Harre's Inaugural Address
Dr. Alan F. Harre came to Valparaiso University in 1988 as its 17th president and sixth under Lutheran auspices. He received the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1962 from Concordia Senior College, Fort Wayne; Master of Divinity in 1966 from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis; Master of Arts in 1967 from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education, Richmond, Virginia; and Doctor of Philosophy in 1976 from Wayne State University, Detroit.
He began his professional career in 1967 as assistant pastor of St. James Lutheran Church of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. In 1973 he joined the theology faculty of Concordia Teachers College, Seward, Nebraska, where he also served as assistant to the president, dean of student affairs, and acting president. He had been president of Concordia College, St. Paul, since 1984 before moving to Valparaiso.
After his retirement in 2008, Dr. Harre and his wife Diane moved to Nebraska.
Dr. Alan F. Harre
Distinguished guests, representatives of colleges, universities, seminaries, learned societies, state and national organizations, ecclesiastical leaders, Drs. Huegli and Schnabel--my predecessors as president of Valparaiso University, members of the Board of Directors of Valparaiso University, advisory director, Dr. Bohlmann, faculty, administrators, staff, students, friends and alumni of Valparaiso University, my personal friends and members of my family, I am pleased all of you took time to be present on this very special day for the Valparaiso University community and for Diane and me. Thank you for joining us in this celebration.
James Billington, who was then the director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a former professor of history at Princeton, and who now serves as Librarian of Congress was interviewed by Alvin Sanoff. The content of the interview was published in the October 1, 1984 issue of U.S. News & World Report and was entitled, "Universities Have Fallen down on the Job of Teaching Values."
In his comments Billington was relatively harsh in the evaluative judgments he made concerning the current environment within institutions of higher education. Some of the elements of modern collegiate life which came under his criticism included the following concerns.
He described the typical curriculum as a smorgasbord of course offerings which do not transmit the heritage from which the students come. Furthermore, Billington is quoted as having said, "There has also been a decline in faculty with a commitment to traditional values. As a consequence, universities do not provide young people with role models."
Billington asserted that, since universities are no longer willing to promote traditional values, various ideologies and methodologies have taken their place. He identified those ideologies and methodologies as modern substitutes for religion. These ideologies and methodologies inherently include value systems, but they are inaccurately promoted as being value free and tradition free.
Billington also proposed that because universities have chosen to function no longer in loco parentis, the students "acquire an unreal sense of freedom--all the privileges of adults with none of the responsibilities."
These and other concerns lead Billington to conclude there is a "profound cynicism" and "apathy" which results in the lives of students. Students obtain the impression they have been trained as machines and not educated for citizenship in a democracy.
Although everyone in this chapel may not agree with Billington's analysis of the situation, it is clear that in recent months other important voices, who are questioning what is happening in higher education, have been added to that of Billington.
In his 1986-87 report to the Board of Overseers of Harvard University,
Dr. Derek Bok wrote:
During most of the 20th century, first artists and intellectuals, then broader segments of the society, challenged every convention, every prohibition, every regulation that cramped the human spirit or blocked its appetites and ambitions. Today, a reaction has set in, born of a recognition that the public needs common standards to maintain confidence in government, to conserve scarce resources, to escape disease, to avoid the inhumane applications of technology. This new respect for limits is likely to carry with it a concern for the moral values and restraints that unify communities and keep human conduct within acceptable bounds.
In his article entitled, "A Man for All Reason," printed in the September 29, 1988 issue of The Christian Science Monitor, Robert Marquand presents the opinions of Sociologist David Reisman. Marquand wrote:
"Much of the responsibility of improving the atmosphere on campus today falls to the faculty, Reisman feels. There needs to be more adult, faculty presence. But he wants adults who act like adults. 'This proclivity of professors to be liked, to treat undergraduates like pals--it's artificial. Students need to see adults being serious with other adults... Personal morality is again becoming a faculty issue', he adds."
In recent days the actions of Dr. John Silber, President of Boston University, have captured the headlines. According to one account concerning the heated discussion which has arisen at Boston University because of the changes Dr. Silber has proposed in the visitation policies in residence halls, Silber is reported as having suggested that the proposed changes are not about morality, but about civilization. Silber has said, "Teaching the difference between freedom and license is not a bad thing for a university to be caught doing."
Concerns about ethics and morality in the nation's business community have caused academicians to address the concern of how to teach business ethics more effectively.
Finally by way of illustration of what is happening nationwide, I have chosen to read a brief quotation printed in the Interfraternity Bulletin. The editors of the Interfraternity Bulletin quoted, in turn, from a publication called The Rattle of Theta Chi:
"What we are seeing is not just anti-fraternity sentiment, but
also the reaction to society's search for a return to establishing some
standards of behavior and living for young people.
Fraternities can play a vital role in this crisis of values and ethics which we are now encountering. Rather than adding to the campus social problems our chapters should be developing responsible campus citizens through good educational programs, and through honing leadership skills."
Something significant seems to be transpiring. The attention being given to morality and ethics appears to be gaining in importance as a major societal concern. Since higher education does not exist in a vacuum, but within a context of changing attitudes and emphases, it is impossible to ignore what is happening. The need to develop consensus about core values and to promote those core values can be addressed at a number of levels at Valparaiso University. In addition, the people who comprise the Valparaiso University community can make some very useful contributions to the current debate being carried on within higher education institutions concerning morality and ethics.
At one level it can be asserted that the official position of Valparaiso University has not deviated much since Lutherans have owned the University. Public statements and University publications refer often to the Judeo-Christian context of our work together here. Faculty members officially declare themselves to be sympathetic with the Christian intellectual tradition. An often repeated statement affirms that Valparaiso University is a university under the cross of Jesus Christ. This Chapel of the Resurrection is itself a powerful statement of our intentions. Many of the faculty are alumni of this University or they have been educated in the colleges and seminaries of the Lutheran Church. The student body is still drawn predominantly from the white middle class of the midwest and shares many common values as these have been transmitted through relatively stable family life and active participation in churches and other institutions of mid-America. We all benefit from these realities in many ways.
Therefore, one criticism which has been leveled at institutions of higher education does not conform to the experiences of many of us who live, study and teach at Valparaiso University.
Precisely because its (university's) community is so diverse, set in a society so divided and confused over its values, a University that pays little attention to moral development may find that many of its students grow bewildered, convinced that ethical dilemmas are simply matters of personal opinion beyond external judgment or careful analysis.
There is some degree of clarity concerning what we are about at Valparaiso University. The position of the University has been stated in a highly visible document, namely the University Bulletin.
The University's concern for the personal and intellectual development of each student is rooted in its Lutheran heritage. This Christian philosophy of education guides both the design of its curriculum and the approach to learning that it fosters Standing together at the center of the campus, the Chapel of the Resurrection and Moellering Memorial Library express the University's belief in the creative relationship between faith and learning. The University's motto, too, points up this relationship: 'in luce tua videmus lucem', 'In Thy light we see light'...
It is precisely at this point that we dare not be too smug and self-congratulatory about our situation. We exist in a relatively homogenous community when Valparaiso University is compared to many other colleges and universities.
Setting aside a discussion of the important role diversity plays in universities whose academic programs are designed to educate students to live in a heterogeneous world, we need to recognize that homogeneity can be a detriment to moral development. Homogeneity encourages moral conformity rather than the creation and cultivation of the critical functions necessary to make responsible moral decisions. Enhancing the abilities of students to make informed moral decisions is one of the foremost goals of liberal education. The goal to develop the abilities to make wise moral decisions is often not realized, for many students prefer to select the less demanding option of receiving uncritically moral directives from others--from their parents, from the members of their peer groups, from the sisters and brothers in sororities and fraternities, from their professors, from political parties, from the ideologies of commerce and nationalism-- from any group or authority which will relieve them of the necessity of developing into independent, moral persons who have appropriated for themselves the skills to make moral decisions and have come to an understanding of how to live according to the dictates of those moral decisions.
Because we want to be responsible citizens of the world and contributing members in the academy, all of us at Valparaiso University are compelled to enter the public discussion now underway concerning the ethical constructs which must be present to undergird our lives in this nation and in this world. We must educate our students so that they are enabled to transcend the extremely simple options of rebellion and conformity. Our faculty must join faculty nationwide in teaching students that decisions concerning ethical issues are not matters of personal opinion, self interest, greed or a host of other similar alternatives. Rather, maturity in moral decision making requires careful analysis, critical reasoning skills, evaluative perspectives based upon criteria which have been determined concerning what are the highest forms of humanity and the definition of what it means to be a responsible citizen in a pluralistic world.
These topics must not only be addressed in courses in ethics, philosophy or theology. These issues are germane in every discipline and must be part of all of our discourse. For after all, can we study drama or literature without confronting the human condition? Can we study the physical sciences without addressing our own relationships to the physical world in which we live? Can we study law or the social sciences without encountering concepts such as justice, liberty, equality, nationalism, wealth, racism and poverty?
The individuals who are Valparaiso University must participate in the current public dialog concerning values, for civilization is at stake in the debate, and we want to try to assure that our pluralistic society remains healthy. We have no choice but to be involved in analyzing and commenting on the core values which sustain our nation and our world.
But if those of us at Valparaiso University are going to be completely authentic in our affirmation of the Christian heritage this University claims to be its own, then we must engage in an additional course of action which will separate us from many other academicians and will differentiate more precisely the content of the mission statement of this University from the stated purposes of many other universities.
While we affirm all the values I have articulated, and while we desire to encourage the enhancement of morality, decency and order in our society, we are also committed to consider the question of how we are best motivated to make responsible ethical decisions.
The uniquely Christian perspective we have to offer is not limited to an emphasis on morality. Certainly Christians are to be ethical people. But we believe that morality, which is more than enlightened self interest or courses of action which will help to sustain civilization, depends upon the motivation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This good news provides the encouragement to empower us to do that which is the good.
The message conveyed by the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that His open tomb is a dynamic affirmation of God's love for us. When we come to believe we are given such undeserved love we are motivated to say and ask, "God we know You love us because of what Jesus Christ did for us. How do we show You that we love You?"
In response to our question God points us to His word and to His will. God says to us, "My people love Me with the totality of their being, and they love their fellow human beings as themselves."
One of the primary ingredients which has enabled the civilization of the western world to evolve over the course of the centuries is the optimism of Christian people because of the freedom they have received from the Gospel message. In its best moments the Christian Church has trusted the truthfulness of the propositions that the world is indeed in the care of a loving God, that in God's word there is the wherewithal to address the needs of the people who live in a rapidly changing world and that the resurrection of Jesus Christ has freed people from the bondage of the forces which promote immorality, indecency and chaos.
Now is not the time to be overtaken by timidity and doubt. Now is not the time to turn our backs upon the witness of God to Himself. Now is not the time to cut ourselves off from the dynamic force which has helped to mold many of the most positive aspects of western civilization. Rather now is the time to claim again the Christian heritage. Now is the time to apply the Christian heritage to the issues arid the questions of our age. Now is the time to offer suggestions which only Christians can offer to the current dialog about morality, ethics and values. For we have been placed in the world at this very moment in history to add our testimonies to those of God's people throughout the ages.
Therefore, today those of us who are Christians at this place reaffirm our commitment that we will lovingly invite others to consider the Christian perspective concerning the promotion of values and morality. We will also depend upon God's love for us to motivate us in our personal attempts to be moral people. And finally, we will trust in God's love to forgive us when we fail to do the good we desire to do or when we do the evil which we desire not to do.
In closing allow me to say again how very pleased all of us at Valparaiso University are that our many guests have joined us on this occasion. We invite you to attend the reception after the ceremony so that we might get to know you a bit better.
Bok, Derek. College Presidents are Obliged to Foster Students' Moral Growth. Higher Education and National Affairs. [May 9, 1988]:7.
Bok, Derek. The President's Report 1986-87: Harvard University: 2.
Executive Curricula Make Room for Ethics. Chicago Tribune (November 1, 1987).
Handler, Evelyn E. Business Training and Ethical Values. Higher Education and National Affairs. (Sept. 7, 1987):7-8.
Hoffman, W. Michael. Developing the Ethical Corporation. Business Insights. 2,2 (fall 1986):10-15.
Lang, Karen Elaine. Boston University, Students Spar Over Limits on Dormitory Visits. The Christian Science Monitor. 80, 215 (September 30, 1988):3.
Marguand, Robert. A Man for All Reason. The Christian Science Monitor. 80, 21.4 (September 29, 1988): 15.
Porter, Lymen W. and Lawrence E. McKibben. Management Education and Development: Drift or thrust into the 21st Century? New York, McGraw-Hill Company.
Sanoff, Alvin P. Universities Have Fallen Down on the Job of Teaching Values. U.S. News & World Report. 97,14 (October 1, 1984): 69-70.
Slivinske, Dale A. More Than Anti-Fraternity. Interfraternity Bulletin. 2.