Beyond 125 Years: Continuing the Mission
President Robin Baker

In April we completed our celebration of the university’s 125th year with graduation and various gatherings. Throughout this year we have consistently emphasized our continued commitment to the mission of our Friends founders – to provide students with an excellent education where they deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ. These two aspects of George Fox are our passion and have been since our founding in 1891.

Recently, I was traveling in China and had the opportunity to meet a group of students at the Beijing School of Foreign Studies that had shown an interest in one of our graduate programs. The school is known for developing China’s ambassadors and foreign ministers, and this group of students was excellent. In our discussion there were two students who helped me remember why what we do at George Fox is so important. I asked one of the young women present why she believed George Fox might be the place for her graduate degree. She answered, “In China I live and work among millions of people. Our classes at the university are large. I would love to be in a place where I was really known. Where a professor might understand my talents, gifts and dreams and seek to empower me.”

I never imagined that our university’s Be Known promise would resonate with a Chinese student. She wanted an excellent education, but she also wanted to be mentored and to have someone know her story.

Just before we completed our time together the only male student in the group jumped in – “George Fox is a Christian university, right?” I was a little hesitant in that environment, but I quickly answered “yes.” “Then,” he said, “don’t you try to convert people to Jesus?” I never expected that question in Beijing! After I thought for a moment I responded with a question. “Is there anything that you are committed to that you believe is so important that you wished others would both see your view and accept it?” It was a risky way to engage the debate, but he answered “yes.” “I am a Confucian in terms of philosophy, and I believe that his ethic and moral commitment are right and should be practiced by others.” “Then,” I said, “I think much like you. I believe in Jesus and think that he is the life and the way. I have no desire to force my commitment on you but, yes, I would hope that you might see the way.” He finished our engagement by simply saying, “Fair enough.”

This discussion was one of the most enjoyable conversations with students I have ever had in China. Here was a group of students with whom our mission and vision resonated.

This year we have also marked the end of some great careers at George Fox. Three of our most recent retirees, Merrill Johnson, Dirk Barram and Craig Taylor, have served our university a combined 111 years. I was privileged to attend their celebrations. All were model servants of the students of George Fox University – one a librarian, the next a teacher and dean, and the other an athletic director. They were in very different parts of the university, but if you were at their celebrations you would have noted how similarly students and staff viewed them. Students talked about the time they would take out of their day just to talk or have coffee. They recalled how these men deeply cared about them as people and asked about their family and friends. All three made students feel known and cared deeply that they knew Jesus.

George Fox has a unique mission, but it is special because of the people that make that mission personal and real.

Robin Baker
President