A Tribute to Leadership at Pacific Union College

By Amy Bauer-Heald on December 18, 2007

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The inauguration of Pacific Union College’s 20th president, Dr. Richard C. Osborn, on Thursday, February 7, drew distinguished educators and delegates from across the country. Lyn Behrens, president of Loma Linda University Adventist Health Science Center, spoke for the ceremony, which included tributes from students, community members, and colleagues, as well as musical performances by PUC ensembles.

District 3 Napa County Supervisor, Mel Varrelman, represented the community in extending a welcome to the incoming president. Varrelman challenged Osborn to lead the school in its continued efforts to educate service oriented students who are actively involved in leadership. “My wish for PUC,” Varrelman said, “is that it become a center for learning about democracy in action.”

The new president responded to the challenge by emphasizing the college’s “commitment to the broader Napa Valley community as [PUC] serves the citizens of this valley.”

Osborn accepted the PUC presidential medallion in recognition of his new role, but he was clear in asserting, “Today is a celebration of PUC, not an individual.” Responding to the prayer of dedication offered by PUC President Emeritus, Malcolm Maxwell, and Behrens’ keynote address, Osborn pledged that “this morning, we rededicate ourselves to productive lives of service and uncompromising integrity as we offer an excellent and distinctive Christian education.”

Delegates to the inauguration included not only the leaders of every Adventist college and university in the United States, but representatives from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, and the American College of Surgeons. President and superintendent J. Christopher McCarthy of Napa Valley College and Greg Schmitz, principal of Justin Sienna High School, represented educational institutions of the Napa Valley.

The inauguration, which was funded by non-budgetary contributions, installed Osborn as the school’s 20th president and was the first such ceremony to take place at PUC. Student approval of the new president is evident across campus. Student Association president Ed Johnson summarized student response when asked to describe Osborn: “They use words like genuine, involved, forward-thinking, accessible, enthusiastic, committed to excellence, humble, a leader.”

A seasoned educator, Richard Osborn has vast experience as a teacher, administrator, writer, researcher, and historian. He obtained his early education in Montevideo, Uruguay. He attended Monterey Bay Academy for four years before attending Columbia Union College, where he majored in history and graduated magna cum laude in 1969. In graduate school at the University of Maryland, Osborn continued his studies in history, obtaining a master’s degree in 1975 and a doctoral degree in 1990.

Before assuming the role as Pacific Union College’s 20th president, Osborn was Vice President for Education of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. In the fall of 2001, Osborn was elected President of the Council for American Private Education (CAPE), an organization representing about 80 percent of private schools (grades K-12) in America.

Thursday’s inauguration followed a Higher Education Symposium which took place at Pacific Union College on Wednesday, February 6. Osborn, who presented the keynote address, “Town and Gown,” focused on the importance of building a reciprocal relationship between “town and gown,” the community and neighboring academic institutions. The topic of the symposium’s was “The Mission of Seventh-day Adventist Education in the 21st Century.” Presidents from all 14 institutions of Adventist higher education in the United States also presented papers on a variety of sub-topics including service, diversity, academic excellence, and community involvement.