in the years to come — with the goal of producing a strategic plan that includes input from all of Seattle Pacific’s stakeholders.

In the conclusion of his inauguration address, the president summed up the mission and vision in a way that both Warren and Sincyr would likely embrace: “‘Engaging the culture, changing the world’ is, at its core, Wesleyan in nature and compels us to work for the greater good, toward human flourishing. John Wesley believed that God’s grace is sufficient not only to forgive and save, but to redeem, restore, reconcile, and recreate. He believed in the faithful engagement of works of mercy — extending grace to those we encounter along life’s journey.”

In my work with Response magazine and the Office of University Communications, I have been a witness to the SPU story as I’ve interviewed, researched, and written about hundreds of students and alumni. My own life and priorities have been shaped by the intelligent, passionate, principled, and caring people I’ve been privileged to meet.

Extending grace. The life lived for others. I believe that’s the story of Seattle Pacific University and its graduates.

Jennifer Johnson Gilnett