Bounding with energy, new and returning Sailfish and their families arrived on campus last week, ready for another year of Christ-first, in-person education. Steering Committee members — upperclassmen hand-picked for leadership roles — hauled surfboards, storage bins and pillows into residence halls for families.
Led by President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn, a medical doctor, PBA was one of only a small percentage of universities around the country to open and remain open safely throughout the previous academic year. To keep the community safe, facial coverings remained required for all large gatherings, such as chapel and the Welcome Week rally.
After settling into their residences, students enjoyed a tailgate and movie night in the parking lot of Family Church across from campus. Commuters connected on Thursday evening, before an opening rally in the Rubin Arena. On Thursday night, parents connected with the President’s Cabinet and one another at an ice cream social in the Fraser Dining Hall while their students enjoyed a block party on the Baxter Green.
Faculty and staff celebrated the new semester during two Community Day chapels. New Vice President for Enrollment Management Dr. Nancy Brainard gave the opening prayer, Executive Vice President for Advancement Laura Bishop read from Isaiah 46 and new Vice President for Information Technology Services/CIO Scott Barnes read Colossians 3:12-17. Schwinn introduced the theme for the year: “God is our refuge and strength,” from Psalm 46:1.
Last year’s theme — “Trust in the Lord” from Proverbs 3:5-6 — comes to fruition in this year’s theme, Schwinn said. Before the start of the 2020-21 academic year, in the full throes of the pandemic, the President’s Cabinet went to their knees in a day of prayer and asked God if the University should open. God said yes, but as He so often does, He didn’t give all the answers, Schwinn said.
The year that followed offered an opportunity to reflect, a strengthened commitment to the liberal arts and a reaffirmation of PBA’s identity as a Christ-first University. PBA emerged with a stronger financial position, new degree programs, a renewed commitment to PBA’s founding principles and new staff and faculty with deep faith, Schwinn said.
Looking ahead, “We’re not going to have fear. We’re going to look to the Lord as our refuge,” Schwinn said. “Our God is, indeed, an ever-present help.”
In his remarks, Dr. Bernie Cueto, vice president for spiritual development and campus pastor, explained what it means for PBA to be a Christ-first University. Those in the University’s employ believe Christ is supreme over creation and supreme over the church.
“Fear is going to try to impact your faith, and we’re going to say ‘no’ because Jesus is supreme,” Cueto said.
During staff Community Day, Associate Vice President for Student Development Kate Magro was named employee of the year for her leadership of the University’s COVID-19 response. Read more about her contributions to the PBA community here. Dr. Matthew Mitchell was named the recipient of the Corts Award for Outstanding Teaching in the spring.
New and long-serving employees also were recognized. Carolanne Brown, assistant provost for accreditation & assessment, marked 30 years of faithful service to the University. Faculty members Drs. Cora Barnhart, Eric Lowdermilk, Linda Raeder and Stephen Selby marked 20 years, as did Barbara Sharpe, secretary to the dean of the School of Arts & Sciences.
During a Concert of Prayer on Friday morning, parents and others prayed for the coming year. Other Welcome Week events included a Workship project making blankets for children in the hospital and RAC-creation, an evening of fun activities at the Marshall & Vera Lea Rinker Athletic Campus and a closing rally with lip sync battle.
The weekend concluded with a special foot-washing ceremony in which leaders washed the feet of incoming students. The experience is modeled after Jesus washing the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.