President Parkyn Delivers "State of the University" Address

gathering day

North Park Faculty, Staff Prepare for the Academic Year at Gathering Day 2011

CHICAGO — (Aug. 24, 2011) Dr. David L. Parkyn, president of North Park University in Chicago, said he is energized by the University’s mission, committed to its students, optimistic about the future, and “above everything else, grateful to God” for what God brings to the University community.

Parkyn made the comment in his annual “State of the University” address delivered to faculty and staff at North Park’s “Gathering Day 2011” held here in Anderson Chapel, marking the beginning of the new school year. Freshmen arrive at the Albany Park campus beginning August 24, followed by returning students later in the week. The first day of classes is Monday, August 29.

The North Park president began by quoting from an article calling students entering college this fall “the Internet class.” They were born in 1993, the same year as the first major Internet browser was launched.  “Many of us have been without the Internet for part of our lives, at least. Our students today have not,” he said.

In his report, Parkyn said that through the collective efforts of many, the University has achieved “an historic level of first-year and transfer undergraduates.”

“This reflects a strong effort on many fronts and by many people,” he said, thanking staff in admissions, financial aid, and athletics. Parkyn also reported that recruitment of new graduate students is strong, and when combined with returning students in all areas, “we likely will reach the highest fall enrollment in North Park’s history.” There has also been a “modest increase” in undergraduate student retention, he said.

Parkyn noted the formal launch of Campaign North Park in June. The $57 million multi-faceted campaign includes of goal of $42 million for a new Science and Community Life Building, of which more than $30 million has been raised, he said. The campaign also seeks to raise funds for University’s Annual Fund, scholarships, and support for Chicago-based academic programs and faculty development. “This is the most ambitious fund-raising effort in our school’s history, and we’re well on our way to succeeding with each of the campaign goals,” Parkyn said. Plans for the new building will be developed this year, and fund raising will be achieved, he said.

Planned lectures this academic year will feature Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago, John Perkins, Sharon Haar, Wil Willimon, Robert Putnam, and Cornel West. The University will participate in President Obama’s Interfaith Community Service Campus Challenge, and it launches Voyage, a series of activities planned for first-year students.

Parkyn said work will begin on a new strategic plan linking North Park’s identity — distinctly Christian, intentionally urban, and purposefully multicultural — with its purpose, to prepare students for lives of significance and service. The process will lead up to the University’s 125th anniversary in 2016, he said.

Parkyn cited other recent accomplishments, including reaffirmation of the University’s accreditation; men’s soccer and baseball conference championships; honoring the outgoing Chicago mayor, Richard M. Daley, and hosting his successor, Rahm Emmanuel, at the Axelson Center Symposium; and multiple physical improvements to campus buildings and landscaping.

The gift and work of "with"

gathering day

Following the president’s remarks, faculty and staff participated in worship. In her homily, Judy Peterson, the North Park University campus pastor, said during the summer she attended family gatherings and officiated at student weddings. She described both as gifts and opportunities to strengthen relational bonds. “Family gatherings and weddings offer the gift of being with people,” she said. “They are also filled with the work of being with people.”

This year’s annual campus theme focuses on the question, "What is community?” The word community combines two Latin words that mean “with” and “gift,” she said. “But I hope we also come to understand that the gift only comes when people commit to the day-to-day work of being ‘with,’ she said, adding that such a gift was never meant just to be a gift for us, but was always meant to be given to the world.

She continued, “What if we would give the gift of ‘with,’ if together we committed to the ‘work’ of with? Forgiving the unforgivable, giving second and third chances to people whom we didn’t want to give a first chance to, agreeing to disagree and remaining in relationship with one another, compromising and keeping our promises, sharing resources and refusing to share gossip. What would that look like?”

Peterson suggested that through such principles, the North Park community could be an answer to Jesus’s prayer in the Gospel of John, chapter 17, in which he prays that all believers would be unified in Christ.

“I think we have the opportunity be the answer to Jesus’s prayer,” she said. “I believe that if we commit to the work of ‘with,’ not just for better but for worse, and not just for richer but for poorer, not just for health, but also in sickness — that what others called a Pollyanna ‘pipe dream’ is a possibility here at the corner of Foster and Kedzie.”


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