Inside Moravian
e-Newsletter of the Moravian College Campus Community 2/11/14
The four most recent past presidents of Moravian College stand together in academic regalia.

ABOVE: Past Moravian Presidents Roger H. Martin (from left), Ervin J. Rokke, Christopher M. Thomforde and Herman E. Collier recall their tenures at Moravian and offer their advice to first-year President Bryon L. Grigsby '90. Martin, Thomforde and Collier will be in attendance for a special panel the night before Grigsby's Inaugural Ceremony in April.


Inauguration: Advice, Recollections from Past Moravian Presidents

Collier, Martin & Thomforde to Return to Campus for Grigsby Inaugural Ceremony

On Friday, April 11, the evening before Moravian College and Moravian Theological Seminary formally install Bryon L. Grigsby ’90 as president, the College will host a truly unique event titled “The Moravian Presidency, 1969-2014: Challenges of Higher Education.” The panel, which features Dr. Herman E. Collier Jr., Dr. Roger H. Martin, and The Rev. Dr. Christopher M. Thomforde, will allow past Moravian presidents to discuss the College’s past 45 years of leadership. The discussion will be moderated by student trustee Trevor Glanville ’14.

In celebration of the inaugural festivities, Collier, Martin and Thomforde have offered the following remarks and advice for President Grigsby. Additionally, the presidents recounted their own presidential tenures at Moravian; their responses below remain as provided to us. Also included are remarks from Dr. Ervin J. Rokke, who regrettable can’t attend the Inaugural ceremonies.

Looking back, what accomplishment(s) are you most proud of during your tenure as Moravian College president?

Collier (1969-1986)
My involvements and accomplishments include:

  • Planning and construction of the Hall of Science
  • Re – structuring of the Board of Trustees to better serve both College and Seminary
  • Formalizing inter-institutional cooperation with the establishment of the Lehigh Valley Independent Association of Independent Colleges  (LVAIC)
  • Establishing a more prominent and definitive presence of the institution locally and at the state and national levels
  • Growing and strengthening academic programs and faculty
  • Trustee recruitment

Martin (1986-1997)
What I am most proud of during my tenure includes:

  • Strengthening ties with the Moravian church
  • Building the endowment
  • Renovations including Johnston Hall, Reeves Library, Monocacy Hall, residence halls, Haupert Union, etc.
  • Strengthening the curriculum

Rokke (1997-2006)
Frankly, I accomplished very little on my own. The good things that happened during my time at Moravian were the results of our being blessed with a marvelous team. The "boss" (Trustee Board Chairperson Priscilla Payne Hurd) is, of course, legendary. Over the past 55 years, I have had many bosses, several with four stars on their shoulders. None surpassed Mrs. Hurd as an inspirational and visionary leader. Pam used to say, with a smile, that were it not for the difference in our ages, my relationship with the boss would have been troubling. I should also acknowledge that the Seminary Board Chairperson, Lyn Chynoweth, was just superb. The same goes for my "front office." Mike Seidl and I still work together in Colorado one day each week; Debbie Hinkel still slips an occasional piece of chocolate candy in the mail she forwards to me.

My senior staff also deserves special mention. Over time, we matured into a cadre of individuals who genuinely respected one another and who were capable of making crisp, sometimes very difficult decisions. The senior staff aggressively attacked problem sets, occasionally argued very passionately, but always left the conference room with a consensus "bottom line." Perhaps my role in helping the development of this team was the most important contribution during my service at Moravian College and Seminary.

Whatever the case, there were some fingerprints from Pam and me on the College and Seminary when we left. Infrastructure-wise, the beautiful Hurd Academic Building emerged as a wonderful centerpiece for the north campus. The College had waited a long, long time for that facility, and I'm proud to have played a small part in making it happen. The same goes for the new student townhouses. The aging, formerly private residences that they replaced were simply unacceptable at a college like ours with a quest for excellence. Some of the senior staff may still remember the uncomfortable experience one summer day of taking an inspection tour with me through those houses.

At the very heart of Moravian College, as well as the Seminary, are superb academic programs. They were outstanding when we arrived and were equally impressive when we left. The faculties have a lengthy heritage of academic excellence and I'm proud not to have messed it up. I'm also proud about the successful effort we all made to attract students of high quality. They seemed to get better every year, and I suspect that is still the case. Finally, I must mention the Center for Leadership and Service which emerged during Pam's and my time. The central mission of Moravian College (and Seminary) is to develop individuals with the qualities of leadership and character that enable them to serve effectively in their lives' callings. I’m sure that the center continues to play an important role in accomplishing this mission.

Thomforde (2006-2013)
We drew up a strategic plan; we weathered the awful ramifications of the Great Recession; we launched Moravian College's first comprehensive fund raising campaign and completed the Seminary's campaign successfully; we built a new dorm, the HILL; we built the Fitness Center; we began to renovate the Collier Hall of Science and Comenius Hall; we launched InFocus; the Seminary re-designed its curriculum; we launched a marketing campaign; we ate great amounts of donuts, danced at holiday galas, defeated Muhlenberg in any number of athletic contests; were restored to sanity, at least once a year, by the Christmas Vespers; I gained and then lost 30 pounds; we educated thousands of students and launched them into lives of "leadership and service for the common good." I say "we" did this! We being faculty members dedicated to teaching; Board leaders like Lyn Chynoweth, Priscilla P. Hurd, Wilma Lewis, and Dave Bennett; many generous donors, a really terrific Senior Staff; and the best President's Office staff I have experienced.

In your opinion, what qualities make a Moravian education unique?

The focus is and always has been “the student” guided by professionally strong, devoted teaching faculty.

Its history (e.g. the educational influence of Comenius and the College’s 18th century buildings) and its location in Bethlehem. Also a hard-working faculty and administration that basically got along with each other, a group of largely unpretentious students, and a loyal alumni body including a tremendously supportive Board of Trustees. All these things together made Moravian unique during the period I was president.

I think the unique feature of Moravian College and Seminary is the balanced development opportunities relating to body, mind and spirit that it offers to students. Pam and I loved to watch the maturation process of Moravian undergraduates as they moved from being freshmen to seniors. I'm sure that there are many colleges with better athletic programs, academic programs, or character development programs. However, there are not many small liberal arts colleges with such a balanced approach to these programs as has Moravian. This is a credit to the heritage of excellence and commitment brought to Moravian by the faculty, staff and students. The College and Seminary are blessed with caring, committed cultures. Moravian students are comfortable in this nurturing environment and, as a result, emerge as better people on graduation day.

Bethlehem; our Moravian heritage of service, its abiding sense of community, and its historical commitment to learning; InFocus. I am not aware of other schools which have these dynamics energizing them.

What are your recollections from your presidential Inauguration ceremony at Moravian?

My recollection of my inauguration – pride in the people of the institution – students, faculty, staff, trustees and friends.

It took place so long ago now that it’s mostly a blank, but the presence of a proud father who died two months later lingers on in my memory.

What I remember most about my inauguration day is that I was scared to death that I'd do something wrong and worried about whether my speech would make any sense. The party in the evening was a welcome relief, though I somehow ended up directing the band as it played the "Air Force Song," over and over and over. I must say that the parties seemed to become more enjoyable with each passing year. Deb, Debbie and Mike deserve most of the credit for that!

I remember Prill in what was probably her last, big, formal event. I remember the parade and the fireworks and ice cream sundaes. I remember the glorious weather. I remember the long line of faculty, staff, alums and former presidents circling the Soccer Field. I remember dancing until my legs ached and then preaching the next morning at Central Moravian. God is merciful! I remember Cy and Brenda Kracji working so very hard and being so very proud. I remember my high school classmates cheering me on. All expressions of what a great community Moravian is and how grateful I am to be a part of it.

Why were you compelled to attend Bryon Grigsby's Inauguration festivities?

Why attend this inauguration? - see answer 3. (Pride in the people of the institution – students, faculty, staff, trustees and friends.)

Former presidents attend the inauguration of their successors; plus I gave Bryon his diploma!

I'm bitterly disappointed that unfortunate timing of a routine medical procedure over which I have no control prevents Pam's and my attendance at Byron Grigsby's Inauguration.

Inaugurations are important moments in the life of communities of learning and I want to hear from Bryon his vision for our common future and learn more about how I might be supportive of him as the future unfolds. I want to see my good friends and colleagues and rejoice with them.

Any words of advice for Byron as he takes over the presidency at his alma mater?

Not really except to say my view of the presidency is about caring for others.

Take care of your health!

The best advice I received before moving to Moravian came from the president of a prominent American university with whom I served on a committee in Washington. As I recall, he said, "Get the vision right, get the people right, and get out of the way ... don't even try to solve the parking problem. Assign it to a committee." I followed that advice for nine years and offer it with my congratulations and regards to President Grigsby.

Take good care of yourself because the job in demanding, multifaceted, and really important. On any given day you will disappoint any number of people, even anger some, confuse others, and by the Grace of God be of help to a few. And, keep the big picture, the sacred purposes of Moravian, its mission in mind and speak of them, encouragingly, on every occasion. Moravian and all that it represents is well worth your best and most sacrificial service.

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