Today was our semi-annual… or is it bi-annual? It’s the one that means twice a year, so I think I mean bi-annual… Alumni Board Meeting at Spring Arbor University. I graduated from SAU in 2002 and again in 2008. Yes, twice, but not because I had to do it over again; these were just different programs and degrees. Looking back, I see how Spring Arbor impacted my life in profound ways, from the academic training to the relationships with friends and professors, and especially the spiritual formation that I experienced. I met my wife there, became who I am there, realized a bit more about the world, and ended up as a committed lifelong learner. One might say I’m a fan, and a grateful one at that.
Over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of serving on the Alumni Board of Directors. With an alumni base of 30,000 graduates, SAU has an extended presence and impact felt around the world through the work of business owners, teachers, social workers, nonprofit leaders, ministers, CEO’s, musicians, artists, writers, accountants, counselors, stay at home parents, executive directors, administrators, salespeople, and probably a few bakers, some dentists, and a gaggle of attorneys.
Our job on the Alumni Board is to help SAU stay connected to our alums. When I was an undergrad, it felt like I was supposed to be there to put in my 4 (5) years and then get the whole career thing going. Little did I know how often I would look back and realize how formative college was for me. You love a place like SAU more and more with every passing year. Now that I’m 37 (38) I feel compelled to help the impact continue. This week marks the beginning of another semester. Most are returning students who know about certain profs and where not to park, but some are brand new freshmen who reached out one day and asked for more info. Suddenly they’re moved into a dorm room with a little clip fan and a laundry basket, and a stranger who will soon be a friend. They have no idea how awesome (yet challenging), how exciting (yet challenging), how fun (yet challenging) this journey shall be.
If I could go back and talk to Adam ’98 as he’s moving his stuff into Ormston 4, do you know what I would tell him? Nothing. He’ll experience it all, one day, one semester at a time. I might hint that 20 years later he would still care about this institution enough to serve on a board, but it won’t feel like work because of how much the place will mean to you. I could tell Adam ’98 all that, but I think I’d just stick with “don’t be so committed to denim jean shorts, mate.”
Homecoming is just a few weekends away, and I’m really looking forward to it. As a student, it just seemed like a bunch of old people infested campus for free hamburgers and conversations about buildings that don’t exist amongst equally non-existent horse drawn carriages. But now I see that this is exactly what homecoming is: a coming home (if you will) of people who realize the impact of college and appreciate it enough to want to go back and visit, show the kids/grandkids, and express support for such a unique place.
If you graduated from SAU like I did, I want you to know that you have a bunch of advocates who spent the morning thinking strategically about how best to serve you and how to help our graduates feel an ongoing and positive connection to SAU. Spring Arbor University is like no other place. Our graduates are like no other graduate. There are many colleges and universities in the world, and it’s no secret that higher education in general is undergoing a transition, if not a downright cleansing by fire. This is the time for our alumni to remember and even celebrate a unique spot on planet earth. I’m thankful to have a small connection and calling to support a place which was, for me, a life changer.