Archived Voice Articles

It Takes a College . . .

By Dr. Carl E. Zylstra

It takes a village to raise a child,” one of the candidates for president of the United States is fond of saying. “No,” replies another candidate from the other party, “It doesn’t take a village, but it does take a family.”

Far be it from me to wade into that squabble. I’ll leave that to our social work, psychology, and education departments to sort out. But of this I am confident: when it comes to providing the kind of education and formation that late adolescent Christian youth require to grow in lives of discipleship, it may not take a village but it surely takes a college—and all the individuals and gifts that comprise that college.

I was reminded of that earlier this year when a good friend of Dordt College and his wife had taken a tour of campus and talked to many good people across campus. He said to me afterward, “From all I can see, this campus is in such great shape and runs so well, what on earth is there left for you to do as president of this place?” While his comment was made at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek, his point was well taken. A college is made up of a host of people with various assignments and callings. When they all do their part and carry out their respective tasks with diligence and effectiveness, a college president has little to do, I guess, but simply “preside.”

Admittedly, there is more to it than that. The board of trustees of a college is charged with protecting the mission of the college, and they assign the president the responsibility to advocate continually for the mission, ensuring that mission internally within the institution, and assuring that mission externally to potential supporters and encouragers.

But the president generally doesn’t teach many classes; there are gifted professors appointed to do that. Nor does the president maintain the buildings. In my case, it would be a disaster if I tried. Yet we have tremendously talented maintenance staff who exercise stewardship over the buildings and grounds that make up the environment of the college. We have business officers who have the gift of organizing finances. Student services administrators and staff have the knowledge to provide co-curricular and educational formation for students during the 150 hours per week that students are not in class. Admissions people know how to present the opportunities of a Dordt College education to high school students who still need to be convinced. And fundraisers and publicists let the whole world know the quality of the Christ-centered education carried out at Dordt College—and invite them to join this effort as well.

I’ve probably missed a few parts of the college in this litany, but you get the point. When a young woman or man walks onto our campus, there is a whole college full of people who are there to ensure his or her education—and it takes them all to do so effectively.

Perhaps you’ve seen the television ad for the cellular service that visualizes a whole host of “network” workers who stand behind the cellular service to which you subscribe. That’s really the picture we ought to have of Dordt College as well—except for one huge difference.

At Dordt College, the network isn’t here because you pay them to be here. At Dordt College our faculty, staff, and administration are here because they believe in the mission of the college, and they want to help each student take advantage of that education as well. Each person who joins the college is asked to affirm the principles and basis of the college. Faculty and administrators alike are asked to demonstrate that commitment to our mission by maintaining active membership in a church that adheres to Reformed doctrine and supports the mission of the college—and to provide their own children with a Christ-centered education from kindergarten on.

Certainly, not everyone who seeks to be a disciple of Jesus Christ has to attend Dordt College in order to be faithful in their calling. I hope none of us at Dordt are ever so arrogant as to believe that to be the case. But of this I am certain: we at Dordt College believe that it takes all of us to provide the kind of Christ-centered education that our college was founded to provide. As this issue of Voice again demonstrates, we believe we have developed a strong network to provide the 24/7 Christ-centered education that we have promised. When you join our college, as student or supporter, you really do “get the network.” For the type of education we promise to deliver, the slogan seems accurate: it really does take a college.