Newly appointed president speaks at Formal Opening

Posted on September 4, 2014

FO 14 Kooistra crop

Dr. Paul Kooistra

Erskine College and Seminary President Dr. Paul Kooistra, who took office just a month ago, spoke about “A Call from God” to assembled students, faculty, staff, and community members at the Formal Opening Convocation in the Due West ARP Church Sept. 2.

Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Brad Christie greeted those in attendance, including Kooistra and his wife Sandi.

“For the past year and a half we’ve been cultivating an institution-wide initiative to focus on vocation and purpose for everyone: students, faculty, staff, administration, the entire Erskine family,” Christie said. “Dr. Kooistra has already said publicly that he has felt called to Erskine for this time.”

Turning to the new president, Christie said, “We too believe God has called you to this place and to this imposing task before you. We welcome you.”

Kooistra took as his text the first chapter of the book of Jeremiah, which describes the call of the “weeping prophet,” and he challenged students to think about God’s call to them.

“Do you have any sense of the idea that God called you here?” he asked.

FO 14 Faculty march in

Faculty in regalia enter the Due West ARP Church.

A number of factors might influence a student’s decision to come to Erskine—friends who are at Erskine, contact with a particular professor, the opportunity to play a sport—but beyond all these, “God knows you better than anyone,” Kooistra said.

The president expressed his hope that students who are believers might grow spiritually at Erskine and that students from  non-religious backgrounds might consider whether God is calling them to know Him.

“Don’t let that question escape you,” he said. “Don’t spend four years here without wrestling with that question.”

When the Lord called Jeremiah, the young man protested, “I do not know how to speak, I’m only a child.” Kooistra advised students not to belittle themselves, but instead to be ready to respond to God’s call.

“God molded you and shaped you so that you could make a difference in this world,” he said.

Heeding God’s call may not be easy.

“When God calls you, even as students, he wants to stretch you,” Kooistra said. “He doesn’t call us to the things we can do by ourselves.”

Giving students a glimpse of how his faith sustains him, the president recounted an experience early in his career in which he consented to have his name to added to a list of candidates for president of Covenant Seminary in Missouri. He thought it unlikely he would be chosen, since his was the last name on a short list of 21.

But he became president of Covenant, with its declining enrollment and mounting budgetary problems. During his tenure, enrollment increased from 121 to 790 students, and the endowment grew from zero to $8 million.

“How does that happen?” he asked as he cited the Covenant statistics, attributing the turnaround to reliance on the Lord’s provision.

When he wakes up each day, Kooistra said, he affirms two important beliefs: “I’m not in charge, God is,” and “God called me and he’ll provide.”

aaa FO 14

Erskine students, faculty, staff, and community members filled the Due West ARP Church.

“I hope you believe that as well,” he told the students.

The Rev. Paul G. Patrick, chaplain of Erskine College and Theological Seminary, who gave the invocation and benediction, offered a prayer for the 178th year of the seminary and the 176th year of the college.

Music was provided by the Erskine Choraleers, directed by Assistant Professor of Music Dr. Mark A. Nabholz, and Professor of Music Dr. J. Brooks Kuykendall, organist.

See more photos here.

Watch the Formal Opening in its entirety: