20 Blessings For Which I Am Thankful As I Reflect Upon CCU in 2020

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Psalm 103:1, 2.

2020 was not an easy year for most of us. It was the year of a global pandemic which disrupted out lives and brought a string of challenges to all of us. It shut down our economy and disrupted our routines. Some lost their jobs, others lost loved ones. The world of higher education was rocked unlike any year we have seen in a generation. Along with all this, there was racial and social unrest and a deeply contentious presidential election. The uncertainties just seemed to follow us through the year.

In the midst of all these challenges, it might be easy to lose sight of the blessings that we have received, but we have still received so many blessings!

Psalm 103 is a psalm of Thanksgiving that is often read this time of year. In it the psalmist names some of God’s many blessings—he forgives our sin, he heals our diseases, he redeems our life from the pit, he crowns us with love and mercy and satisfies us with good. And these are just a few of the benefits he had received. Looking back on 2020, even in this very unusual, challenging Covid-19 year, we were still blessed in many ways. So let’s “forget not all his benefits.”

1          Jesus
I am grateful for Jesus Christ, the Word of God and the wonderful grace of God declared in the glorious gospel. How could we be a Christ-centered university without these? This is the fountain that gave us and gives us our life. In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

2          2020 National March for Life
Early in the year our students were the only university in the US asked to lead the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., the largest annual human rights demonstration in the world. We took 200 students!

3          Strobel Center Courses Start
In April the new Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics went live with new degrees offered online in cultural engagement, evangelism and practical apologetics.

4          Billy Graham Exhibit
In January, we opened an amazing Spring exhibit chronicling the life and global ministry of Billy Graham.

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5          Extraordinary Guests and Speakers
Even in a year like this, we had extraordinary guests and speakers at CCU. We had the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Alveda King, speak in chapel. We also had Bob Woodson, Mark David Hall, Karen Prior, and Ken Starr join us. We had two US Cabinet members speak to our students. In January we had the U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, spend an evening with our students. In the Fall, we had Dr. Ben Carson, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, visit us and speak to our students.

6          Guidance through a pandemic
I am grateful for the leadership and wisdom of our FIT Team (Forward Implementation Team) that guided us through all the challenges of responding wisely to the pandemic. I am also deeply thankful for the hard work and sacrifice of our student life and facility staff who carried the weight of most of the logistical changes as we responded to the realities of the pandemic all through the year.

7          Largest Graduating Class in CCU History      
Despite the pandemic and the shifts to a virtual commencement, this year we awarded a record number of degrees for graduation.

8          Opening This Fall for In-Seat Classes
I am thankful for the Lord’s guidance and our FIT team’s wisdom in opening this Fall. We created a “high-flex” model of education that allowed for traditional undergraduate students to attend their courses in person or remotely. We adopted protocols that have worked and kept our Covid numbers low.

9          College of Adult and Graduate Studies Online Opportunities
I am grateful that CCU was an early adopter of online education, which enabled a large part of our university to advance without missing a beat through the pandemic. I am particularly grateful for our CAGS team who has maximized quality online opportunities for the non-traditional learner.

10       11th Year of Record Enrollments
I am grateful that even in such a disruptive year, God gave us another year of record enrollment—our 11th consecutive year. And for the 3rd year in a row we were ranked by the Chronicle of Higher Education in the top 5 fastest growing, private, masters degree granting institutions in the nation.

11       Faculty Who Went the Extra Mile
I am grateful for CUS faculty who went the extra mile this year in quickly, and flexibly adapting to the changing learning environment. Their sacrifice, irrepressible creativity, and enthusiasm to teach are amazing. When we were talking about the need to wear masks while teaching, one faculty member said, “Why, I would even wear a bee keeper’s outfit if it meant I could continue on-campus teaching.”

12       Our Students         
I am grateful for our students. Engaging with them is one of the highlights of my job as president. Spending time with them is a source of delight and hope. I am particularly grateful for our international students. This year we have students from: Belize, India, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa, Spain., Vietnam, Brazil, Honduras, Zimbabwe, France and Sri Lanka. This year we had our first Fulbright student—Madelyn Van Kooten! This year our Cross Country Team finished the season ranked 5th in the nation! (NCAA DII)

13       CCU Academy
I am grateful for the innovation of our team and the launch of a new academic division, the CCU Academy, to extend opportunities to high school students via an online format. 

14       New chair of CCU Board of Trustees
Particularly, I am grateful for our board chairs. This year, the amazing Gary Armstrong stepped down after 6 years of serving in that important role and 18 years of serving on the CCU board. Tim McTavish was elected as the new board chair. We also welcomed five new board members bringing new expertise in the area of ministry, higher education, business, law, building development and medicine.

15       All Star Park
I am grateful for the new improved facility for our CCU baseball team in what essentially is a minor league stadium.

16       Accreditation
This year we received final approval for the re-accreditation for our Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program through CACREP. We also had our 10 year, institution wide, reaccreditation visit by HLC (the Higher Learning Commission) in October, and had a great preliminary report.

17       Advancement        
How can we not be grateful for completing the $5 million dollar match for the new Armstrong Center, and having our second best comprehensive fundraising year in the history of CCU, and receiving the largest academic foundation grant in CCU history?

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18       Bill Watson, RIP
In November we were saddened to learn of the home-going of dearly loved faculty member Bill Watson. We are all thankful for Bill’s many years of teaching as Professor of World History. He will be deeply missed.

19       Books
I am thankful for good books and great books. Where would a university be without them. This year our faculty published numerous books. Including:

Reformed Evangelicalism and the Search for a Usable Past, by Ian Clary; A Guide to Theological Reflection, by Earl Waggoner, Reforming Culture, by Gary Steward; Niebuhrian International Relations, by Gregory Moore; and Leading Small Groups That Thrive, by Ryan Hartwig.

Besides that, I got to read a lot of wonderful, challenging books.  My favorites this year? They Knew They Were Pilgrims, John Turner, Restoring the Soul of the University, Glanzer, Alleman, and Ream; The Conservative Sensibility, George Will; The Gathering Storm, Al Mohler; The Aeneid, Virgil, Excellence Without a Soul, Harry Lewis; The Breakdown of Higher Education, John Ellis; Trial and Triumph, Richard Hannula; The Apocrypha; On the Road with St. Augustine, James Smith, and of course, the Holy Scriptures.

20       4 Years Serving as President of CCU
How can I not end with thanking God for the privilege of completing four years leading the great team at Colorado Christian University. In my book, every day is a day of grace. Every year is a year of grace. It is an honor to lead this great university.

Forget not all his benefits!  The Psalmist was right. There is, after all, so much to be grateful for, even in the year of Covid. While our Thanksgiving celebrations may be different this year—smaller, quieter—let them still overflow with thanksgiving!

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