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The Campaign for Pacific Lutheran University: What an accomplishment!

By Loren J. Anderson

Here we stand at the conclusion of The Campaign for Pacific Lutheran University: The Next Bold Step. What an accomplishment by and for the university community! You have read in this issue of Scene just what a remarkable difference the campaign has made and will make in the lives of faculty and students. PLU is a stronger university because of this extraordinary effort.

Six years and $128 million. How do we put this campaign in the context of our institutional history and identity? For me, the clearest perspective comes from thinking of the mission and the people of the university, past and present. So I propose we dedicate this effort as follows.

First, let us dedicate all that has happened in this campaign to the faith and vision of our founders. It was more than 114 years ago, and there were only 250 of them. They had few resources to build a school, but in their bold and humble Scandinavian way they would incorporate what they called a “first-rank” university, even as they established what I suppose was a very modest high school.

Their vision for this place was decades beyond their reach and well beyond their life span, but it did not impede their dedication. And in daring so boldly and in reaching so high, they planted a restlessness into the soul of this place, a restlessness that means we always will be striving to be more tomorrow than we are today.

This will not, and it must not, be our last campaign, because to stop, to stand still and to rest on our laurels and achievements is to deny the essence of who we are and what this university stands for. It would be to suppress the inherent energy and determination that for 114 years has been the true genius of this place.

Secondly, I suggest we dedicate this campaign to an outstanding sense of partnership and common purpose. The $128 million in gifts that we celebrate was given by more than 22,000 individual donors. These gifts have ranged from $5 to $12 million. But all these gifts reflect a shared commitment to education PLU style. They bind us together as a PLU community, serious in our purpose, dedicated to our mission and increasingly global in our reach.

The significance of this point is that life finds larger meaning when we connect our lives with others, when we invest ourselves in causes larger than our own self-interests and more enduring than the daily matters of work and life. Our participation in this campaign connects us with those who have gone before and attaches us to the generations that will follow and, in so doing, it affords us a glimpse of what life transcendent is all about.

Finally, let us dedicate all that has happened in this campaign to the hope and possibilities that are embodied by our students. I frequently remind our students of Margaret Mead’s famous observation that we must never underestimate the power of one or two or a small group of individuals to change the world – for that it is the only thing that ever has.

PLU’s central calling is to build such human capacity and to build it one student at a time. It means that every student is precious, a unique individual to be both challenged and nurtured, and with potential that we cannot begin to see or fully comprehend.

Said differently, it is about creating possibility by infusing a whole new generation of leaders with knowledge and skills and an irrefutable conviction that hopefulness is a proper and appropriate way of life.

Yes, we believe in hope, and we dare to be hopeful in this Lutheran university because we are at our core an Easter people, a people who dare to believe that life conquers death, and in cosmic terms, good will ultimately prevail over all that is evil. For that we say, “thanks be to God.” For making the PLU dream a reality, we say “thanks be to you” our donors and our friends, as we conclude the Campaign for Pacific Lutheran University.

Loren Anderson is president of PLU.



© Scene 2004  •  Pacific Lutheran University  •  Fall 2004

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