MANY PARTS; ONE BODY
By Prof. Leonor Magtolis Briones, Chairperson, Board of Trustees
(Note: Message delivered during the Silliman University Church Service on 9 October 2011)
Silliman is not a company; it is a great Christian university
A. CELEBRATING MISSION MONTH
1. This month the Christian churches are celebrating Mission Month. During this period, we reflect on an often neglected and even forgotten mandate to all Christians. This is to spread the gospel and the good news of Christian salvation. Matthew tells us that Jesus commanded his disciples to “go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost…” Paul echoed this mandate when he said in his letter to the Romans “Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation…But as it is written , To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see; and they that have not heard shall understand.”
2. It is good to celebrate Mission Month because we are reminded that being Christian is not only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; it also carries the responsibility to share the gospel with others and even “teach all nations.”
B. SILLIMAN AS A RESULT OF MISSION WORK
1. Silliman is an institution which was born during the period of intense missionary activity in the Philippines.
2. It is one of the best examples of successful and sustained mission work and showcases the creation, nurture and development of a great Christian university.
3. We all know the history of Silliman- how it started from a school for 15 barefoot boys and grew into one of the leading universities of the country.
4. We all know of the succession of missionaries who came and helped lay the foundations for this great university. We were taught about the generosity of Dr. Horace B. Silliman who donated $10,000 to the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions for the establishment of a school for trade and agriculture for boys in the Philippines. We all know about the dedication and perseverance of Dr. and Mrs David Sutherland Hibbard who chose Dumaguete as the site for the school. The critical role of the Filipinos, particularly Mayor Meliton Larena and his brother, Governor Demetrio Larena, in assuring local support and cooperation.
5. We all know about the succession of missionaries who came to teach and to train their eager pupils. Their names are familiar to many of us, especially the longtime Silliman families. Buildings, facilities and roads are named after them.–Doltz Hall for Dr. Paul Doltz, Heflin Hall for Clyde Heflin, Channon Hall for Irving and Mary Channon, Cunningham Road for Dr. GS. Cunningham, and many others Yes, we also have Guy Hall and Vernon Hall which are named after great American missionaries.
As a student of Business Administration, I cannot forget our own dean, Dr. Hubert Fitton who was a Harvard graduate and gave me my first lesson in statistics: “They say figures do not lie but liars figure!” With Dr. Fitton as coach of our Quiz Bowl team, we handily beat the College of Arts and Sciences for the championship trophy. I was still a Silliman student when the first Filipino president, Dr. Leopoldo T. Ruiz assumed office.
It was during the presidency of Dr. Leopoldo T. Ruiz when the university followed the tradition set by the American missionaries and started sending out Filipino missionaries to other parts of the country as well as to Thailand, Nigeria and Indonesia.
6. Time and again, we have been inspired by stories of how the university survived the terrible war years; how missionary families and faculty shared pangs of hunger sickness and danger.
7. We have been taught lessons from the early years of the American missionaries, the shared suffering during the war years and the decades of prosperity and strength of Silliman as a leading Christian university.
8. We just celebrated our 110th Founders Day and have surmounted physical, economic and social challenges. As an outstanding 'fruit ' of dedicated mission work we in Silliman have much to be grateful for.
C. SILLIMAN AT PRESENT
1. Silliman has travelled a long way since that day 15 barefoot boys shyly appeared during that memorable opening day of school 110 years ago. At present we have a total enrollment of 8,839 students from all regions of the country, including 336 foreign students from twenty-eight countries.
2. From one faculty member (namely Mrs Hibbard) we now have 336 regular faculty and 290 regular staff. We have been granted full autonomy by the Commission on Higher Education. We are a center of excellence in Nursing Education, Center of Excellence in Teacher Education, a Center of Development in Biology and Center of Development in Information Technology Education.
3. Aside from producing topnotchers in licensure examinations, we frequently garner scores higher than the national average. Recently, we had a 100%passing rating in Medicine, as well as in Chemistry.
4. We are considered one of the best schools of higher learning in the Philippines and are ranked in the same category as U.P., Ateneo, and La Salle.
5. We believe that Silliman is not only outstanding academically, we are very special in terms of the Christian nurture we impart to our students, the quality of student life, the special role of the Silliman University Church, and our relationship with each other as members of the Silliman community.
All of the above are due to the strong foundations laid by the missionaries which have been passed on to generations of Filipino administrators, faculty members and students.
D. THE HERITAGE FROM MISSIONARIES
What has Silliman learned from early years of the missionaries which all of us treasure and strive to preserve?
1. dedication and the capacity for sacrifice. If there is anything missionaries are known for, it is their dedication and their readiness to sacrifice their own interests for the sake of the community. We all saw this very clearly during the early years of the missionaries and the terrible war years.
The Silliman groups who went to different parts of the provinces –whether Filipino, American, faculty or staff–shared everything–meager food, clothing and the inevitable chores. They suffered together–malaria, dysentery, fever, skin diseases. As a child, I heard so much of what the group, led by Rev. and Mrs. Paul Lindholm, shared and suffered together with the people of Guihulngan. It was almost incredible–the spirit of love, of sharing and the sacrifice of individual interest for the greater good.
2. continual striving for excellence. In a very short period Silliman showed to the rest of the country that Silliman education was special, Silliman English was special and the Sillimanian was special. To put it in the words of Trustee Ipe Remollo, “respect the Sillimanian.”
E. SILLIMAN IS NOT A COMPANY; IT IS A CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
At present, many organizations and institutions, whether public or private are called companies Even universities and academic institutions follow the corporate or “company” structure. More and more universities are owned by big private companies. Corporations acquire private universities to add to their stature and public standing.
Because universities are owned by companies, they also behave like companies. Thus, they have unions, with the owners and administrators viewed as capitalists and the faculty and staff as laboring masses. Antagonism is built-in; this frequently lead to strikes and prolonged standoffs because of mutual suspicion and mutual lack of trust.
Silliman is different. It is a Christian institution It is a great university. It is not a company.
As a Christian community, Silliman is composed of many parts–the board of trustees, administration, faculty and staff, and the students. It operates in an environment composed of the parents, the local government where it is located, and the rest of Philippine society. Even as Silliman is composed of many parts, Silliman is one body. We have one purpose and a shared vision.
St Paul states this very clearly in his first letter to the Corinthians10:10. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
Paul continues in 1st Corinthians 12:12-20, and emphasizes that the Church and church related institutions are many parts, one body.
F. TO CONCLUDE:
The month of October has been designated Mission Month. Christians are enjoined to reflect on their duties to share the gospel and to be recharged by the heroic deeds of our missionaries. Silliman is one of the very best examples of successful missionary work.
The work of the early missionaries in Silliman echoes the early Christian communities as described in Acts 2:42-47.
To conclude: The members of the Silliman community have different interests and different expectations. We also have different duties and tasks. Nonetheless, we are bound together not only as a great university, but as a loving, serving and sacrificing community as well .We are not enemies but brothers and sisters. We are all committed to the continued survival and growth of the university. At this time, the Silliman community is facing great challenges. Let us sit down, break bread together, and find a solution which will not only benefit one sector but will also ensure the continued survival of our university in these trying and difficult times.
We cannot disappoint the early missionaries who spent all their lives laying the foundations of our beloved institution of learning. We cannot disappoint God. AMEN