Courage of Conviction
— by Robyn Passante
Tens of thousands of dedicated, intellectually gifted, and faithful servants have passed through the corridors of Messiah College in the past 100 years. They have left their marks on the College and the world in countless ways. To commemorate the College’s Centennial celebration, we are privileged to highlight six distinguished and influential people from Messiah’s storied past. Scholars and leaders, innovators and advocates, each displayed courage, borne of a blend of faith and intellect, through various challenges in their careers and in the life of the College. Through these stories, we see how it is human hearts filled with conviction and compassion — more than mere accreditations, awards, or even academic acumen— that have been the catalyst for sacrifice, change, and progress, ultimately reflecting Messiah’s unique mission throughout the past century.
Messiah College Archives
Ernest L. Boyer Sr. served as the U.S. Commissioner of Education during the Jimmy Carter administration.
champion of education
Ernest L. Boyer Sr. graduated in 1948 from Messiah Bible College with the goal of taking over his father’s business selling religious bookstore materials. But, he soon realized his calling would lead him in a different direction.
Boyer’s career in education took him from the most impoverished elementary schools in the U.S. to the steps of the White House. After two years at Messiah, which was then a junior college, Boyer earned a bachelor’s degree at Greenville College in Illinois. At the University of Southern California, he earned a Master of Arts and doctorate in philosophy degrees in 1956. He served a postdoctoral fellowship in medical audiology at the University of Iowa Hospital, as a Distinguished Fulbright Scholar in India and Chile, and as a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University.
His most distinguished titles include Chancellor of the State University of New York, United States Commissioner of Education, and President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. But the title he preferred, says his wife, Kay Boyer, was that of a trusting servant to the Lord.
“He always prayed, ‘Help Kay and meI to fully trust you,’ ” she says. “He told me it was something that he felt he always wanted to make sure about, that he wasn’t trusting himself, he was always trusting in the higher power.”
As U.S. Commissioner of Education, that trust gave him the courage to recommend an overhaul of the country’s public school system, from the elementary level all the way through higher education.
“Public education ... is where the majority of people are educated, and he felt that that was his mission, to talk about individual responsibility toward each child, that these children were God-given and they had to be cared for,” Kay Boyer says.
During his time at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Boyer wrote a number of highly influential works, including High School: A Report on Secondary Education in America and Basic School: A Community for Learning. His most influential work, however, is the 1990 Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate, the Carnegie Foundation’s all-time best-seller. In this work Boyer proposed abandoning the traditional “teaching vs. research” model and urged colleges to adopt a much broader definition of scholarship to replace the traditional research model. His ideas have been integrated into mission statements and tenure review policies in colleges and universities across the country.
As a favor to then-Messiah President D. Ray Hostetter, his
Messiah Bible College classmate and Greenville College roommate, Boyer returned to Messiah College to serve on the Board of Trustees from 1968 until his death in 1995, acting as chairman from 1982–87 and as leader of the College’s search committee for a new college president in 1993.
Boyer’s expertise in the field of education resulted in many accolades, including nearly 140 honorary doctorates. The year before he died, he gave 92 speeches, Kay Boyer says.
“He had an enormous ability to stir audiences, and it just came.
It just came to him,” she says.
When Boyer died in 1995, the dignitaries who came forward with letters of condolence for him were nearly as impressive as the legacy he left behind. “They may not know his name,” wrote the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, “but millions of Americans, young and old, in every city, town, and village in the nation have better lives today because of Ernie Boyer.”
To further Boyer’s vision for educational renewal, Messiah established the Ernest L. Boyer Center on campus in 1997. The Center, which houses his archives, offers a national network for elementary school educators, awards to exceptional schools, a Messiah scholars program, and a teacher scholarship given to juniors at several colleges and universities.
Boyer’s voice may be gone, but his ideas continue to echo through halls of learning across the country and around the world.
Messiah College Archives
Geoff Isley ’87
Dorothy Gish, Messiah College's first female dean
Messiah’s first female dean
Geoff Isley ’87
When Messiah College offered Dorothy Gish ’55 a scholarship in 1953, College
leaders knew they were fulfilling the dreams of a grateful student. They didn’t realize, however, they were also educating a future dedicated faculty member who carved a career out of making Messiah a better place for students and staff. Gish served on Messiah’s faculty for nearly 26 years, holding job titles that ranged from chair of the Department of Home Economics to the College’s vice president for academic affairs.
“The Lord opened the doors and I walked through them,” Gish says of her leadership roles at Messiah. She admits some of those roles were not among her life’s ambitions, but she says she simply answered God when he called. “A couple of those doors I hung
onto the door jamb and went in kicking and screaming,” she says with a smile.
Gish graduated from Messiah Bible College in 1955 and earned her doctorate in child development and family relationships from Penn State University in 1971. Her work at Messiah began shortly thereafter when she was hired to head up the Department of Home Economics. Over the years she was called upon to accept positions at the College that were beyond her comfort zone, she says. One of her hardest years professionally came when she was asked to serve as acting dean of the College. Gish says she relied on her faith to provide the courage to do the job well.
“I think I [prayed more] that semester than ever before,” Gish says of her first semester as acting dean. “I was amazed how often in my scripture reading I would see something directly related to what I needed that day.”
Gish’s legacy is still felt on many levels of campus life. She created the Early Childhood Education Laboratory School, an on-campus day-care facility that gives Messiah College students majoring in early childhood education hands-on experience. She started weeklong development sessions for new faculty, and she led the effort to create a new evaluation system for faculty that embraced professional development opportunities.
“I feel like in each one of those roles I did my best,” she says. “I met the need of the moment and helped move it forward.”
Those words are too modest for the College’s first female dean, says Jay Barnes, a longtime colleague and friend of Gish who came to Messiah College in 1980 as dean of students.
“I think she made a significant impact on Messiah College, on its values, educational quality, and its influence on the world,” Barnes says. “She set the bar for all of us, but certainly in a day when there were not many women serving in leadership roles, she was an example and an encouragement to many.”
courtesy of Dr. Don Minter
Dr. Don Minter ’47, pictured left in this undated file photo, helped to revamp Messiah College’s mission statement under the leadership of then-president D. Ray Hostetter.
A man and the mission
When Messiah College alumnus Dr. Don Minter ’47 was asked to give back to the
college he loved, he did so enthusiastically. Little did he know his volunteer service would lead him to have a direct and lasting impact on the identity and mission of that very institution.
Minter graduated from tiny Messiah Bible College in 1947 and went on to Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. Though his career as a medical doctor took him to Goshen, Ind., his affection for the small Pennsylvania college never waned. So in the 1960s and ’70s, Minter agreed to serve on the Messiah College Board as a representative for the eastern Midwest. Then in the mid-’80s one of his closest friends from Messiah, D. Ray Hostetter, who had become president of the College in 1964, asked if Minter would assist with the College’s mission and identity study the College had started. Hostetter says he proposed Minter to lead the study because over the decades he had gained confidence in his former classmate as a Christian, starting from his boyhood in the local Brethren in Christ Church they both attended in Grantham. Minter happily accepted the call.
“It was very, very meaningful,” Minter says. “It was very fulfilling for me to be a closer part of Messiah.”
A committee was formed to revisit and revamp the mission statement to give it “a broadened and timely review of certain issues and questions related to institutional mission and identity,” says D. Ray Hostetter.
It was a time of great cooperation and, at times, great debate, Minter says. “It always was very collegial, but there’s no question about it, there were different ideas about things,” he says.
Sifting through opposing viewpoints and steering the committee toward a unified statement that would create a lasting legacy for Messiah College, Minter says he relied on God to give him the courage and direction he needed.
“I think God gave us each a brain, and a long time ago I had a conversation with God. I said, ‘I’m going to use my brain and use my best judgment, and, God, I’m going to count on you to let me know if it’s what you want,’” he says.
The result of that judgment and the committee’s hard work is the College’s current Mission and Identity Statement — a thoughtful and thorough explanation of why the College exists.
“What we continually asked ourselves was,” says Minter, “ ‘What difference is this going to make in the next several years for Messiah College and for how students are taught, led, and listened to?’”
Presidents of change
A large part of the Centennial history of Messiah College involves the Hostetter legacy—the presidencies of three generations of men whose contributions and leadership continue to influence the Institution today.
Messiah College Archives
C.N. Hostetter Sr.
Messiah College Archives
After the death of College founder S.R. Smith, C.N. Hostetter Sr. — a bishop in Lancaster County — began his role as president, securing increased financial support for Messiah College. His efforts resulted in paying the College debts and allowing for an endowment fund to begin. After five years as president, he resigned to devote more time to missions and the church. Enos Hess, who was married to C.N. Hostetter’s sister Barbara, became Messiah College’s second president.
Messiah College Archives
C.N. Hostetter Jr.
Messiah College Archives
Following Hess’ presidency, C.N. Hostetter Jr. took the helm when Messiah was facing low enrollment and continued debt. To correct the problems, Hostetter Jr. implemented recruitment and cost-saving practices—among them accepting an annual salary of $800, considerably less than the $3,000 he had been making previously as a salesman.
In 1951, the Institution – comprised of a high school academy and a junior college up to that point — changed its name from Messiah Bible School to Messiah College. The name change coincided with the debut of the four-year programs in religious education and theology. Hostetter Jr. redefined the College from a high school academy and junior college to a liberal arts college and, in doing so, secured its future in the ranks of higher learning institutions. “This (change) offered the grounding for the institution to grow from approximately 200 students in the early 1960s to well exceeding 2,000 students today,” says his son D. Ray Hostetter, who later also would lead the College.
Donovan Roberts Witmer ’97
D. Ray Hostetter
Donovan Roberts Witmer ’97
Messiah College’s sixth president, D. Ray Hostetter continued the legacy of his father and grandfather. D. Ray’s presidency marked a time of growth and progress. Under his tutelage, Messiah’s bond with the Brethren in Christ Church took a new form when the denomination’s legal ownership of the College was replaced with a covenant relationship. Hostetter also arranged the merger between Messiah and Upland College, which resulted in support from the California Brethren in Christ churches. During his 30 years as president—the longest term served by any Messiah president to date—D. Ray’s vision and courage made significant developments possible, including:
•Construction of major facilities: Kline Hall of Science (1969), Eisenhower Campus Center (1972), Climenhaga Fine Arts Center (1981), and Sollenberger Sports Center (1985).
•Expansion of Messiah’s campus to more than 300 acres
•Partnership with Temple University, the first of its kind between a private Christian college and a state-affiliated university, resulting in the Messiah College Philadelphia Campus that opened in 1968
•Partnership with Daystar Institute in Nairobi, Kenya
•Initiation of programs that integrated faith and learning
•Assistance in gaining Messiah’s complete regional accreditation
The Hostetter presidencies, which spanned nearly 60 of the College’s 100 years, are a testament to the shared faith, bold vision, and enduring promise that capture the very essence of Messiah College.
Dr. Phil Thuma
Susan K. Getty ’84
Dr. Phil Thuma ’70, who serves at Macha Mission Hospital in Zambia, will deliver the Centennial Commencement address May 15, 2010.
God put the children of Africa on my heart,” says Dr. Phil Thuma, a 1970 graduate of Messiah College and pediatrician who has led groundbreaking research on the causes and treatment of malaria, particularly in African children.
A son of Brethren in Christ Church missionaries, Thuma grew up in Africa. After a three-year pediatrics residency at Johns Hopkins University and a year as chief resident in pediatrics there, he returned with his wife, Elaine, to Macha Mission Hospital in Zambia to be a full-time missionary. There, he had the privilege — and heartache — of caring for hundreds of children sick with and dying of malaria, a disease that had long been eradicated elsewhere.
“I used to, some days, see three or more young children die in one day from malaria, and you just feel helpless when you can’t save them,” he says.
In 1997, Thuma turned his passion for malaria research into a full-time endeavor, forming the non-profit Macha Malaria Research Institute (MMRI). From 1997 to 2003, Messiah College offered him a non-faculty position and an office on campus to be able to teach and carry out lab-based research.
In 2000, Macha Mission Hospital admitted nearly 1,500 children with malaria and 106 died from the disease, Thuma says. In 2003, he began spending nine months each year in Zambia, coordinating several ongoing research projects on the disease and its treatment. Today, the Malaria Institute at Macha, led by Thuma as managing director, has grown to about 50 full-time employees, and all but three are Zambian.
In 2008, there were only 52 admissions for and two deaths from malaria at Macha Hospital — a 95 percent decrease in deaths since 2003.
Through great success, though, there have been great challenges, Thuma says, and he has had to dig deep into his faith to find the courage to continue.
“Having dealt with so much suffering and death among the people of Zambia over the years, I do not know how I could have handled
it without a faith and belief in the sovereignty and power of God,”
Pastor Mary Brubaker Dotson, who is chair of the board for MMRI, says Thuma has harnessed the power and passion God put in the dedicated doctor’s heart and hands.
“I’m reminded of Nelson Mandela’s speech about the importance of being all that God created you to be and to be a light that shines,” Dotson says. “And, I think Phil does that. He really uses every gift that God has given him.”
Several Messiah students have spent their summers in Zambia in recent years doing research. And, many of the students who worked on projects with Thuma, came to spend time at Macha Mission Hospital during their final year of medical school.
Through his tireless dedication, Thuma continues to save lives in Zambia and has made a name for Messiah College on the global stage of medical research.
Donovan Roberts Witmer ’97
Andrew Samuel ’84 (third from left) founded Graystone Bank in 2005. Among the many Messiah alums employed by Graystone are: (from left) Justin Lehman ’05, Kristin (Rowley) Ives ’00, Carl Lundblad ’92, Sally (Stermer) Russo ’01, and Lucas Benson ’09.
Andrew Samuel ’84 has proven that professional and spiritual development do not have to be mutually exclusive goals. Samuel, born in India and reared in Zambia, credits Messiah College with shaping his philosophy about work and service to others when he was a student here in the ’80s.
“There were many professors in college that had a deep, lasting impression on me,” says Samuel, who is the founder, chairman, president, and CEO of Tower Bancorp and Graystone-Tower Bank.
Samuel has remained committed to serving others throughout his successful 25-year career in banking. His volunteer roles in community organizations have been varied and distinguished: director of the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts; director of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber; director of the Harrisburg YMCA; and many other positions.
But, a few years ago, God challenged Samuel’s faith. “God laid a vision on my heart in that moment. He said, ‘Andrew I want you to leave this bank and start a new bank based on sound, fundamental biblical principals,” he says. “For a guy with five daughters, two in college ... my immediate response was ‘Lord, I can’t do this.’”
Samuel decided to take the leap of faith, however, and with considerable sacrifice and courage, founded Graystone Bank in November 2005.
“In four years, God has built this company from zero assets to $1.4 billion in assets and over 300 employees,” he says.
Samuel has kept his promise, not only to build a bank on fundamental values but also to serve in God’s name. His mandate for all of his financial officers is that they participate in three community organizations and serve in a leadership role with at least one of them. “Serving others is part of our corporate philosophy,” Samuel says. “The last three years, we were rated among the 10 best places to work in Pennsylvania.”
Samuel himself serves on the Board of Trustees at the College, a volunteer appointment close to his heart.“It’s a passion for me, because, without Messiah, I would not have received a college degree,” says Samuel, who attended the College on a considerable scholarship.
He guesses at least 10 to 15 percent of his employees are Messiah alumni. “Their values are very much in line with the company’s values and therefore they’re attracted to the company,” he says. “My philosophy’s always been I don’t want to be charging into the office Monday morning waving a Bible and chanting scripture. I want to impact their lives by lifting up their spirits, by being an example with my wife and our family and how I handle life in general.”