November 23, 2019

Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies Installs New President

Teresa Costello, for Adventist Review

In some ways, Ginger Ketting-Weller’s November 14-16, 2019 installation as the eighth president of the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in Silang, Cavite, Philippines is more of a welcome-home celebration.

Ketting-Weller, born to missionary physicians Sam and Effie Ketting, spent the first two and a half years of her life in Bangkok, Thailand, and the next three in Phuket, Thailand, where her surgeon father was also the architect of the first Adventist hospital in Phuket. Her mother had dual specialties in pathology and obstetrics and gynecology, delivering almost 17,000 babies during her career.

When Ketting-Weller was five years old, the family moved to Penang, Malaysia, where her parents worked at Penang Adventist Hospital. Her father served as a general surgeon first and then also became the medical director for a decade of Ketting-Weller’s 14 years there. In coming to AIIAS, she is returning to the region of her youth.

“I have a deep love for Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, and a deep love for my church and mission. I like to think about it both experientially and academically. I believe my childhood shaped me for what I’m doing now in that I feel like I’m back home, and I’m familiar with the way in which the church works in this part of the world,” Ketting-Weller said. “It has been surprisingly easy to walk into my job here, pick up my duties, interact with many cultures, and quickly come to love the people around me,” she added.

While some university presidential installations consist of a single ceremony, Ketting-Weller’s was the center component of a three-day event that began with a November 14 consecration program and concluded with a November 16 campus worship service. According to Ella Simmons, general vice-president for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and AIIAS Board of Trustees chair, this multi-day celebration, dubbed “Faith in the Future: Developing Leaders for Mission,” was highly intentional.

“It’s an opportunity to gather the university community together and re-vision,” Simmons said. “This intentional plan is designed to not only usher in her presidency, to consecrate her for her leadership role, but to also remind students, faculty, and community [of their callings] and give them an opportunity for personal reflection and rededication to the calling He has given them and to the institution as a whole,” Simmons added.

During the Thursday evening consecration service, Ricardo González, AIIAS Theological Seminary dean, reflected these sentiments as he noted how much, in response to the current state of the world today, “we need to emphasize who we are, why we are here, and to really make a dent in the universe.” Afterward, Claude Richli, associate secretary of the General Conference, knelt with Ketting-Weller to offer a prayer of consecration, acknowledging her leadership and mission while asking God’s blessing upon her presidential calling.

During the 3:30 p.m. formal installation ceremony on Friday, the dual sense of global mission and uniqueness of individual calling was evident. The processional was led by 56 flag marshals representing AIIAS’s diverse student body, which comes from six of the world’s seven continents. Representatives from Adventist universities and entities around the world as well as Philippine governmental leaders were in the processional and audience.

Delbert Baker, vice-chancellor of the Adventist University of Africa, offered the invocation, followed by Simmons’s welcome and introduction of the ceremony, which she identified as the “crowning event … of the installation experience.”

In her keynote address, Simmons recalled that she first met Ketting-Weller when she, General Conference education director Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, who was in attendance, and Ketting-Weller were all academic leaders for institutions of higher education. Referencing the theme and AIIAS’s vision, “To be a Christ-centered community of leaders with a heart for mission,” Simmons asked, “How will AIIAS continue and even enhance its position in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and in academe at the same time? How will it serve its public?”

She then admonished, “Doctor Ginger, you must lead in that journey, recognizing that all we know and hold dear spiritually and academically are under attack from one sector of society or another. Forces seek to erode our established position. Doctor Ginger, you must be the first line of defense for the faith and first line of advance for scholarship at AIIAS. Yes, largely it’s the work of theologians and other scholars, but the Seventh-day Adventist Church vests in you the responsibility for advancing AIIAS and its students intellectually, professionally, and spiritually, and simultaneously protecting AIIAS and its students from error.”

Paraphrasing Psalm 121, Simmons advised Ketting-Weller to “look beyond self and circumstance. Look beyond the hills from whence comes your help, for your help comes from the Lord.”

Comparing the installation ceremony to an establishing shot in filmmaking that begins a story, Simmons concluded, “What do you see through faith in the future? Can you see unseen angels hovering round about these grounds? Do you see the invincible, invisible God who is ever present on this campus? What does this establishing tell you? Does it signal hope for the future? Does it signal you to tremble at the possibilities? ... We hope that today, this ceremony, this establishing shot, puts you in the right frame of mind, the right mood, prepared to receive what God has for you and for the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies.”

Next, Jim Weller, husband of the incoming president and assistant education professor at AIIAS, as well as AIIAS Academy principal, answered the question, “Who is Doctor Ginger Ketting-Weller, really?” through a life sketch of his wife. A few of the intriguing insights included her musical background as an organist, a student missionary year in Finland, two months as a substitute teacher at the school that became AIIAS Academy, and completion of Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management certificate.

Simmons then officiated as outgoing president Stephen Guptill transferred the following symbols of authority to Ketting-Weller: the presidential medallion, an indigenous carved wooden mace, the AIIAS seal, and presidential decree 2021 that established AIIAS as an educational institution in the Philippines.

Congratulatory messages were given by General Conference president Ted Wilson via video; Baker representing the Adventist University of Africa; Walla Walla University vice-president for financial administration and former Far Eastern Division treasurer Steven G. Rose; La Sierra University faculty members Gilbert Valentine (retired) and Kendra Haloviak-Valentine; Penang Adventist Hospital president Ronald Koh Wah Heng; and Adventist Medical Center Manila president Bibly L. Macaya. Later, Daisy Orion, associate treasurer of the General Conference, concluded the program with a benediction.

In her 25-year higher education career, Ketting-Weller has served as a professor of teacher education at Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, United States; vice president for academic administration at Walla Walla University in Walla Walla, Washington; and most recently as dean of the School of Education at La Sierra University in Riverside, California.

The Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) was the first General Conference advanced-education institution to be established outside of North America and serves denominational leaders and mission-minded individuals in the fields of business, education, public health, and religion from around the world.

Watch the Ketting-Weller installation celebration events at TV AIIAS.