Response Online


From the Editor

If Adelaide Could See Us Now


Alexander and Adelaide BeersAlexander and Adelaide Beers

Adelaide Beers was one tough lady. An East-Coaster by birth, she moved across the country in 1893, away from everyone she knew, to help launch Seattle Seminary, the forerunner of Seattle Pacific University.

“In the beginning of the school work,” she writes, in her book, The Romance of a Consecrated Life, “the faculty was composed of Mr. and Mrs. Beers only. He was principal, financial agent, preacher, teacher and janitor, while she was preceptress, teacher of mathematics, languages and music, matron and cook.”

Not only did she fill all those roles, but also when she first set foot on this campus, the school building, now Alexander Hall, was dirty and unfinished; the mortgage was unpaid; and “huge stumps blackened by the logger’s fire reared their unsightly arms on either side of the footpath.” Fellow founder Hiram Pease, she notes, had put hours of hard labor into getting the school building finished enough to make it barely habitable.

I’ve had her charming and opinionated book sitting on my desk for several weeks now, while working on this issue of Response. Ostensibly, the book is a biography she wrote of her husband, Alexander. But in reality, it’s her story too, and the story of the beginning of this school.

Looking across the beautiful, smooth, green lawn of Tiffany Loop, where those blackened stumps once stood, I’ve often tried to imagine what she’d think if she could have traveled forward in time to see this campus and this city as they are today.

As she faced 19th-century illnesses such as the grippe and smallpox, I imagine she’d be delighted to learn that SPU alumni have made significant contributions to medical research that benefits people around the globe.

As she and Alexander loved to memorize and quote both Scripture and poetry, I imagine she’d love to discover that Seattle Pacific is now home to the nation’s only master of fine arts creative writing program dedicated to exploring the intersection of faith and writing.

As she and Alexander spent time ministering in Seattle’s jail and among the poor in Seattle, I imagine she’d be heartbroken to learn how inequality, mass incarceration, and homelessness persist in the midst of our rapidly growing, affluent city.

And as she prayed daily, fervently, for the gospel to be heard around the world, I imagine she’d be dismayed to learn that Seattle is one of the least-religious cities in the U.S. — but also encouraged to know how many SPU graduates are ministering around our region.

She worked hard for the cause of Christ — and she prayed even harder. I think of Adelaide as a model not because she was exceptional, although she was clearly gifted in many areas of life. But I think of her as a model because of how she persisted in her calling, beset by sickness, financial instability, and many other challenges. I hope that, if she could see us now, she would see what she herself described: “hundreds of students may be found in this and in foreign lands whose lives have been transformed ...”

Hannah NotessHannah Notess

“Adelaide” (Amanda Stubbert ’95, right) joined me for this photo at SPU’s Founding Day celebration!