Pacific Union College, Washington Adventist University Install Presidents
Knight, Spence feted in bicoastal honors
housands of miles apart, two Seventh-day Adventist tertiary institutions formally installed their presidents.
First, on April 15, Pacific Union College (PUC) in Angwin, California, hosted the official inaugural ceremony and installation of Heather J. Knight as its twenty-first president. Knight, a former provost at Andrews University, became PUC president in September of 2009.
A little more than two weeks later, on May 3, Washington Adventist University (WAU), the 106-year-old Adventist institution in Takoma Park, Maryland, formerly known as Columbia Union College, held an installation ceremony for Weymouth Spence, who became president in 2008. Since then, the school has attained university status, becoming the only four-year university in Montgomery County, Maryland, a major suburb of Washington, D.C.
PUC INSTALLATION: While her predecessor, Richard Osborn, right, looks on, Heather Knight, center, receives a medallion of office as president of Pacific Union College from Ricardo Graham, chair of the PUC board of trustees and president of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
At Angwin, in a program replete with regalia colors, inspiring music, and the PUC church filled with faculty, staff, students, community members, educational and church leaders, and family and friends, Knight was welcomed with speeches of accolade and advice. PUC’s history and future were celebrated by the entire college body and representatives from across the country. Brief speeches were presented by Napa County supervisor Diane Dillon, St. Helena mayor Del Britton, Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities president Jonathan Brown, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists general vice president Ella Simmons, Association of Adventist Colleges and Universities president and Walla Walla University president John McVay, Andrews University president Niels-Erik Andreasen, University of the Pacific Jacoby Center director and College of Arts and Sciences dean emeritus Robert Benedetti, and University of the Pacific provost Philip N. Gilbertson.
In the inaugural homily, Pioneer Memorial Church senior pastor Dwight Nelson spoke about “level five leaders,” the best of the best, whose defining characteristic is humility. Recounting Solomon’s opportunity upon being recognized as king to be given anything he asked for from God, Nelson asked Knight to consider what she would ask for. Solomon admitted that he did not have the wisdom to carry out his leadership tasks; he asked for a discerning heart. Nelson expanded on this prayer, suggesting that it be Knight’s prayer: “Give me a discerning heart . . . to know the difference between the temporal and the eternal. The difference between the wanting and the needing. The difference between the popular and the principal. The difference between the good and the best, the difference between the wrong and the right. . . . God will grant you, President Knight, the wisdom to know the difference if you ask Him.”
Following the presentation of the presidential medallion, installed by PUC board of trustees chairman and Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists president Ricardo Graham and immediate past PUC president Richard Osborn, Knight gave an inaugural address. She expressed gratitude, spoke about PUC’s history and calling, and presented her platform of “The Adventist Advantage” as well as what she sees as “the PUC advantage.”
Knight called this time a “moment for PUC to reaffirm our rich history and heritage and also to envision a bold and significant future, one in which we prove responsive to the major opportunities and challenges facing American higher education today, and one in which we articulate the great value of an education framed in the Christian liberal arts tradition.”
At Washington Adventist University, the turnaround in the past 24 months has been pronounced, Columbia Union president and WAU board chairman D
INAUGURAL ADDRESS: Weymouth Spence, president of Washington Adventist University, speaks at a May 3 installation ceremony held at Strathmore Hall in Bethesda, Maryland.
ave Weigley said.
“We are proud of the accomplishments WAU has made under the ?leadership of Dr. Spence. He has taken a number of positive steps—enrollment has increased by 22 percent, we’re building an exciting new music building, and we have achieved university status. Indeed the spirit is growing. Students throughout the nation and around the world should choose to study at Washington Adventist University, where Dr. Spence and his dedicated team are producing graduates who bring competence and moral leadership to their communities,” said Weigley.
In addition to the inauguration of Spence, the WAU event featured a speech by Dr. Leonard Bailey, a distinguished Washington Adventist University alumnus noted for the 1984 operation that placed a baboon’s heart into the chest of “Baby Fae,” a neonatal infant born with a severe heart defect. The event featured performances by two of the university’s world-renowned music groups—Columbia Collegiate Chorale and New England Youth Ensemble of Washington Adventist University.
The “celebration is a testament to the excellence of our students, the success of our alumni, and the vision of our leadership,” said Spence. “I am honored to lead our school as we march into our second century with an ambitious reinvestment program in our school’s infrastructure, a continued emphasis on quality education in both undergraduate and graduate programs, a drive to partner with the community to create programs that meet workforce demands, and a commitment to remain the university of choice for students seeking a spiritual foundation for a lifetime of learning.”
Spence became the nineteenth president of Columbia Union College in January 2008, leading the effort to obtain university status, and presided over its transformation to Washington Adventist University in 2009. His prior positions include vice president for academic administration at Atlantic Union College in South Lancaster, Massachusetts, and dean of the schools of health professions at both Baptist Health System in San Antonio, Texas, and Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland.
In April 2010 WAU broke ground on a new, $3-million music building to house its growing music programs and provide a new cultural center for the campus.
Information from PUC and WAU media relations; compiled by AR staff.