President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn, a physician-scientist, is trusting in God and His unique provision for Palm Beach Atlantic as the academic year begins in the midst of COVID-19.
The object of her faith is reflected in the theme chosen for the year: “Trust in the Lord.” The powerful message is based on Proverbs 3:5-6, which says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Three students unfurled a banner revealing the theme during a Community Day prayer vigil Wednesday morning in the Warren Library. The vigil and Schwinn’s subsequent State of the University address were broadcast virtually to avoid a large gathering.
“In God we trust,” Schwinn said. “He is our anchor in the storms of life. He is even our anchor during hurricanes, during COVID and during the economic fallout of COVID.”
In January – long before the virus reached the United States – the Board of Trustees named Schwinn, a Stanford University-trained medical doctor, as the next president. She has carefully interpreted data and assembled a specialized team of faculty experts to direct the COVID-19 response. A new residence opened days ago, allowing the University to set aside two existing halls for isolation, should any students contract COVID-19. And over the summer, the Lassiter Student Center and Fraser Dining Hall were renovated to facilitate social distancing and minimize touch.
Dr. Bernie Cueto, campus pastor and vice president for spiritual development, began the vigil with a reminder that the University’s 52-year history has been marked by a dependence on God through prayer. The power of prayer is not in the one praying, nor in the words spoken, he said.
“The key to prayer is the one doing the listening, and that’s God Himself,” Cueto said.
Grace Fellowship Worship Pastor Lorenzo Jackson and Admission Counselor Jose Marrero ’18/M.Div. ‘20 led a time of worship through music with “I Need You,” followed by “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”
Schwinn, Executive Vice President for Advancement Laura Bishop, Vice President for Student Development Dr. Bob Lutz and Professor of Urban Christian Ministry Dr. Terriel Byrd prayed for the University community.
Prior to deciding to open the University for in-person instruction this fall, the president’s leadership team turned off their computers and phones for a dedicated day of prayer and listening to God.
“There’s never been a more important time for the transformative education that PBA provides today,” Schwinn said. “We believe it is God’s will that PBA open for the 20-21 academic year so that this generation of students seeking a Christ-first education can be fully instructed, and PBA’s mission to transform lives can be fully realized.”
Undergraduate classes begin Aug. 17. Learning will be “hyflex” – a combination of in-classroom and virtual learning experiences.
“I am confident that with God’s grace, we will be able to excel in creative, new ways,” Schwinn said. “We will even have the deep privilege of seeing students totally surrender to Christ. This is our ‘why’ to opening.”
Dr. Jason Lester, dean of the School of Music and Fine Arts, sang the hymn “Abide with Me,” accompanied on piano by Joseph Kingma, assistant professor of music, at the start of Schwinn’s State of the University speech.
In her address, Schwinn outlined PBA’s unique strengths, including:
— A warm, caring community that allows students to ask the hard questions of life
— Integration of faith and academics
— Six Fulbright recipients in three years, including three this year alone
— Strong liberal arts, performing arts and communication programs
— Unique offerings such as the Titus Center for Franchising, Dream Semester in the School of Education and Behavioral Studies and Center for Biblical Leadership
— Strong graduate and professional programs that produce highly sought-after graduates
— Strong experiential internships, including at Wall Street firms that have opened major branches in West Palm Beach
— Athletic facilities second-to-none
— Workship, PBA’s signature community service program
PBA is uniquely positioned to grow in health sciences, specifically nursing and pharmacy, and new programs, such as data sciences, computer science and cybersecurity, Schwinn said. Online learning also will continue to grow.
The University will continue to develop so that PBA can be the true “heart and soul” of West Palm Beach, she said.
Schwinn encouraged the University community to lift one another up in prayer and encouragement. She coined the term “wordship:” speaking with respect for others, even when we disagree with what they are saying, as a form of worship.
“Together, let’s use our words to heal and bring people together, like the healing balm of Gilead,” Schwinn said. “Worship, Workship and Wordship – what a wonderful foundation upon which PBA can build a terrific fall semester in practical ways.”
Photo 1: University President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn stands behind the banner with the year's theme "Trust in the Lord" during the Community Day prayer vigil in the Warren Library .
Photo 2: Admission Counselor Jose Marrero ’18/M.Div. ‘20 and Grace Fellowship Worship Pastor Lorenzo Jackson led a time of worship through music with “I Need You,” followed by “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”
Photo 3: University President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn speaks during a prayer vigil, which was filmed in the Warren Library.