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40th Anniversary Gala and Presidents Conference Highlight Role of CCCU Institutions in Broader Culture

February 01, 2016
Columnist David Brooks speaks at the 40th Anniversary Gala. Photo by Warren Pettit.
Columnist David Brooks speaks at the 40th Anniversary Gala. Photo by Warren Pettit
Pastor Francis Chan speaks at the 40th Annual Presidents Conference. Photo by Warren Pettit.
Pastor Francis Chan speaks at the 40th Annual Presidents Conference. Photo by Warren Pettit

WASHINGTON – In an event that both celebrated the past and anticipated the future impact of Christian higher education, nearly 90 presidents from seven countries gathered in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 27-29 for their annual Presidents Conference and to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. 

The conference’s opening night featured the 40th Anniversary Gala on Jan. 27, where more than 300 guests gathered to celebrate the CCCU’s 40-year history, honor this year’s recipients of three CCCU awards (see "CCCU Honors Four Exemplars of Christian Higher Education at 40th Anniversary Gala") and hear from keynote speaker David Brooks.   

An op-ed columnist for the New York Times and author of a number of books, including his recent book “The Road to Character,” Brooks spoke directly to the need for character formation and inner virtue in today’s often volatile culture.

“You have what everybody else is desperate to have: a way of talking about and educating the human person in a way that integrates faith, emotion, and intellect,” Brooks told the crowd. “From my point of view, you’re ahead of everybody else and have the potential to influence American culture in a way that could be magnificent.”

Brooks noted that Christian colleges and universities help its students develop not only what he referred to as “resume virtues” but also the “eulogy virtues” – that is, those virtues of character beyond a person’s skillset.

“Most universities have gotten out of the business of spiritual and character development and they’ve adopted a research ideal. We’ve all benefitted intellectually greatly from this research orientation, but it draws attention away from the whole of our lives,” Brooks said. “It teaches students how to do things, but less why they should do them.”                                                                                                          

CCCU President Shirley V. Hoogstra affirmed Brooks’ message, stating, “The best education emphasizes both academic excellence and spiritual maturity in preparing graduates for lives of depth and integrity. Indeed, at the heart of Christian higher education is a moral underpinning that I believe comes from a life of faith. That a journalist with his public influence would affirm the need for character development is encouraging and inspiring for our presidents.”

Throughout the conference, presidents engaged in prearranged visits with their senators on Capitol Hill and participated in sessions led by experts in such topics as endowment management and updates to Title IX. They also participated in panel discussions on religious freedom, including one on international freedom led by renowned religious freedom advocates former Congressman Frank Wolf, Baylor CEO Ken Starr and Hardwired, Inc. president Tina Ramirez.

Presidents also had the opportunity to hear from keynote speaker Francis Chan, pastor and author of Crazy Love, who challenged listeners to recognize the importance of suffering in the life of the church and to remain rooted in a faith that is active, alive and pushes back against a self-focused culture.

“People are saying, ‘Love yourself, grab all you can, follow your heart.’ Jesus says, ‘Deny yourself, grab a cross and follow me,’” Chan said. 

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The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities is a higher education association of 179 Christian institutions around the world. The 118 member campuses in North America are all regionally accredited, comprehensive colleges and universities with curricula rooted in the arts and sciences and whose missions are Christ-centered and rooted in the historic Christian faith. In addition, 61 affiliate campuses from 20 countries are part of the CCCU. The CCCU’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.

The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities offers 10 off-campus study programs, collectively branded BestSemester®, which expand learning opportunities for students from CCCU campuses and are designated as culture-shaping or culture-crossing programs. Culture-shaping BestSemester programs are: American Studies Program (Washington, D.C.), Contemporary Music Center (Nashville) and Los Angeles Film Studies Center (Los Angeles). Culture-crossing BestSemester programs are: Australia Studies Centre, China Studies Program, Latin American Studies Program, Middle East Studies Program, Oxford Summer Programme, Scholars’ Semester in Oxford and Uganda Studies Program. Visit www.bestsemester.com for program details.