WASHINGTON--Council for Christian Colleges & Universities President Edward O. Blews, Jr., and wife, Debra McKenna Blews, were part of a historic day in higher education as they were both awarded honorary doctorates as speakers in their respective commencement exercises at Asbury University, and were each recognized for their unique contributions to Christian higher education.
The Blews were invited to Asbury, located in Wilmore, Ky., to offer speeches at different ceremonies held May 4. Blews spoke during Asbury’s undergraduate commencement and was awarded an honorary “Doctor of Laws” degree by Asbury’s President Sandra C. Gray. McKenna Blews spoke earlier at Asbury’s Graduate & Professional Studies Commencement and was also awarded an honorary “Doctor of Laws” degree by Gray. The unique events were capped with enthusiastic applause as each of the Blews received their respective recognitions.
“Both Ed and Debra exhibit strong and serious commitments to their faith, family and professional endeavors and we saw an opportunity to invite a ‘Dynamic Duo’ to campus,” said Asbury President Sandra C. Gray. “They are long-term friends of Asbury, so it was a perfect fit. We awarded each an honorary doctorate degree because of the significant contributions each has made and is making to their respective vocations. We value their leadership in the cause of Christian higher education.”
Blews and his wife have a rich history of involvement with Christian colleges and universities so the opportunity for the dual appearance and recognition was deeply meaningful.
Blews was installed as the sixth president of the CCCU in January, 2013. He has been awarded nine honorary doctorates, eight of them while serving in his previous position as president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan (AICUM), a position he held for 28 years. Blews, who earned his juris doctor degree in 1989 from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich., is recognized as a national leader in the movement of independent higher education with a reputation as a passionate and enthusiastic advocate.
McKenna Blews is a member of the Michigan state bar, is a senior fellow of the CCCU, serves on the Board of Trustees of Asbury Theological Seminary, and is a member of the executive committee of the board of Spring Arbor University and chair of its academic affairs committee. She has practiced and taught law for more than 20 years and she completed an LL.M. degree in 2012 in international law at DePaul University, Chicago.
“It was truly a unique opportunity,” Blews said of the Asbury ceremony. “Debra and I are grateful to Asbury for inviting us to an event we take very seriously. Commencement ceremonies are a unique and celebratory time. It’s the one time you are able to address the entire university community; students, faculty, parents, alumni and other supporters and send them out with a meaningful message.”
Blews challenged Asbury’s 2013 undergraduate class to recognize the “great opportunity ahead” as members of an American society who hold a degree, and that they have a greater responsibility in the temporal world as educated Christian citizens.
“As you graduate from this great university today, you become an elite part of our American society,” said Edward O. Blews, Jr., president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities in the commencement speaker baccalaureate graduation ceremony. “You have been educated not only in knowledge but also in wisdom and truth that comes from God. With your baccalaureate degree will come financial advantages. With it will come greater opportunities. But with it also come profoundly greater responsibilities. And so, we pose the question as you graduate, “After Asbury, now what does the Lord require of you?”
Those within earshot of Blews’ Asbury address heard a strong challenge to remember the words of God written by the Old Testament prophet Micah. Blews told the audience the instruction was “a formula for a life of joy, meaning, and eternal significance as a responsible, educated Christian citizen in this temporal world.”
“The answer in Micah 6:8 is profoundly powerful yet sublimely simple,” Blews said and quoted from Scripture. “‘He has showed you, oh man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? But to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.’”
Blews said scripture emphasizes that humility is required to successfully accomplish God’s commands and they must recognize “that while in our isolated human selves, we are powerless and hopeless, [but] in Christ we are empowered, worthy, and capable of attaining wisdom, not because of who we are but because of who Christ is and because of what he did for us.”
McKenna Blews addressed those in the 2013 class of Asbury’s graduate school, challenging them to be people of wisdom as they head into the world seeking employment.
“You have a God-given passion for the process of education and the pursuit of knowledge,” she said. “A passion that sets you apart. Your dedication to the pursuit of knowledge is reflected in the diploma that you receive today – that pursuit required sacrifice of your time and resources. Today, you and your families reap the fruit of that sacrifice. Embrace it.
“Although you’re probably not thinking about it today, I’m sure you’ve looked at job postings recently...What if there was only one requirement at the bottom of the job posting? Would you be surprised if the only question you were asked to respond to was the following: ‘Do you have wisdom? Yes or No.’ How would you answer that? How would you know?”
She then used examples of Joseph and Moses from Genesis and made the point that the two men were examples of how “the wisdom of God is revealed to people who reverently fear Him and, thus, are filled with his Spirit.” She pointed out that in both cases knowledge and experience do not seem to be a requirement. However, she used an example from the field of law to show that knowledge and knowledge of God “as we grow in holiness” fit when it appears the only requirement for God’s work seems to be wisdom.
“The wisest judge or lawyer will look beyond the present facts of a case to determine whether the law results in a fair and equitable conclusion for all persons or entities involved,” she said.
“For this public policy analysis, one must humble him or herself, put aside personal bias and monetary gain, discern right from wrong and be prepared to defend it morally, know universal patterns of human behavior and condition, and believe in a fair and equitable conclusion as applied to all mankind.”
McKenna Blews said the challenge is that man’s wisdom relies on knowledge and experience, but referenced James 1:5 and said that by God’s grace we are invited to enter into “His wise plan.”
“As you go forward from this day,” she concluded. “Seek Christ’s heart and His wisdom with the same daily passion and dedication that you have invested in this degree, and He will take your knowledge and gifts and give them back to you with an explosion of possibility, joy, and reward.”
President Blews also spoke the following week at Spring Arbor University, Spring Arbor, Mich., where he told the graduating class they should approach their new beginning in life with “Be” attitudes. He quoted research that revealed the lack of moral direction found among those in their twenties, and how suicides now outpaced auto accidents and cancer as the leading cause of death in some adult age categories.
“‘Be’ attitudes are the key,” Blews said, “that will enable you to be beacons of light in a world of hurt and confusion. John Wesley described holiness [by saying], ‘They that love God with all their heart and all men as themselves are scripturally perfect,’” Blews said. “Hold fast to this.”
The five “Be” attitudes Blews challenged graduates to pursue included:
“I want to absolutely assure each of you,” Blews concluded, “that God has a plan for your life and career, that your Spring Arbor University education will take you to exciting places and opportunities.”
The Spring Arbor commencement marked the final commencement for Spring Arbor President Charles “Chuck” Webb, who with wife, Philippa, have been longtime friends of the Blews.
“Having Ed be a part of my final graduation at Spring Arbor is a tremendous way to capstone my presidency,” Webb said. “Ed and Debra have richly invested themselves in Spring Arbor and have been involved in my presidency since day one. It is a privilege to have their involvement at the end as well.”
Blews is also scheduled to deliver the commencement address at Newbold College, Binfield, United Kingdom.
About the CCCU: The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities is a higher education association of 171 intentionally Christ-centered institutions around the world. The 118 member campuses in North America are all fully-accredited, comprehensive colleges and universities with curricula rooted in the arts and sciences. In addition, 53 affiliate campuses from 19 countries are part of the CCCU. The Council’s mission is to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth. Visit www.cccu.org.