Late December/early January is a time to look back and to look forward. This is certainly true for me in the midst of my third year as Dean at Perkins School of Theology.
They say it takes about three years to acclimate oneself to a new position and a new location. Indeed, it has begun to seem normal to look out my office window and see the sun shining on the columns of Perkins Chapel and on the trees ornamenting the exterior of Bridwell Library. There is comfort in such familiarity, to be sure, but also some danger: that one might begin to take good things for granted and that one might start to overlook new possibilities and perspectives.
There is much about Perkins that I want never to take for granted. Above all, it is the quality of the people who make up this school—faculty, staff, students, alumni, and other supporters together. Many years ago, I rowed in an “eight” (a boat with a crew of eight) for my college at Oxford University. It was not easy for us all to stay in sync. Too often, one of us (me, the unpracticed American, most of all) would “catch a crab,” which means that the blade of an oar was trapped in the water by the momentum of the boat, throwing off the rhythm of the entire crew and costing it precious time. On the other hand, there were days when it all came together beautifully, when we pulled as one and moved cleanly and powerfully through the water. Those were exhilarating moments.
I feel a similar exhilaration at Perkins when I witness good people pulling in the same direction, moving us forward with grace and speed. I can’t tell you how many meetings (yes, meetings!) at Perkins I have left with a sense of joy for being part of an excellent team that is working together in sync.
I also hope never to take for granted those who worked and sacrificed to create, grow and sustain this institution over so many years. I recently attended the December SMU Commencement. It reminded me of my older sister’s SMU graduation decades ago, which I attended while still in high school. It suddenly occurred to me that Dean Joseph Quillian, whom I had known only from his picture in Kirby Hall and the Grimes and Allen histories, almost certainly was also there, sitting on the platform just as I was now. I must have seen him myself, a thought that touched me and gave me a new appreciation for the ties that bind us all across the years.
But appreciation for the past and familiarity with the present should not cause us to miss opportunities to respond to current and future needs or to improve in other ways. As you read this and further issues of Perspective, you’ll see that Perkins is growing and adapting while holding true to its core identity and mission. Doubtless, this always has—and I hope, always will be—true. I hope that a future Dean, perhaps someone currently in high school, will look back with appreciation on those of us who support Perkins today, and will look forward in anticipation to what God will next do at and through our school.
Grace and peace,