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Inaugural Address

Grigsby Inauguration

Inaugural Address

President Bryon L. Grigsby


I am truly humbled to be standing before you today as the newest president of Moravian University and Moravian Theological Seminary. To serve my alma mater, my soul mother, is a tremendous honor and tremendous responsibility. As one alumnus wrote me, “Your house comes with a desk from George Washington, write something on it worthy of its history.” Not much pressure there.

I stand at a critical point in Moravian’s history. As the sixteenth president, I inherit a strong Institution created by those presidents who preceded me. I thank the past presidents who join us today for your leadership and dedication, and I remember Erv Rokke who because of minor surgery is unable to be with us today, may we keep him and all the other past presidents in our thoughts and prayers. I would also like to thank the board of trustees and our excellent board chair, Ken Rampolla, for exceptional leadership and unwavering belief in Moravian. Through the hard work of the past presidents and the board, Moravian is financially strong and poised for greatness.

Thank you also to the community, church, and academic leaders who have joined us on this inauguration day to support Moravian University and her noble mission. I look forward to years of collaboration as we make the City of Bethlehem, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Moravian religion, and the United States stronger through the education and spiritual training of our young people. A special thank you to Tracy Fitzsimmons, President of Shenandoah University and Chair of the National Association of Colleges and Universities, for bringing a warm welcome to our campus. The years we worked together were truly wonderful. Thank you, my friend. 

Thank you as well to the students, staff, and alumni of Moravian University. Thank you to Andy and Ellie Hart and Deb Evans who spent countless hours preparing for this event. Thank you, Tim for an outstanding speech as president of student government, and thank you to the students. I am so proud of all of you and grateful that you came out for this event and fully participated. We refer to ourselves as Hounds, and the Greyhound is a unique breed because they are universal blood donor for all other dogs. Just as the Greyhound can give life to any dog, you all give life to this college. It is a great day to be a Hound.

Finally, I did not arrive at this day without the help and assistance of countless individuals, family and friends. Some of them have left this temporal life, but many are here today. There are too many to name directly, but know that all of you have contributed and influenced who I am today, and I thank you. Many of my role models are here today: my high school basketball coach, Ron Montalto who led two coaches from Moravian University, John Byrne and John Makuvek, into Monroe-­‐Woodbury High School to meet a scrawny 6’4” goalkeeper in the fall of 1985. Thank you all for changing my life. Thank you also to another role model, Bob Burcaw, who, along with other faculty, transformed me from a jock to a scholar and put me on the career path that I enjoy today. I also want to thank all the current faculty, who like those that mentored me, devote themselves every single day to helping our students become the people they strive to be. You do make a difference in each and every one of our lives. To my family: to my maternal grandparents, particularly my grandfather, Henry Dieckman, who was my number one role model and taught me true faith and devotion. I am honored to be starting a scholarship in his name in the Seminary to support those who are called to lives of service and devotion.

Thank you to my dad for supporting me through all my sports, and most importantly, allowing me to choose Moravian over his preferred college choice. Thank you to my mom, who has always been my greatest fan. To my children, Eliza, Hal, and Pippa, thank you for sharing your dad with Moravian University, for supporting me in my life dreams, and enduring countless college meetings and chicken dinners (and inaugurations!) that you would rather not be at. I love you so much more than you will ever know. Finally, thank you, Lea, my partner, for joining me on this crazy journey of being a college president. Thank you for your love, support, advice and friendship that has allowed me to pursue my dream. I could not do it without you. I love all of you very much.

But today is truly not about me, but about Moravian University and its future. The hallmarks of Moravian culture are community and innovation. The Moravians date their struggle as the first Protestant church to the martyrdom of John Hus in 1415. Those early Moravians were pioneers in education for women and commoners. They were musicians and translators and publishers. One of their most important leaders was John Amos Comenius, who was an innovator in education and advocate for peace. In 1741 the Moravians decided to establish a community here on the banks of the Lehigh River where they could live in unity, liberty, and love. After naming the city, “Bethlehem,” they formed choirs where people of similar experiences lived, worked, learned, and worshipped together.

A Moravian community is highly innovative. In the face of opposition and oppression, the Moravians challenged the status quo. They revolutionized, they bettered, and they furthered their community. They responded to the needs of their society and became pioneers in music, language study, and architecture. The Moravians here in Bethlehem built the first municipal water system in America. They had one of the most prolific colonial American artists, Augustus Grunewald. They were famous for the quality of the musical instruments they made and the music they composed. In a time when most Americans viewed Native Americans with fear and suspicion, the Moravians established the first school to teach Native American languages and many Moravian missionaries were adopted into native tribes. They were the first church to ordain women and send women abroad as missionaries. We still enjoy some of their innovations in our Moravian University traditions, such as the Candlelight Vespers at Christmas and the stars that adorn our campus.

Most important, Moravians were the first to create a radical idea of education for all people regardless of sex, social status, race, or nationality. When they settled in the colonies, they could have chosen to do as other settlers did-­‐-­‐as the founders of Harvard, Yale, William and Mary, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania did before them: establish the status quo; establish a school for sons of wealthy families. But Moravians saw what others did not see. They saw a society that needed all people to be educated-­‐-­‐the noble and the ignoble, the rich and the poor, both men and women. With Benigna von Zinzendorf leading the way, they decided to start with the women! They took whatever small amount of money they had and they invested it, not in the boys, but in the women first. Moravians believed that the first educators of our youth are women and that only by educating the women can you improve the community. So, in 1742, the Moravians established the Bethlehem Female Seminary, the first school in the country to educate women. This was revolutionary for eighteenth-­‐century America, and it is still revolutionary for some countries today.

But Moravians were also educational revolutionary in other ways—Moravians believed education needed to be current and practical. For example, in the writings of John Amos Comenius in the 17th century, he articulated that we should integrate this new technology of pictures and drawings into textbooks so that students can learn through multiple senses. Believe it or not, it was a radical idea back then. I can only imagine what Comenius would do today with the iPad or a MacBook! Truly the best example of the practical nature of the Moravian education is the star, which is the symbol of our great college. The star was a geometry lesson for fourth grade children in Moravian schools in the 19th century. They were asked to complete a star of equal points. In order to do it in a circle, children would have to learn that certain rays had to be rectangles and others triangles. Our famous 26-­‐point star has 18 squares and 8 triangles, and the child would have learned this geometry lesson by doing it in the classroom, by putting the theory to practice. It is perfect union of practical skill, mathematical knowledge, and beautiful art. It is no wonder it has become the symbol of our great college.

Moravian University is being called on today to be as innovative as the founders of the school were. Many are questioning the value of the liberal arts in today's society. Liberal arts colleges are ever-­‐evolving and always serve the needs of their community. There has never been only one type of liberal arts college—we have always responded to what our society needs in terms of an educated citizenry. In the Roman times the liberal arts was what "free" men studied-­‐-­‐free men as opposed to slaves. And they studied the liberal arts to essentially become the bureaucrats of the Roman state. They learned the skills to run society. In Middle Ages as the Church developed the first colleges and universities, the liberal arts education called the trivium and the quadrivium was designed to enable you to hear God. When Zinzendorf brought the Moravians to Bethlehem, the Moravians at that time combined these two long-­‐standing ideals: the ideal of education that leads to a satisfying life and the ideal of education serving humanity. Comenius and Zinzendorf are two of the pillars of the Moravian approach to education, and I think that within their philosophies we have the essence of what our society is asking liberal arts colleges to do in the twenty first century. Comenius believed in a practical role for education, one that trains students for a career. Zinzendorf believed that by learning history, language, and culture; by working on difficult moral and ethical problems, an educated person would lead a more satisfying life.

I believe that our society is calling on us once again to bring about a new liberal arts college that balances the theoretical with the practical, that helps students to learn by doing, and that prepares students for both satisfying lives and worthwhile careers. I ask the faculty, students and staff of Moravian University to join me in building this type of new liberal arts college, one that prepares its students to successfully grapple with the problems that society so desperately needs to address. Just as the Moravian responded in 1742 by focusing on women first for their educational mission, it is time once again for us to innovate and become a leader in a new form of liberal education. This liberal education will embrace the liberal arts and professional studies, technology, community service, and global citizenship. The unification of the liberal arts and practical skills is in our DNA-­‐-­‐from Comenius who focused on practical skills, to Zinzendorf who believed in the liberal arts for the development for passion. From the theory of geometry to the practicality of the Moravian star-­‐-­‐transforming theory into practice and learning by doing is the heart of our college.

As the American Association of Colleges and Universities states, liberal education develops problem solving, critical thinking, communication, teamwork and leadership skills-­‐-­‐all skills that are in such high demand in the current workforce. I think we as liberal arts faculty can all learn something from our professional program colleagues-­‐-­‐our fellow faculty in Nursing, Education, Business, and in our Seminary. In all of these programs, through clinicals, student teaching, and internships, students put theory into practice-­‐-­‐they learn by doing. I believe we should expand and strengthen our internships and even start some co-­‐ops for students that want to see how well their theoretical skills work in the real world. For those students who believe that their next step out of college is into the world of work or governmental service, these programs would be invaluable for them to see if this career is right for them and if they have all the necessary skills before they leave college.

We also need to support further investment and expansion in our undergraduate research program. For those students who believe their next stop is graduate school or the first professional degree of medicine, law, health science or seminary, there is no greater preparation than working with a faculty member on research. We need to increase the number of students who have access to this program and figure out ways to make it more scalable. We also need to embrace students in the professional programs who want to do research because they are thinking about further graduate work. In this area, the liberal arts faculty can return the favor and assist the professional faculty in building excellence in all undergraduate research programs.

Moravians have always been producers. Their tools were books, pens, brushes, and clavichords. Now to that list of tools, we should add computers. It is not enough for Moravian to be consumers of technology, to simply browse the internet or connect through social media; students need to become producers. It is our challenge and opportunity as educators to produce the creators of technology for this new world. To be responsible educators, we need to make sure all students graduate with the technology tools they will see in their chosen careers and that they are consummate and creative producers of new work. This means we will have students working on simulations, building models, gaming, and doing assignments with the expert, the faculty, right there with them in the classroom. It also means producing new types of textbooks through the iPad and new means of delivery and assignments through blended classes.

I believe we should look at ways we can embrace the Moravian history of the Lebenslauf or personal memoir. The memoir was written near a person's death to reflect on the meaning of their life and their legacy. I think we should update this memoir writing into digital storytelling and look at ways we can use this very valuable reflective tool as a means to understand one's entry into and exit from college.

As we think about students’ exit from college, we should be realistic that they will need to be comfortable with online coursework. Online education seems to be most useful to adults who have already attained a bachelor’s degree. College graduates today will have to re-­‐enter higher education for further development of their skills through master’s degrees and certificate programs. Since their alma mater has already taught them how to learn, much of this continuing education, I think, can and will be done online. As educators, we should teach them how to learn online before we send them out on their own. More importantly, I think Moravian, as their alma mater, as their soul mother, should take on the responsibility to have their next degrees or certificates ready for them when they need them and in the delivery mode they need. That would truly be the soul mother taking care of her intellectual children, and our seminary has already taken the lead in the development of online and blended coursework.

Students also need to understand the importance of community, the importance of taking care of one another and the importance of giving back. This morning, we came together as a community, and spent time helping our campus create spaces that will continue to build community and foster learning. These are new spaces where students, faculty and staff can come together in a common interest. We need to continue to look for more areas where we can further this sense of community.

Just as the original Moravians served their community both locally and globally, we too must care deeply about our local and global communities. We need to continue to be leaders of our community and give back to our community as we can. We need to support our faculty who are committed to service learning, volunteerism, and service leadership. Over this past year, I have asked all administrators to volunteer time to local non-­‐profit boards so that we can give back to the community that gives us so much. I ask the faculty to further this commitment by examining ways that service learning can be further integrated into your courses, for service learning is truly learning by doing. I ask the staff to look at the ways they are giving back to the local community, and I thank our Greek organizations, our sports teams, our clubs and organizations for all their community service and ask everyone to do more.

Finally, we need to ensure our students are good global citizens. We need to invest in bringing international students and faculty to campus and in getting our students out in the world. Moravians have a proud heritage of crossing cultural, racial, and linguistic barriers. From Greenland to South Africa they established communities on the premise of love and respect rather than coercion and exploitation. We need to revive that history and tradition by being a place of global knowledge, experience and understanding. I would like us to commit to helping each of our students achieve at least one international experience while they are with us. This experience could be a mission trip, as the nursing students regularly do, or it could be a ten-­‐day international trip as part of a class on a specific subject. It could be a semester abroad or volunteer work through our Moravian ministries. It could be a summer study abroad or working with the Peace Corps. We need to help our students experience the world and we can do this by making the first tentative steps safe through faculty-­‐led trips. After we show them how to be global citizens, after we help them learn by doing, they will take off on their own.

Because of Moravian's rich history and founding fathers and mothers, I believe Moravian University is poised once again to be an innovative leader in a new type of American liberal arts college. A college that embraces learning by doing and making the theoretical practical, that employs community service and global citizenship to teach how to give back and to serve, and that truly prepares students for both satisfying lives and professional careers. That is what an alma mater should be and do. Let's not be comfortable with the status quo of the liberal arts college. Let's be revolutionary and make our own definition of the liberal arts college just as our founders did. Our students deserve it; our college deserves it; our society needs it. Thank you