Messiah College remembers Rodney J. Sawatsky
On Saturday, November 27, 2004, Messiah College lost a “dear friend, a visionary leader and a brilliant Christian educator” when its seventh president, Rodney J. Sawatsky, died at his home in Waterloo, Canada. He was 60.
Officially retired from the College in June 2004, Sawatsky’s ten-year presidency was marked by substantial institutional growth and renewal. Upon his inauguration in July 1994, Sawatsky charted an ambitious course for Messiah College—one predicated upon academic excellence and the institution’s rich Christian heritage. Under his direction, the College pursued many new initiatives that emanated from the mission and identity statement he led the campus community in crafting.
Sawatsky’s life was celebrated and his memory honored at a public memorial held at the College in early December. Friends, colleagues, students, and community leaders gathered in Messiah’s Brubaker Auditorium in remembrance of a man whose life reflected the theme of the service— Faith, Hope, Love.
Throughout his life, Sawatsky held a deep appreciation for music and was also a prolific writer. Fittingly, the memorial service, presided over by Kim Phipps, who has since been named the new president of the College
, was filled with song and verse: from a moving prelude performed by Richard Roberson, dean of the School of the Arts
, and William Stowman, chair of the Department of Music
, to numerous reflections from Sawatsky’s own writings read by friends, students, alumni, and fellow educators;
from an original choral piece written as a gift for Rod and Lorna Sawatsky by Richard Roberson to a poignant tribute offered by Eunice Steinbrecher, chair of the Messiah College Board of Trustees; from some of Rod’s favorite hymns sung by all gathered to a stirring meditation given by Terry Brensinger, senior pastor of Grantham Church. There were moments of private and corporate prayer, and a solemn choral benediction, Song of Farewell , was sung by Messiah’s concert choir to conclude Messiah College’s celebration of Rodney J. Sawatsky’s life—a life that touched and will continue to touch so many people in so many ways.
“The abundant life is defined by its quality and not its quantity. In that spirit, we seek to live each day as fully and as joyfully as we can in spite of the uncertainties we face. We remain deeply grateful for God’s active and continuing presence in our lives. May we all remain people of hope rather than despair …” —Rodney J. Sawatsky