2019 Founders Day Homily

Three exemplary employees were honored at the annual Founders Day celebration in Christ Chapel on October 31.
Posted on October 31st, 2019 by

Dr. Tom LoFaro, Scott Meyer, and Heather Dale.

Dr. Tom LoFaro, Scott Meyer, and Heather Dale.

The annual Founders Day celebration commemorates the dedication of Old Main on the College’s Saint Peter, Minn., campus on October 31, 1876. Each year, three outstanding employees are recognized with the annual employee awards during the Founders Day chapel service. Here are President Rebecca Bergman’s remarks at the 2019 event.


Psalm 100: 1-5

1 Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands;

2 Serve the Lord with gladness and come into the divine presence with a song.

3 Know this: the Lord is God; the One who made us and to whom we belong; we are God’s people, the sheep of God’s pasture.

4 Enter the gates of the Lord with thanksgiving; go into these courts with praise; give thanks to God and call upon the name of the Lord.

5 For the Lord is good, whose steadfast love is everlasting; and whose faithfulness endures from generation to generation.

Greetings to all of you as we gather to celebrate Gustavus Adolphus College’s Founders Day. On this day in 1876, Old Main was officially dedicated. At that time, Old Main stood by itself here on the hill. The building served as the dormitory for men, library, classrooms, offices, dining hall, kitchen, laundry, and even living quarters for the president, several faculty members, and the cook.

Today, we see that this original Kasota stone building has wonderfully stood the test of time, and it remains an iconic symbol of Gustavus for all who approach campus on College Avenue.

From its rather simple beginnings, Gustavus has undergone dramatic growth and change over the last 143 years. As you look out the windows at the construction site for Phase II of our Nobel Hall project, it is clear that we are continuing to undergo growth and change. And yet, the mission of the College, to educate students for lives of leadership and service, remains the same.

Each year, on this day, we pause to honor our founder, Eric Norelius, and we celebrate his vision in establishing this College and the rich heritage on which we stand. Today, we pause with a deep sense of gratitude toward the generations of teachers and learners who came before us, and to all those here today who are dedicated to our core values of excellence, community, justice, service, and faith.

Our Bible reading this morning is from Psalm 100, a well-known psalm of thanks and praise. In this short, five-verse psalm, the psalmist gives us seven instructions of how we are to give grateful praise to God:

  1. Be joyful in the Lord. In fact, some translations say that we must “shout” with joy. No glum faces, no halfhearted greetings, no grumpy attitudes. Rather, we are invited to come together with heartfelt and noisy expressions of joy in the Lord. We enthusiastically rejoice with loud voices and cheerful hearts.
  2. Serve the Lord with gladness. In other words, do something! Worship and service are intertwined–every act of worship is an act of service to the Lord. And, likewise, every act of service to others with a glad heart is an act of worship. So, my good people–no sitting around. This is a place where service is valued and recognized.
  3. Come into the presence of God with a song. Come in and sing. Sing praises to God. When we worship, we raise our voices together in song as an act of praise. In so doing, we feel the presence of God.
  4. Know that the Lord is God. This is an affirmation of God as the creator. We belong to God, and God cares for us just as the shepherd cares for his sheep.
  5. Enter the gates of the Lord. Be present. Participate. All are welcome here.
  6. How do we enter? Enter with thanksgiving. We come back to this central notion of gratitude. May we enter this place of worship with thanksgiving, with hearts filled with gratitude for all that God has given us.
  7. And we enter with praise. Thankfulness and praise merge together. We offer our praise to God in the presence of one another and bless the holy name of the Lord.

Sounds good. Seven instructions–a rather straightforward to-do list for the good life. We might, however, want to understand why do we do all this? Once again, in very few words, the psalmist tells us why, with three reasons.

First, because God is good. God is full of goodness. God is good in all aspects of being in relationship with people–in offering grace, forgiveness, and presence in our lives.

Second, God’s love is steadfast and everlasting. There are no conditions attached to God’s love for us; no lapses in God’s love. God’s love is always there for us.

And finally, we hear that God’s faithfulness endures from generation to generation. God is with us always, through all time. On this day of remembrance of our founder, what a fitting reminder that God is here with us, through the ages, at this moment in time, and for all generations to come.

The psalmist reminds us of the nature of God:

God is good.

God is loving.

God is faithful.

And now, with all this in mind, let’s once more hear the full psalm:

1 Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands;

2 Serve the Lord with gladness and come into the divine presence with a song.

3 Know this: the Lord is God; the One who made us and to whom we belong; we are God’s people, the sheep of God’s pasture.

4 Enter the gates of the Lord with thanksgiving; go into these courts with praise; give thanks to God and call upon the name of the Lord.

5 For the Lord is good, whose steadfast love is everlasting; and whose faithfulness endures from generation to generation.

In this moment, my heart is filled with gratitude.

  • I am grateful for the inspired work of our founder, Eric Norelius, and all those who came together in October of 1876 for a festive and joyful dedication of Old Main.
  • I am grateful for all the generations of Gusties who have walked through the halls of Old Main, who have left behind their footprints here on campus and gone on to fulfilling lives of leadership and service in the world.
  • I am grateful for all who are here today who carry forward our mission, who are engaged in living and learning in a supportive community.
  • I am grateful for the employees who will be recognized today for their extraordinary service to the College.
  • I am grateful for this opportunity to worship and serve together, with abundant joy and thanksgiving.

How about you? How much gratitude do you hold in your heart? Do you regularly give voice to your gratitude in expressions of thanksgiving and praise? Do you live your life with an attitude of gratitude?

One of my former pastors, Jerry Hoffman, who is a Gustie, Class of 1959, has a way of practicing gratitude in his daily life that I have always found to be inspiring. Whenever someone asks him, “How are you?” he always answers, “I am grateful.” Give it a try today. Let’s all practice being people of gratitude.

Now, in celebration of Founders Day, and with a deep sense of gratitude, we lift up three individuals who are being honored for their extraordinary service to the College. This is an especially meaningful award, as it is recognition from your peers.  I appreciate all those who nominated individuals for these awards, as well as those who served on the selection committees.

I would like to ask our award winners to please stand and remain standing as your name is announced.

Scott Meyer is the recipient of the 2019 Augusta Carlson Schultz Award, which is presented annually to a support staff employee who exemplifies outstanding dedication and spirit of service.  Scott serves as a Campus Safety Officer and has worked at Gustavus since 1998.

The 2019 Eric Norelius Award recipient is Heather Dale. The Norelius Award is given annually to an outstanding administrative employee, who has demonstrated exceptional service and dedication to the College. Heather serves as the Director of Health Service and Assistant Dean of Students. She has worked at Gustavus since 2008.

Finally, we celebrate with Dr. Tom LoFaro, Clifford M. Swanson Professor in Mathematics, who will receive the 2019 Faculty Service Award. This award is given annually to a faculty member whose service has improved the College. He has been at Gustavus since 2000.

I invite Scott, Heather, and Tom to come forward, and I have the distinct pleasure of presenting each of you with a plaque.

Thank you, Scott, Heather, and Tom, for your devotion to the gift of service. Let’s all honor these well deserving recipients of our 2019 service awards once more with our enthusiastic acclaim and with hearts filled with gratitude for their presence in our community.

Following the recessional, you are all invited to a Founders Day reception in Alumni Hall to congratulate and express our gratitude to our 2019 Award recipients.

 

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