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Office of the President
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
local: (727) 864-8211
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Welcome to Faculty: Fall 2004
The Faculty Coordinating Committee has asked me, through Dean Chapin, to adhere to the most desirable presidential greeting - one that is friendly, symbolic ... and brief. And so I shall be.
I want to make two quick points - besides telling you how good it is to see each of you back on campus - and to welcome you new faculty members to this unique enterprise called Eckerd College.
Point #1: The first popular literary thematic use of divine providence was by Daniel Defoe in Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719. Robinson Crusoe was, as you remember, blown onto his deserted island by a hurricane - and he came to appreciate his many years on that island as providentially guided and provided for, without which he would never have truly lived spiritually. Man is still helpless before the overwhelming power and capriciousness of hurricanes, and perhaps it is still true that only divine providence can be relied on to spare us from their destructive power.
Nevertheless, as a modern, or even post-modern sinner, not an 18th century man, I am more comfortable with the notion that "God helps those who help themselves." Therefore, we will continue to do everything we know how to ensure safety for our students, staff and facilities - and only then leave things to divine providence. We are still learning how to do this, because we have never really done it before - but we are learning, and getting better at it, and I will be communicating more on this topic in the coming weeks and months.
Point #2: Last Sunday, taking no chances that divine providence might note my frequent absenteeism from church, I attended Morningside Presbyterian Church in Atlanta where Joanna Adams, who you may remember spoke so eloquently at my inauguration, was celebrating the first service of her new pastorate. The text was The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 15:
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
I had forgotten that Jesus was preaching this parable not to an audience of faithful followers but to an unfriendly group of scribes and Pharisees. I then realized that the answer to the question, 'which of you would not leave the 99 and seek the one?' is: None of them would. It is not rational to leave the 99 and seek the one, and not one of his audience would have done it.
But you would.
You are not concerned simply with the 99, but also for the one student who is marching to a different drummer in another direction. Your mentorship and your teaching here won't settle for anything less than all you can do for all who come.
That's the reason this College has such a terrific academic reputation and is such a great place for an undergraduate education - because your predecessors and you are willing not only to work for the 99 but for the one as well.
All best wishes to each of you for a safe and most fulfilling year.