Homecoming weekend marks the culmination of AU’s centennial celebration. The campus and alumni community have spent the year celebrating Lighting the Path in the past, present and future.
This year’s homecoming celebration is themed “Coming Home.”
“This was intentional because, whether a current student or an alum of AU, this place houses and has housed many students over the years,” said Scott Tilley, director of alumni engagement and annual giving.
“But it’s more than that,” he said. “This place we call AU has also served, and continues to serve, as a place of discovery, impact and transformation for so many over the years.”
Tilley explained that no matter when you graduated from AU, or if your graduation is still a couple years in the future, there are shared AU experiences that are woven into our lives.
In addition to the traditional homecoming activities, the alumni office is pulling out all the stops to make sure this centennial celebration is truly celebratory.
From a bonfire after CAB event Zorb to complimentary cupcakes in the alumni tent, a concert by alumnus Steven Curtis Chapman and even fireworks on Saturday night, there will be many ways for current and future alumni to celebrate what AU means to them.
“We want to celebrate in big ways not only those who have helped light the path before us, but also looking forward to those who forge new paths in the future,” said Tilley.
Dr. Merle Strege, a professor emeritus of historical theology, said that, “At a moment like a centennial, by reflecting on the past, institutions find keys for their future.”
Strege is the author of the centennial book “The Desk as Altar: The Centennial History of Anderson University.”
A centennial celebration allows an institution to celebrate its success over the last century, and it prompts the community to consider where the future will lead.
“My hope is that the institution, the leaders and the students will use the centennial as an occasion to think about what has brought us to the present, then what from the past will propel us into the future?” said Strege.
Achieving 100 years as an institution is no small feat; it takes something deep and lasting to build a community of faith and education that can endure a century of change both within the institution and in the outside world.
Over the course of the past century, AU has experienced many changes. Throughout transition times, there have been strong themes of leadership and relationship with the Church of God. These changes formed AU into the community that it is today and the community it will grow into in the next hundred years.
In its hundred years, the institution has had only five presidents.
Strege explained that this span of service is very uncommon in American colleges and universities. “Certainly it was the case with each president, that they had a strong sense of vocation,” he said.
This sense of calling has also been central in the faculty, meaning that there is significantly less turnover than other universities.
“The idea of being a good professor means really identifying with, connecting with the institution where you teach,” said Strege. “Out of that, you get a really strong sense of vocation to the school and a great many Anderson professors have had that sense of dedication to the institution.”
AU’s relationship with the Church of God has been a factor of lasting success as well.
“So how does a conservative church group end up sponsoring an institution that has consistently pursued this open-ended quest toward the truth? ” Strege said.
It is a paradoxical relationship that allows AU to seek out the truth in both faith and science, be it the critical study of the scripture or study of evolution in the science department.
There are institutions that play to either one or the other of these, but the paradox of AU is that it brings these two together in truth.
“I don’t think there are many church institutions like Anderson that are interested in bringing people together from both ends of our society,” said Strege. “That’s worth celebrating, and that’s worth preserving.”
As the university comes to the end of its centennial year, it will not stop remembering the past. Just as the community of the institution has recognized previous leaders in portraits hung throughout campus and in the names of its buildings, AU will continue to celebrate the path that has brought us to where we are. We will continue to pave the path that will move us into the next century of AU.