On Friday, April 7, about 400 students, staff, and other community members gathered in EMU’s gymnasium to witness Dr. Susan Huxman officially being sworn in as EMU’s ninth president. The ceremony lasted just over two hours and included speeches, hymns, and a musical performance from Emulate in addition to the swearing-in process.
Wendy Fletcher and Huxman’s father Harold Schultz gave speeches, expressing their solidarity and confidence for EMU’s future under its new president. Schultz spoke about an African saying, “If you inherit land, you have to farm it. If you inherit a story, you have to tell it.” Fletcher spoke about beauty being on the other side of struggle.
Huxman herself gave a 20-minute speech. Her talk was titled, “Behold! And Enter the Countercultural Story.” In her speech, she told the story of something that happened to her one day when teaching Sunday school. “We examined this question: What words in the Bible are the most fascinating? The most mysterious to you… In the end, the kids selected the word behold…. On one level, the word ‘behold’ means to see, to face, to apprehend, to consider intensely, to observe fully. It is a call to keep our eyes wide open…. On a deeper level, the expression ‘lo and behold’ often is accompanied with [an] exclamation point, and it means stop, suspend time. An awesome mystery or something really unusual and unconventional is unfolding before you, and you will miss it if you are not perfectly still and attentive.”
Huxman then gave some facts about Eastern Mennonite School when it first opened, saying, “Four faculty including the president were hired to teach three subjects: Bible, language and literature, and agriculture…. Vocal music was allowed, but not instrumental music…. Sports were allowed for boys, but no varsity competitions…. Behold, here we are 100 years later…. Today in 2017, we have nearly 2,000 students, two additional instructional sites, well over 100 faulty, 40 majors and minors, and 17 varsity sports open to men and women…. We’ve had some beautiful and brazened ‘behold’ moments at EMU ever since…. One precious stop and marvel moment to include today: The first African-American student admitted to college in the state of Virginia was right here…. We still have our work cut out for us on the diversity front, no question, but we’re moving, and we’re moving in the right direction.”
Huxman went on to say, “Jesus was all about unconventionality. He was human and divine, lion and lamb…. We need to be redeemed and repair the world; and yet, our default mindset especially in the west, is to forever bifurcate, divide, analyze — either/or, for or against, problem/solution. Mennonite schools were founded on the impulse to capture the unconventional both/and ethos of a Christ centered story…. How this kind of educational ethos actually plays out on our campuses is often referred to as the invisible curriculum…. This unconventional curriculum includes a large supporting cast of lots and lots of people. professors, librarians, coaches, cooks, custodians, carpenters, counselors, chaplains, and a whole assortment of other critical staff — all employees of our school who are full of joy and curiosity and who view their interactions with students as spirit-filled encounters that happen every day inside and outside the classroom. When you pair the rigorous, academic, and visible curriculum at EMU with the communal formation of the invisible curriculum, what do you get? Quality education. That’s priceless. It gives our students life-changing, eyes-wide-open, stop, apprehend, and breathe deeply experiences, and those life-changing experiences really become counter-cultural stories to be treasured and told and retold for a lifetime…. I love to tell our unfolding unconventional story in harmony with the old, old story of Jesus and his love. May it be our glorious theme today and always.”
After the inauguration, there was a reception with food and live music, and then later that night a formal gala for students and faculty to enjoy.