Heirs to a Legacy of Service

Recently Derek Beigh, the Marion Chronicle-Tribune reporter who covers IWU, came to interview me for a story.  I took him up to the second story landing in the John Wesley Administration Building to see two of my favorite pictures on our campus – the pictures of Mr. and Mrs. C. W. Boucher.

This husband and wife team founded Marion Normal School in the 1890s and built what for almost 100 years now has been our “old main” college building.  I love the pictures of the Bouchers because they remind me of lessons that are dear to me.

They remind me of the power of our aspirations.  The Bouchers believed that Marion would be a better city if it had a college.  They put bricks and mortar to that dream at a time when building our administration building would have been a pretty imposing achievement.  Marion has had its college almost continuously for well over 100 years now.

They remind me that our aspirations play out over the long sweep of history.  The Bouchers could have had no idea what would happen to their college building over the century to come.  But they built it anyway.  When we begin to pursue those piercing “calls” that God speaks into our hearts, we don’t know where they will lead.  If we wait to pursue our calling until we can see clear to the end of the journey, we will never start.

They remind me that failure is a part of success.  The Bouchers failed.  Their college went out of business not too many years after they founded it.  And yet, their failure planted something in Marion that became the foundation for a success story that they never got to see.  In 1920 the Wesleyan Methodist Church made their campus the home for what is now Indiana Wesleyan University.  Maybe the Bouchers dreamed of what their little college might one day become.  I have no doubt that many called them failures when they had to close the doors of their college.  But those critics were wrong.  They judged the outcome too soon.  Success may look different, and come on a different time frame than we expected.  Faithfulness to God’s calling, even when we can’t see the outcome, is never a failure.

They remind me that the legacy is bigger than the leader.  No one talks about the Bouchers anymore.  You have to make your way to an out of the way stairway landing to find their pictures and read their names.  Granted, they did not build IWU.  If you go farther up those stairs you’ll find the pictures of IWU’s presidents – more prominently displayed.  And yet, someone has to initiate the dream.  It’s fitting that we remember the Bouchers.  But it’s also a good reminder that, down the storied years of history, what matters is not so much the name of the leader who planted the dream, but the names of the people whose lives were transformed by the dream.

We are heirs to a wonderful legacy of service to Marion and the world.  It has been a great privilege for me to serve at IWU for over 15 years.  This is a special place because of the faithful contributions of so many faculty, staff, and students over the years.  These are the values that shape my thoughts as I anticipate the opportunity to serve as President at Indiana Wesleyan University.