Standing on the Shoulders of Global Giants

A few months ago our campus community assembled in the Harry and Bernice Vermeer Banquet Hall of the Graham Conference Center to kick off a year of celebration, recognition and reflection for the
50th anniversary of our study abroad programs. During my remarks I noted we were gathered together, “standing on the shoulders of giants.” After my presentation, Professor Emeritus Larry Mills pulled me aside to say that was the first time he ever had been publicly referred to as a “giant.” Larry may be small in stature, but he, along with many others, are towering figures in the history of
Central College in general, and our study abroad programs in particular.

Together we can see the work of people such as Barb Butler, Jim Graham, Charles and Marianne Haydon, George Ann Huck, Don and Max Huffman, Don Lubbers, Bill Wing, Ken Weller and many more as a foundation for all we are doing today.

I have learned so much from our former administrative leaders and emeritus faculty about the origins of these programs. As I visited our international sites I could see the large footprint they left for us to fill. Their stories remind me of the word often heard from our own, Bette Brunsting –
COURAGE! It took immense courage to even dream of a program that would send students around the world. Courage was needed through every step of our 50-year study abroad history. And now, we who have inherited this legacy will need courage as we seek to build on it for the future.

We stand today at the midpoint of a century of Global Experiential Learning (GEL). We have behind us an amazing 50 years to celebrate success and recognize achievement. We now begin to turn our attention to the next 50 years as the legacy continues and we envision what we will need to accomplish.

As is the case with all academic disciplines, professional fields of study and experiential learning programs, things change. The fast pace of change in the global context is breathtaking and our 50 years have been witness to profoundly important international developments. That pattern continues.

Our goals are ever the same. A rigorous and substantive international experience is simply transformative for our students. The tales of transformation told by generations of Central alumni could fill volumes and be translated into many languages.

The journey ahead will require the same creativity and enterprise Central’s giants taught us by their examples. They took some risks … we will need to do so as well. They had a bias toward action … that will serve us as well. They embraced change and opportunity with a willingness to pilot new things and try out new ideas … an important example for us to embrace.

We look ahead to the centennial of study abroad in another 50 years. In the meantime, we have a lot of work to do to honor the legacy we inherit today. Giants have a way of setting the bar very high.

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