The Path to Friendship

President Robin Baker
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

– Bilbo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring

In 1976, I stepped out of the door of my parents’ home in Flagstaff, Ariz., and took the road that first led to college and then to "where many paths and errands meet," to use the words of Bilbo Baggins. Each of us have been on journeys, and it is on the roads of our travels that we meet fellow travelers – friends – that in a real sense make this life worth living. George Fox University is one of those places along the road where many of us have met people who turned into lifelong friends. We have gained mentors. Others have spoken into our lives for perhaps just a moment of time – but a meaningful moment.

The George Fox Journal tries to connect you to people whose journeys have intersected with the university. In this particular issue you will meet board member Ken Austin, who, after eight years of knowing him, has become both a friend and a mentor. I met Ken when I was provost, but our interactions didn’t get far beyond "hello." It was after I became president that he volunteered to introduce me to a broader network of business and community leaders in Newberg and Portland. He was my sponsor in Rotary. He and his wife Joan were generous beyond measure to many causes in Oregon – Oregon State University, George Fox University, Head Start, Newberg Public Schools and many others. Never pretentious, the Austins were just plain "country folks," as Ken likes to say. Together, they extended hands of friendship to me and my wife Ruth.

Over time, my relationship with Ken moved from one of casual conversations and occasional dinners to genuine friendship. We meet at least monthly for breakfast – almost always at J’s restaurant in Newberg. We certainly talk about business and the college, but our deeper conversations are about life and the work of Christ in this world.

Two passages in the Bible come to mind when I think of friendship. First, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble." Second, Proverbs 27:17: "As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend." During the past eight years Ken has listened carefully, provided careful and critical advice, and been a constant source of support and guidance. He is a true friend.

After the death of his beloved wife, Ken and I often talked together of legacy: What would you like to leave on this earth that would help remind people of what is at the core of your being? This summer Ken made a decision about one of the things that is really important to him. He wanted to create a unique space where people can come together and meet Christ, deepen their friendships and develop new relationships that will lead to a more significant life. It is with great pleasure that I announce to you that the former home of Ken and Joan Austin and its adjacent property on Parrett Mountain will become Hy Vista Retreat Center – a ministry of George Fox University!

C.S. Lewis once wrote, "Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. . . . It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival." May this Journal remind you of those people whom you met on the road at George Fox University.

Robin Baker