a tribute

Here’s the faculty tribute to seniors graduating in our department this year.

Photo by Carol Ann Bunnell

I’ve often thought that to achieve our mission we only have to do two things: teach you to ask better questions and to tell better stories. These things arise naturally in our curriculum and even more naturally in our discipline. Learning to communicate often requires us to listen to other people’s stories and tell them well.

I think we’re getting better at doing this and I offer as proof the class of 2010. You are a remarkable group of students and we have been honored to serve you.

To illustrate this I’d like to imagine for a few moments that we were making a feature film together.

We’d cast Stephen, of course, especially if the script required him to die more than once. Stephen has many gifts, and we’re not just talking about his hair. He memorized more lines than anyone we remember and then turned them into memorable performances. He can carry John Brown’s passion and Jonny Pye’s grief.

We’d cast Paul as the villain. He is so likable and winsome we loved even the villains he played. He’ll have to help as a consultant as well: his critique of fads and fashions is nuanced, insightful, and mature. We’d sit through a weekend of movies with him anytime.

I know we’d have to convince her to leave her busy life as a designer, but I think Hilary will have a part as well. I know she can make sushi out of candy but she can also play a pregnant hairdresser. She is natural in front of people. And she is gracious behind their back.

Our co-producers are Debbie, Karen and Amanda.

Amanda has such a great heart that everyone would want to help us. In fact, we would give our left arm to keep her. And I’m serious and respectful in saying so. She has learned a lot but she has taught us much. Her high standards and her positive spirit are a blessing to many. If things had to happen to make this movie on time she would make them happen.

And if you didn’t do your part she would send the very capable, tenacious and persistent Karen to insist that you do your part. What a transformation we’ve seen in Karen: from Star Wars t-shirts to business suits, she has become a professional indeed. She has something you all want. A job. And she’s worked harder than most to get there.

We’ll put Debbie on the road, talking investors into giving us money. Perky and persistent, she has a presence that invites participation. And she is never afraid to ask you again until she gets the answer she needs. If we don’t get to make this movie I’m going to send her out to ask our alumni for money. She has learned to ask questions in exactly the right way.

We’ll put Bethany, Phil and Adam to work directing and editing. It’s been encouraging to see Bethany learn and own video production. She and Karen saved the ECHO one year, before either of them really knew what they were doing. But she has more than persistence, she has character. If there is conflict we want her on the team. She will confront it like a grown up. I’ve seen her do it.

Phil’s visual storytelling can be nuanced drama or laugh out-loud comedy. He’s not only technically competent but easy to work with, abilities that don’t always come packaged together. He is a calming presence, a steady team-player and a helping hand.

Adam is also a problem solver, and we’re going to let him work on our movie even though he did give Jen a parking ticket while he knew she was in rehearsal. He is a dependable technical sleuth, and we’re going to need him because there’s lots of stuff we haven’t figured yet figured out how to make work without him.

I lack the technical competence to decide which one of them will be the director or the editor. I’m going to let Jen and Dorie decide that.

But Jmack and Andrea get to write our movie, although Andrea has to double as the fashion consultant. Andrea is one of those rare rivers that runs deeper than we imagine. She is intense and articulate. But more than that she understands grace. Every good story is about that.

And Jmack has a maturity and grace that is impressive when you meet her and grows as you get to know her. She wasn’t Born Yesterday, although she can talk you into watching the movie. We look forward to her writing her own movie, actually. She is a writer with a voice, and an edge, and a kindness. Plus she makes her own granola.

But whose story will we tell?

Perhaps we can tell the story of the unflappable Kilynn, whose kind and eager disposition portends a welcome perspective in any conversation. She always has a good word, and so encourages us to be thoughtful and gracious ourselves. How did she learn this? It’s the kind of story we should look for.

Such good hearts are characteristic of this class. Perhaps we should tell the story of Christa , who puts her whole heart into everything, stepping forward, asking questions, and trying new things. Hers is a bold heart that learns new lines and takes new risks, serving others with faith and determination.

Or we could tell the story of a gentle giant who put himself through school working as a cook in a nursing home, repeating classes with no bitterness or sense of entitlement. Jamar’s determination and grit far exceed his ready smile and distinctive voice.

Or maybe it’s Zach’s story, the story of the perennial RA, a quiet leader with deep resolve who grew up to be a lawyer at a Legal Aid clinic.

Or Tyler’s story, the story of a man who has found his voice, exceeding everyone’s expectations including his own. As dependable as the stars themselves, he shown us how we ultimately find ourselves in Christ.

What about Ryan’s story, the story of someone who learned how to be a coach by learning how to be part of a team. This story opens on him and his twin brother on the sidelines and ends in transformation. It’s a story about someone who learned to sit in the front of the class before they even learned to come.

Or Scarlet, who made her own way when we didn’t have the program that addressed her passion- giving a voice to the voiceless as a speech therapist.

These all are overcomers. And hope is the theme of the stories credible, creative Christian professionals must tell over and over again. We serve a fallen world that needs redemption. Such stories reflect the grace of God and point us toward the gospel itself, how that Christ died for our sins and was buried and rose again on the third day, reconciling us to the Father. Even though we are unworthy we are not unloved.

It will be a great movie.

Beth will plan the premier. We’ll give her the job and never worry about it again. The details will be taken care of in a way that reflects the greatness of the story we tell. True professionalism is often invisible but palatable. She will take care of this.

Earl will be the MC. He is the consummate host, helping others relax and enjoy the show as he extends grace in every way. Even the media will note that the cast and crew have been with Jesus.

We’ll let Brian count and invest the money. His sojourn at the Arbor has been marked by integrity and service. He is a trustworthy steward of the manifold grace of God.

As are you all. We are honored to have known you and loved you and we will not forget you.

Thanks for letting us be part of your stories.

We’ll be telling them for a long time.

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