When I first began blogging during my extensive travels through Asia last fall – observing in October 2007 that Hannam University, started by Presbyterians 50 years ago in Korea, had just joined the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities (APCU) – little did I know that I would have the opportunity to personally greet three delegates from Hannam at the recent APCU Presidents’ Conference in Savannah, Georgia. Dr. Hyung Tae Kim, Hannam’s president, the Rev. Dr. Dal Lee, the university’s head chaplain, and Dr. Seungho Lee of the global relations office, were all attending the APCU conference for the very first time.
Hannam has connections with colleges all over the world, including 20 in the United States. Among them are six of our Presbyterian-related colleges: King College, Maryville College, Montreat College, St. Andrews College, Presbyterian College, and Warren Wilson College.
I was honored and delighted to have been included in such august company – the presidents of our Presbyterian colleges and universities – who take a few days’ leave from their huge jobs addressing issues of faculty, students, budgets, and accreditation to support, resource, and enjoy one another as peers.
There were many outstanding points of connection - and potential for more connection - between the college presidents and the ongoing work of the General Assembly Council. A subject on the APCU’s executive committee agenda, for example, was the many international programs in which the colleges are engaged. Over dinner, we spoke about possibilities to connect with PC(USA) mission partners and World Mission. The GAC is revitalizing Collegiate Ministries under the leadership of former college chaplain, Sylvia Wilson. Sylvia, along with Eric Hoey, Rhashell Hunter, and other GAC staff members, joined the APCU. Many new acquaintances were made and lots of ideas generated.
In other international connections, Dr. Gerishon Kirika, vice chancellor of the Presbyterian University of East Africa, also attended the conference. He and the president of Warren Wilson College have already discussed a number of potential partnership opportunities. The Presbyterian University of East Africa is the same school which James Costen, moderator of the 1982 General Assembly of the former United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, helped to create. Until his death in 2003, Costen continued in his commitment to theological education in Africa, having arranged for a portion of his estate to go to the university for student scholarships through the Presbyterian Foundation. This legacy is being carried on by Costen’s widow, Melva, the recently retired Helmar Emil Nielsen Professor of Music and Worship at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta, and all three of the Costen children.
I was deeply impressed by the new chair of APCU, Dr. Lorna Duphiney Edmundson, president of Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Having two daughters attending all women's colleges, I have a new appreciation for colleges like Wilson that focus so intentionally on the education and development of college women.
While in Savannah, we also honored Tom Williamson, the retiring president of Westminster College, who is also the immediate past chair of APCU.
I give thanks to God that our Presbyterian colleges and universities are in such capable hands. John Griffith, president of Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., observed that while young people had long been doing volunteer work, he sees a new energy among today’s students to really want to change the world. And, with God’s help, so they shall!