Statement of Faith in the Future of the Private Christian College (excerpted)
By M. Norvel Young (1915–1998)
When M. Norvel Young became the third president of George Pepperdine College on November 21, 1958, he spoke in his inaugural address of Pepperdine’s unique role in higher education. More than
a half century later, though much has changed at the University, key themes still ring true: the valuable nexus of faith and learning, service and leadership, and the student- teacher relationship that shapes the Pepperdine experience. Pepperdine Magazine takes a step back in time to reflect upon how we continue to move “Forward with Faith” today.
I am honored and humbled by the confidence which the Board of Trustees has placed in me and in my coworkers in administration and faculty at Pepperdine College. It is an honor to be asked to serve an institution dedicated to the highest ideals of liberal arts education with a distinctive Christian emphasis.
On the contributions of the small, private liberal arts college
First, I believe that such a college is one of the bulwarks of freedom in America. Milton Eisenhower, president of Johns Hopkins University, recently put it this way: “It is the private institution that sets the traditions and standards of academic freedom in America, and because the private institutions do set and maintain these standards, the public institutions also enjoy the benefits of such freedom. If private institutions were ever to disappear the politician would take over the universities and there would then be neither educational freedom nor any other kind.”
Of course, this may be an oversimplification but it certainly does emphasize one important contribution of the private college or university. The right of a group of free men and women to organize, maintain, and support a college that is dedicated to goals which they deem supremely important is one of the rights of our constitutional republic. We should all be thankful to God that we live in a nation which has preserved freedom of education. This right carries with it the responsibility to wisely use the freedom that is ours. The neglect of Christian colleges, either by those who administer and teach in them or else by those who are their friends and supporters, could easily lead to the forfeiting of their right to exist. Needless to say, such a college would not be tolerated behind the iron curtain, nor in many other countries in the free world today.
Secondly, the small, liberal arts college makes a definite contribution to its students by virtue of its concern for the individual. This concern is expressed in the warm, personal relationship between teachers and students, which helps the student “find himself.” Also, the student has more opportunities for leadership. “Everybody has a chance to be somebody” is the way Dr. Elton Trueblood puts it.
Thirdly, the Christian college serves to train leaders for religious work. We believe firmly in our dual system of education and do not expect the state to provide the special training which thousands of men and women need to go into full-time church work.
In the fourth place, such a college is able to stress moral and spiritual values undergirded by basic faith. In the Rockefeller report on the “Pursuit of Excellence in Education,” it is pointed out that one of the fundamental challenges in education has to do with the motivation of individuals, and that motivation involves the concept of what, in the ultimate sense, life is for. The report goes on to say that many discerning critics are uneasy about the current aspirations and values of Americans. They sense a lack of purpose in their lives. They see evidence that security and conformity and comfort are the idols of the day.
We believe that a Christian college like Pepperdine should make a distinct contribution in stimulating students’ desire for truth, their love for the good, [and] their respect for high ethical standards. . . . We aspire to train our students for leadership, and to inspire them for service to mankind, [and] to the glory of God. To that end the Bible is an integral part of our curriculum and attendance at daily chapel is encouraged.
Young people from many nations and different races and creeds pursue their studies with us as respected fellow students. We hope to send them back to their native lands or local communities with a broad acquaintance with the funded knowledge of man, with a respect for truth wherever they discover it, with an understanding and appreciation for constitutional democracy, with a deep sense of moral responsibility to God and man, and with such fundamental skills as will enable them to compete successfully in our modern world with such attitudes toward their fellow man as will lead them in humble service with faith in God.
Truly, a great door of opportunity is opened before our colleges and universities today. We will move forward with faith. We do not know what the future holds, but by faith we know who holds the future. There are many obstacles, many adversaries, but with the cooperation of a dedicated faculty, the advice and counsel of enlightened colleagues of goodwill, the backing of an expanding board of trustees, the boards of counselors and development, the president’s council, and the help of Almighty God we shall move forward with faith.