Dear WPU Community,

 This is a most joyful time at Warner Pacific! This week we celebrate COMMENCEMENT – and I couldn’t be more delighted to personally congratulate each and every student who has arrived at this milestone this coming Saturday. In so many ways, this ceremony is a sacred reminder of our calling as an institution. As we prepare for the ceremony, I’d like to share a reflection based on a recent article that was published about WPU: 

 This month, Advance Magazine – the national magazine of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) published a cover story about one of the most famous commencements in Warner Pacific University’s history. The article, entitled “Recovering the Transcendent Values of the Church During Tumultuous Times”, is based on WPU’s 1976 commencement in which President Gerald Ford visited our campus to speak to the graduating class. The article recounts Ford’s visit and the words he spoke about the value of Christian education at the time. Our own Chief of Staff and Senior VP for University Relations, Jennifer Boehmer, convened a conversation of leaders from other Christian higher education institutions to discuss his remarks. The main question was: “Is President Ford’s 1976 commencement speech at WPU as relevant today as it was almost 50 years ago?”

 After all, the world is a very different place than it was back then, when the country was reckoning with the aftermath of the Vietnam War. We have new perspectives and cultural experiences, new domestic and global conflicts and partnerships, and new technology that has completely reshaped how society lives and operates. Warner Pacific looks much different too. While Ford spoke to a mostly white audience of WPU graduates in 1976, today we are proud to say our graduates represent many ethnicities and speak many languages. Our degrees have expanded as well – and today our grads are as likely to take leadership positions in offices, schools, clinics, and small businesses as they are in churches. We see this all as the Kingdom at work.

 So I invite you to consider why, despite so many changes in the world and on campus, the answer to whether Christian higher education is still relevant is still “absolutely yes.”

 Warner Pacific’s throughline is its Christian commitment – a commitment that, since our very origins, has guided our institution to endeavor to share the love of Christ through quality educational opportunity that is available to all students who seek it. The article offers comments from the perspectives of other Christian institutions as well, who cite the same grounding. The transcendent values of cultivating love, respect, empathy, service, learning, bravery, humility, perseverance, and so much more are the hallmarks of a Christian education…and they are not time-bound. They are every bit as relevant today – and in fact, even more in demand. Christian higher-ed graduates are increasingly set apart as exceptionally prepared individuals, ready to serve our fractured world with the love and light of Jesus Christ.

 As our graduates get ready this week and our staff makes final preparations for the ceremony, I am so deeply proud of all the people who have played a role in creating this moment of achievement. Our students have worked so hard and are to be deeply congratulated for pursuing their callings. Our families and friends have offered invaluable support, tangibly and intangibly. And our faculty and staff have served as steadfast mentors and guides throughout it all. Please join me in thanking God for our graduates, and for the chance to provide quality Christ-centered higher education to this class of students, and for every class that has come before and will come in the future.

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

 God bless you this month!

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
Warner Pacific University