Iowa Wesleyan University Founder’s Day
Celebrating 175 Years
Well happy birthday Iowa Wesleyan University! So I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news. The good news is Sara took most of my comments. The bad news is I love talking about this place and I’ve got plenty more where that came from.
You know I thought since we are together, we are having a Founders Day and our students in particular are here with us. It sort of begs the question. What is so special about the founding day of an institution? Well, it is like a birthday or a wedding anniversary or the celebration of a significant milestone. We celebrate these days because they afford us opportunities to pause and remember. We pause to remember the preciousness of a life born. We pause to remember the true nature of love required in the gift and task of marriage and parenthood. We pause to remember the ups and downs, twists and turns, advances and setbacks that carried us on a road to wisdom and brought us to the place of here and now.
For Iowa Wesleyan University, this moment, this here and now, has been 175 years in the making. So we pause and remember so we might join together in community to give thanks for God’s abundant graces over the years, nearly two centuries worth. We pause and remember so we may give thanks for one another and for the legacy this university has created in the intellectual, social, spiritual and moral formation of human beings.
We are here to celebrate our institutional saga, our heroic narrative of legendary figures and events. Like the medieval figures of Iceland and Norway, we celebrate our saga – our dramatic and dynamic history as a transformational learning community.
The hardships have been abundant. The achievements have more abundant. The characters and figures have been rich and alive. And the narrative has been glorious and complicated, dramatic and inspiring. The saga of Iowa Wesleyan University has been a heroic one, to be sure, and it is a really good story.
Iowa Wesleyan University is one of the most historic universities in the United States. Our saga begins as the first and oldest co-educational university in the State of Iowa and the second oldest independent, co-educational university in the Unites States west of the Mississippi River.
And I think Sara did a lovely job of just kind of laying out for us the wonderful; I mean our saga is here (gesturing to the onstage items). Its some of the high points of our saga.
And here we stand 175 years later. Our saga is replete with words like “frontier”, “pioneer”, “bold”, “visionary”, “service” – words that have been transformed into action and impact.
“Diversity”, “inclusion” and “welcoming” are other words that have shaped the saga of this great university. The Wesleyan saga is especially marked by an extraordinary commitment to educating women, men and women of color, and men and women from around the globe.
You know Sara mentioned:
- In 1869, the P.E.O. international sisterhood was founded by seven Wesleyan women students. I had no idea until today, what, $283 million of scholarships. Over this period. Absolutely miraculous. Incredible. Today, this organization is dedicated to providing higher education opportunities for women around the country.
- In 1890, Miss Keyroku Miazaki (Key-row-koo / May-zah-key) of Japan, was our first international student.
- In the mid to late 19th century Wesleyan opened its doors to African American students. When most of the rest of the country was closing its doors to our African American brothers and sisters.
- By 1898 four African American women received baccalaureate degrees: Susan Mosely 1885, Agnes Mason 1887, Louise Mason 1898, and Ida Mae Godfrey 1898.
- In 1862, Arabella Mansfield began her studies at Iowa Wesleyan College and in 1869 became the first female lawyer in United States admitted to the Bar.
And then we hear of course about Peggy Whitson. We talk about Peggy a lot because of the extraordinary things she’s done. And she continues to do them. As you watched last November in space a third time. To command the International Space Station a second time. The first women ever to do that; the first and only women to do that a second time. And I was delighted this fall we could send her off with an appropriate, proper and enthusiastic Iowa Wesleyan University before she launched. By having the Students back here sitting and DP was there too, right DP? And just absolutely sending her off and then we sent a team of folks down to the Johnson space center in Houston to be with her. To tell her “we love you”. “We thank you.” We are proud of you and you have to know that when you are up there, doing your good work on behalf of the universe, not just our world but the universe. We are with you. We are with you. And we know that Wesleyan Tigers are with her too. And I think that meant a lot to her because she was in tears. It meant a lot to her. I think what meant most to her was she saw DP on the video.
These things matter. And I know you know that. But today we come together to pause and remember. That it matters. That you matter; that we matter; that these young people sitting in this room matter. These young people sitting in this room are the only reason this university exists. The only reason. We’re not here to give Steve Titus a job. We’re not here to give anyone else a job. We are here to walk with these young people, who are absolutely amazing, because the gift and task of the work we do, is form human beings. That is why we are here.
Yesterday I guess it was, Meg Richtman and I were up at the state capitol. We were with Dave Heaton and Rich Taylor at the governor’s office. To have proclamations read on the floor of the House and the Senate and the Governor also provided a proclamation recognizing today February 17th two thousand seventeen really is Iowa Wesleyan day. And, acknowledging in a very public, historic and significant way the one hundred and seventy five years of this outstanding university.
We also have a proclamation from the city of Mt. Pleasant. The city that is our home here. I would like to share the words of that proclamation with you now. And this is from the city of Mt. Pleasant:
Iowa Wesleyan University’s 175th Anniversary
WHEREAS, in the 1840’s, the frontier community of Mount Pleasant was zealous for culture and concerned for the educated person; and
WHEREAS, the Territorial Legislature was aware of the need for schools, it enacted into law and founded on February 17, 1842, the incorporation of a Literary Institute at Mount Pleasant in Henry County; and
WHEREAS, one year later, on or before March 8, 1843, twenty six men from Mount Pleasant signed Articles of Association for the purpose of erecting The Mount Pleasant Collegiate Institute, under the charge of the Methodist Episcopal Church; and
WHEREAS, Iowa Wesleyan University proudly continues its affiliation with the United Methodist Church and is recognized as Iowa’s first independent, faith-based, co-educational institution of higher learning and one of the oldest of its type west of the Mississippi River; and
WHEREAS, today, Iowa Wesleyan University has grown into a top-tier university in the Midwest region of the United States and serves students of all ages and cultures and provides numerous educational, cultural and athletic opportunities, for personal and professional growth; and
WHEREAS, Mount Pleasant is home to its university of 175 years and proudly celebrates as a community, along with the students, faculty and staff of Iowa Wesleyan, the incredible and lasting legacy of one of the nation’s most historic universities; and
WHEREAS, Mount Pleasant and Iowa Wesleyan University are inextricably linked in contributing to the future and promise of the university, the city, the county and the region of Southeast Iowa and shares in the bold and promising future of Iowa Wesleyan University
NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved that I, Steven Brimhal, Mayor of the City of Mount Pleasant, Iowa do hereby congratulate Iowa Wesleyan University on its milestone anniversary of 175 years. Also, I hereby direct that Friday, February 17, 2017, be designated “Iowa Wesleyan University Day” in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
Dated this 7th day of November 2017.
Mayor Brimhal we thank you for your leadership and for our partnership with this amazing city, and this very important and historic county in the state of Iowa.
So, before I close, I want to say thank you to Liz and to Rich. I love you, you people are amazing and as the honorary co-chairs of our 175th you inspire me and you do so much for our students and our university. Thank you, thank you. I want to say thank you to my wife who I just absolutely adore and to Meg Richtman who I adore to just not quite as much as Sara. These two women have really been leading the effort from the staff side in terms of celebrating our 175th. I’m grateful to you both. And Boon, I’m going to pick up on you brother to our Sodexo colleagues and our colleagues at national taking good care of us to make sure we’re having a great day. I’m very grateful for the event.
Today we pause and remember, and we savor. Monday we are back to work to continue the saga as we begin the 176th year of Iowa Wesleyan University. You see, Founder’s Day also is a day that reminds us to not take things for granted. Founder’s Day reminds us of our responsibility and opportunity to carry the torch into the future as the regional, comprehensive university for Southeast Iowa. We have much work to do and there are more heroics ahead. It is time for a new kind of student-centered rural university in this country, and we will lead the way. That, I promise you. So let the saga continue and we ask for God’s grace, mercy and loving kindness on the journey. Amen!
Thank you so much for making the time to be here.