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PUC President Addresses Campus at Opening Convocation

Sarah Tanner, October 11, 2018
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Clad in academic regalia, PUC president Bob Cushman addressed students and faculty alike on October 4 during the first convocation of the school year. 

 The opening ceremony featured a processional of representatives from each of PUC’s academic departments, and they took to the stage with banners depicting the fields of study available on campus. Following the departmental display, Jennifer Tyner, vice president for student life, enrollment, and marketing, gave a short welcome address, mentioning that the day’s colloquy, “symbolizes the start of an amazing journey we are about to start together.” 

 The convocation continued with a congregational singing of the hymn, “All creatures of our God and King,” led by Lila Cervantes of financial services, and her powerful rendition was followed by a scripture reading of Ephesians 3:14-21 by student association president Kenzie Hardy. The church was then treated to special music by facilities management staff member James Ball, who sang the classic, “How Deep the Father’s Love.” 

 A brief presentation by PUC’s forest manager, Peter Lecourt, preceded President Cushman’s service. Lecourt informed students of the fantastic opportunities for recreation in the PUC forest, affectionately known as the Back 40. With new trail maps available and an improved trail marking system, Lecourt acknowledged the trepidation many students feel about hiking in an unknown park. 

“Many students are reluctant to head out into the woods on their own,” he explained. But not to fear; PUC will soon feature an interactive trail map on the guidebook app that will highlight not only trails and area guidelines, but will also allow you to track your specific location in the forest. He concluded his message reminding students the Back 40 is a place “where nature and revelation unite in education.”

 President Cushman then took to the podium to address students and faculty in a moving message featuring the question, “Why?” He hearkened back to PUC’s days as the fledgling Healdsburg college in 1882, and recalled the initial mission of the Adventist collegiate system, explaining its primary goal was to nurture young Christians in an academic setting and to best prepare them for a life of service and integrity. 

 He then asked, “How does this translate for us today?” In other words, how has PUC fulfilled the objectives of its early years? To answer this question, President Cushman reaffirmed the college’s aims of developing Christian mindsets, honing students’ gifts for social responsibility, and the successful imbuing of physical, emotional, and social health as graduates and alumni prepare to enter the world of work. 

 President Cushman also highlighted the importance of nurturing students with faithful mentors as they look towards their future lives. In a society divided on many levels, he urged students to look for solutions to the mentality of “tribalism” in our nation. He then posed the question, “How can this college’s graduates work to overcome the racial, social, and political divides that are so detrimental to our country?”

 The answer lies in PUC’s values. In order to make a change, students must evaluate the ways in which they relate to and treat those around them. Aptly, President Cushman summed up the idea as, “expanding the definition of ‘us’ and shrinking the definition of ‘them.’”

 He concluded his talk by congratulating our campus as being ranked first in the nation in diversity among liberal arts colleges. Such diversity provides PUC with the unique opportunity to model what he called, “a place with no labels.” The college can, essentially, model an attitude of love and acceptance and provide a hope of a different future for our nation. 

The convocation’s end featured a faculty-wide reaffirmation of the core values of PUC. They promised to sustain a Seventh-day Adventist learning community, offer an exceptional Christ-centered education, and to prepare students for lives of commitment to humanitarian service coupled with uncompromising personal integrity. 

To mark the occasion, the Healdsburg bell was rung by Alexandra Smith, executive assistant to the academic dean, and a benediction blessing was prayed over the congregation by Kellie Lind, vice president for alumni and advancement. The ceremony was concluded with a recessional of faculty and staff, and students were released with a renewed sense of purpose and promise for the upcoming academic year.