In July of 2017, Dr. Robert A. Cushman Jr. became the new president of Pacific Union College. On April 20, 2018, the college officially installed Cushman as the 23rd president in a special inaugural ceremony, succeeding Dr. Eric Anderson.
The inauguration began with a procession of distinguished guests, including trustees, faculty and staff, representatives from other Adventist schools, and student representatives, among others, with many of them bedecked in colorful academic regalia. The PUC Church was filled with faculty, staff, students, community members, and family and friends, welcoming Cushman and celebrating the college’s history and future.
The ceremony included music from Vox Pro Musica, the PUC Chorale, the Brass Quintet, and a special presentation from The Beatitudes, a 40-minute cantata based on Matthew 5 and composed and conducted by Asher Raboy, PUC resident artist.
Several responsive readings involved notable dignitaries in attendance, including Dr. Gordon Bietz, associate director of higher education of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists; Dr. Ronald Carter, provost of Loma Linda University; Diane Dillon, Napa County supervisor; Ricardo Graham, president of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and member of the PUC Board of Trustees; Bradford Newton, executive secretary of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and chair of the PUC Board of Trustees; and Dr. Richard Osborn, vice president of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission and past PUC president.
“This morning’s ritual is a statement. It’s intended to remind us that Pacific Union College has deep roots, and we’re part of a tradition that began long before 1882 and that first day of classes in Healdsburg,” said Anderson. He presented the college’s gift to Cushman, stressing it must be “the right sort of gift” for the intended recipient, and also as a reminder of who we are as a college. The unique gift, crafted by Dr. Lorne Glaim, professor emeritus of history, was a mounted rock from the farm of Adventist pioneer William Miller, in recognition of the Lord’s promise to create a new heaven and a new earth, as well as Cushman’s love of geology. “Consider this rock and the hope it represents. If you do so, we can say, using language that every Adventist understands: your work will never be called a ‘Great Disappointment,’” teased Anderson.
In the inaugural homily, titled Mt. Blessing, Carter stressed the challenges facing higher education, and small colleges in particular. However, he urged the college administrators and Cushman to persevere, saying he believes PUC is uniquely prepared to meet these challenges, as a prestigious institution in a unique and incredible location, a “beacon on Howell Mountain.” Carter believes as a geologist and fellow scientist Cushman is well-equipped to lead PUC into a bright future, with an analytical mind grounded in biblical context. Carter also shared examples from when he served as campus chaplain at Walla Walla University during Cushman’s time as a student, saying he felt they portrayed Cushman’s good nature and kindness.
In a presentation bequeathing the college’s historic medallion to Cushman, Newton offered him and his wife Judy encouragement for the journey ahead. Strung together on an elaborate gold chain, the medallion features each name of PUC’s past presidents, representing the symbolic history of the college, and as a reminder of those who carried the burden and responded to the call to be president. “The medallion serves as a reminder throughout your tenure as president you will never be alone on your journey,” Newton said. “This college community walks with you. The body of Christ, the church, will continually hold up your arms in the battles ahead. Most importantly, there is One who promises when you pass through the waters, ‘I will be with you.’”
The campus and the surrounding community shared in the excitement and celebration of the event, and offered their praise and commendations to Cushman on his leadership thus far, and their hopes for his success in the future.
“Dr. Cushman’s vision of inclusivity for Pacific Union College upholds its long-standing tradition of academic excellence and service to the community. I look forward to our continued partnership and welcome Dr. Cushman to the Napa County community,” said Diane Dillon, Napa County supervisor.
“This school year, I have first-handedly experienced Dr. Cushman’s active participation in student-led programs and activities. He has quickly become appreciated for his availability and leadership style that prioritizes listening. With a shared love of our campus’ surroundings, I am encouraged and excited to work with him next year toward the vision that students, faculty, staff, community, and board members have crafted for PUC,” remarked junior business and communication major Kenzie Hardy, incoming president of the Student Association.
“When I first met Bob, I was intrigued by his sincerity and down-to-earth personality,” said professor Michelle Rai, chair of the department of communication. “I’ve appreciated his transparent and strategic leadership during his first year at PUC. He listens to all sides before making decisions and has fostered trust between the administration and faculty. I am optimistic about PUC’s future with Bob at the helm.”
“As an alum, PUC is very near and dear to my heart. As an employee, everyday I look forward to working with our student leaders, student body, and Dr. Cushman. Knowing his goal is to continue helping PUC be a vibrant and collaborative learning community assures me PUC is in great hands,” shared J.R. Rogers, associate vice president of student life.
“I first met Bob over 20 years ago at Loma Linda University when he became my major professor. Bob taught me so much in that time and that has made me a big part of who I am today,” commented professor Aimee Wyrick, chair of the department of biology. “He was the first professor to ask me to use his first name—and I love him for that! He also taught me challenges are much more fun and interesting than the alternative. Through it all he has modelled a life committed to Christ, his family, and education. I’m thrilled to have Bob teach you all as well as he has taught me.”
A reception at the Paulin Hall fountain immediately followed the inauguration, where the campus community gathered together to celebrate the future of Pacific Union College and Cushman’s leadership.