Monday, September 28, 2009

Noted scholar David Myers to give Oct. 7 lecture on why God is good and faith isn't evil

Psychology professor's essays have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post


>> Listen to Podcast

Throughout the millennia, skeptics and believers alike have asked the question "Is God good?" often while confronting horrors and tragedies that might lead them to answer with a resounding "No." David Myers, an award-winning social psychologist and researcher who received the Gordon Allport Prize for his studies of group influence, will relate religiosity to human flourishing in his lecture, "A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists: Musings on Why God Is Good and Faith Isn't Evil." The lecture will take place Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. in the Robinson Teaching Theatre in Weyerhaeuser Hall at Whitworth University. Admission is free. For more information, please call (509) 777-4263.

"David Myers will present a timely message on positive psychology, a topic that is well-suited to the integration of faith and learning that Whitworth cares so much about," says Noelle Wiersma, Whitworth professor of psychology and department chair.

Myers, a Whitworth trustee and a 1964 alumnus, is a professor of psychology at Hope College, in Holland, Mich. His lecture at Whitworth will be based on his 2008 book of the same title, published by Jossey-Bass/Wiley, in which he responds to arguments posed by "new atheists," who assert that all religions are not only false, but dangerous. The new atheists offer stories of atrocities committed in the name of religion. They also point to studies that indicate that countries with the highest rates of happiness, life expectancy, and education are also relatively secular.

Myers confirms that surveys have shown that countries, and U.S. states, where most people say religion isn't an important part of their daily lives, tend to be places where people also report a high quality of life. He also documents that religiously-engaged individuals tend to be happier, healthier, more generous, less crime-prone, and less often involved with premature sexuality and pregnancy. They also have much lower divorce, smoking, and arrest rates, and they more often volunteer with the infirm, poor and elderly.

Myers says these consistent findings likely owe to factors such as religion-related healthier lifestyles and the help-giving mandates found in all major religions. While there are certainly examples of cruelties committed in the name of religion, he says, the worst examples of anything, whether it’s politics, science, religion or atheism, can make that institution look evil.

Myers cautions that these data don't validate theism, because the benefits of faith are irrelevant to its truth claims, but, he says, they do challenge the anecdote-fueled new atheist argument that religion is a force for evil.

Myers, who has been a Whitworth trustee since 1995, is a Seattle native whose writings have examined topics such as happiness, intuition, sexual orientation, social psychology, assistive listening, and ESP. He has penned 17 books, including foundational textbooks on psychology that are used by roughly 1,000 colleges and universities and have been translated into 12 languages.

Myers’ scientific writings, supported by National Science Foundation grants, have appeared in academic periodicals including Science, the American Scientist, the American Psychologist, and Psychological Science. He also has interpreted psychological research for the public through articles in publications such as Scientific American, Christian Century, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and on the Newsweek/Washington Post religion blog.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,700 students, offers 55 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Contacts:

Julie Shanholtzer, program assistant, Speakers & Artists Series and psychology department, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4263 or jshanholtzer@whitworth.edu.

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or eproffitt@whitworth.edu.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hundreds of Whitworth volunteers to partner with Spokane organizations for Sept. 22 Community Building Day

Event to kick off year-long celebration of Whitworth's Center for Service-Learning & Community Engagement


>>View Photo Gallery

On a crisp fall morning in September, hundreds of Whitworth students, faculty and staff will gather on campus and then fan out to nonprofit organizations across Spokane to lend a hand in efforts to improve the community. This year, the century-old tradition will also mark the beginning of the 10th anniversary of Whitworth's Center for Service-Learning & Community Engagement.

The year-long anniversary celebration will include events such as a tour of service to explore the effects of the partnership between Whitworth and the West Central neighborhood, a teaching round table focused on community-based research, service-learning fairs, an urban plunge, a rally, and a celebration of service.

Community Building Day is an annual Whitworth event that initially began as a campus-beautification endeavor, but has evolved into a partnership between local nonprofit organizations and Whitworth volunteers who work on clean-up and improvement projects throughout Spokane. More than 800 volunteers are expected to participate this year, making the 2009 Community Building Day the largest in Whitworth's history.

"Community Building Day is a tradition that Whitworth students started to connect with the Spokane community in a meaningful way," says Rhosetta Rhodes, director of service-learning and community engagement at Whitworth. "Ten years ago, that tradition was expanded through the addition of the service-learning center at Whitworth. Thus, this year we not only celebrate the highest number of participants in the history of the event, but we also honor 10 years of engaging minds, encouraging hearts and enriching communities."

Community Building Day will take place Tuesday, Sept. 22, from 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. After working in the community, volunteers will gather outside the Hixson Union Building on campus for a barbecue lunch.

Whitworth volunteers will work at 43 sites throughout Spokane. Sites include Goodwill Industries, where 40 volunteers will sort donations. At Lilac Services for the Blind, about 20 volunteers will do landscaping and cleaning. Volunteers will work at various sites for Catholic Charities Spokane, including the Cathedral Plaza Apartments, the Fahy West Apartments, the House of Charity, St. Anne's, and St. Margaret's Shelter. Thirty volunteers will help with art projects at Center Pointe. About 20 volunteers will do building maintenance and walk dogs at the Humane Society. Thirty-five volunteers will help clean and organize merchandise at the Market Street Market. At the Rockwood Retirement facility in north Spokane, about 20 volunteers will work with live animals and help with fair day.

Other sites will include Avista Community Garden, the Boys and Girls Club, Camp Dart-Lo, Cat Tales Zoological Park, Mission Community Outreach Center, New Hope Resource Center, Odyssey World International Education Services, Riverfront Farms, Ronald McDonald House, Salvation Army, Second Harvest, Spokane County Parks and Recreation, Spokane Guilds School & Neuromuscular Center, Union Gospel Mission, World Relief Spokane, and Youth for Christ, among others.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,700 students, offers 55 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Contacts:

Emily McBroom, SERVE coordinator, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4553 or serve@whitworth.edu.

Rhosetta Rhodes, director, Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4238 or rrhodes99@whitworth.edu.

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or eproffitt@whitworth.edu.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Whitworth athletics director appointed acting VP for institutional advancement

McQuilkin brings success as coach, professor, athletic director and community leader to new role overseeing fundraising and constituent relations

Whitworth Athletics Director Scott McQuilkin has been asked to put his extensive campus and community leadership experience to work in a new role as the university's acting vice president for institutional advancement.

President Bill Robinson, who announced Tuesday that he plans to step down at the end of the 2009-10 academic year, says McQuilkin can provide immediate and effective direction to Whitworth's ambitious fundraising agenda in the coming year and through the presidential transition.

"It is imperative that this academic year be one in which we attract significant support for capital projects, particularly the new biology-chemistry building; Scott's institutional knowledge, intelligence, drive and communication gifts will be ideal in leading this effort," Robinson says. "He has inspired confidence from our trustees and major donors. He loves and knows Whitworth, its mission and its people. He's the best person to move into this position."

McQuilkin, who will begin his new role on Oct. 5, will oversee all facets of fundraising; donor records, stewardship and events; alumni, parent and church relations; and marketing and communications. The appointment is for two years, but Robinson says McQuilkin "will function as if the position is permanent; there will be nothing tentative in the way he goes about his work." McQuilkin will have the option to return to his current role at the end of the two-year term and will make that determination in consultation with Whitworth's new president.

"In moving to institutional advancement, I am leaving the best staff in athletics that anyone could ever wish to work with and for," McQuilkin says. "My desire is to contribute to Whitworth in a new way. I am joining a wonderful team that has done great work. In the coming years we have major projects to complete so Whitworth can continue to build upon the educational excellence our students currently enjoy. I am looking forward to sharing that vision with long-time and new friends of the university."

McQuilkin began his career at Whitworth as head baseball coach from 1985 to 1990. During that time, his teams won four consecutive NAIA District 1 regular season championships and made three appearances in the NAIA Western Region playoffs. McQuilkin was named conference coach of the year three times.

He has served the university as a professor of kinesiology and physical education since 1993 and director of athletics since 1996. Whitworth has won the McIlroy-Lewis All-Sports Trophy for the best overall athletics program in the competitive Northwest Conference three of the past five years. Since 2000, the Pirates have captured 33 conference championships, sent 80 teams to compete in NCAA Division III championships, and hosted 13 NCAA championship events.

McQuilkin expanded Whitworth's athletics program to 20 intercollegiate sports, adding golf, indoor track and field, and softball. He also strengthened fundraising efforts and outreach to supporters, significantly improved facilities, and hired all but one of Whitworth's current roster of respected and award-winning coaches.

A tenured professor, McQuilkin has taught in Whitworth's acclaimed worldview studies program and in other courses. He has served on numerous faculty and university committees, was elected by his peers as faculty representative on the last two academic dean searches, and earned the Outstanding Service Award for faculty in 2004. He also has published book reviews and articles in the Journal of Sports History, Christian Scholar's Review, Sport History Review and other journals. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Whitworth and a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University.

In the community, McQuilkin has served on the board of the YMCA of the Inland Northwest, including a term as board chair from 2005-2008; as president of the Spokane-North Rotary Club; as elder and chair of the Personnel Commission at Whitworth Community Presbyterian Church; and as a youth league coach and speaker.

"Scott has succeeded at everything he has done at Whitworth and we expect that his work in institutional advancement will be no different," says Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty Michael Le Roy. "As a coach, professor, and athletics director Scott has combined a commitment to excellence and a warm, good-natured style with people. We have an ambitious fundraising program over the next few years and are confident that Scott is capable of meeting this challenge."

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,675 students, offers 55 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Contact:

Greg Orwig, director of university communications, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4580 or gorwig@whitworth.edu.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bill Robinson announces 2009-10 will be his final year as Whitworth president



Bill Robinson's message
to faculty and staff


Board Chair Walt Oliver's
message to campus

Whitworth achieves record enrollment and retention, major campus upgrades, increased visibility during Robinson's 17-year tenure

Bill Robinson has announced that his 17th year as president of Whitworth University will be his last – making him the second longest-serving and one of the most influential presidents in the school's 120-year history.

In a message sent to faculty and staff today, Robinson says, ''I am not nearly a good enough writer to express how much Bonnie and I have loved working here with you, and I'm sure you know that we consider Whitworth to be the embodiment of our most deeply held spiritual and professional values, but we sense the time has come for me to step away. You have made me a better leader than I was ever meant to be. Thank you. Now, please join me in getting back to the good work of helping our students fulfill our mission to 'honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity. '''

Walt Oliver, chair of Whitworth's board of trustees, said the board and the campus community deeply appreciate Robinson's outstanding leadership and service to the university.

"During his 17-year tenure, Bill has championed Whitworth's distinctive mission to provide an education of mind and heart characterized by both Christian commitment and open intellectual inquiry," Oliver says. "This year's record freshman class demonstrates that Whitworth's mission is in great demand and that the university's enrollment and financial position are strong. That strength gives us tremendous confidence as we look forward to the next chapter in Whitworth's history."

Oliver said a national search for Whitworth's next president will begin immediately. Robinson has agreed to serve until a new president is in place and will serve part time one additional year as president emeritus to support the new president in areas such as fundraising and constituent relations.

Robinson became Whitworth's 17th president in July 1993 following seven years as president of Manchester College, in Indiana. During his tenure, the number of freshman applications to Whitworth has increased 518 percent to 5,862 for this fall; enrollment has grown 60 percent to an estimated 2,675 students; and retention and graduation rates have reached record highs well above national averages.

More than $83 million in campus improvements have been made, including a new center for the visual arts, a landmark general academic building, three new residence halls and several outdoor athletics facilities. Financial support from alumni and friends has increased steadily, contributing to an increase of nearly $75 million in the university's endowment before the recent market downturn.

Known for his relational and approachable style, Robinson has devoted much of his energy to connecting in person and in writing with students, employees and friends of the university. His award-winning monthly newsletter, Of Mind & Heart, is read by more than 20,000 people inside and outside the Whitworth community and is one of Robinson's favorite vehicles for promoting Whitworth's distinctive mission.

"Perhaps no president in Whitworth's history has done a better job than Bill Robinson of understanding and articulating Whitworth's unique educational mission to hold up Christian conviction and intellectual curiosity as complementary rather than competing values," says Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty Michael Le Roy. "Bill's unwavering focus on Whitworth's mission to its students has provided the inspiration for the excellent trajectory the university is on and the foundation for even brighter days ahead. This is a tremendous legacy."

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,675 students, offers 55 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Contacts:

Greg Orwig, director of university communications, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4580 or gorwig@whitworth.edu.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Whitworth appoints noted scholar, leader as assistant VP for intercultural relations

Whitworth University’s vision of becoming a community where the richness of an education of mind and heart is available to all people will gain a new champion with the appointment of Lawrence Burnley as assistant vice president for intercultural relations.

Burnley currently serves as associate dean for multicultural programs and special assistant to the provost for diversity affairs at Messiah College, in Grantham, Penn. He brings 15 years of higher education and church experience to Whitworth, where, beginning Jan. 1, he will provide leadership in strategic planning, curriculum development and faculty training in support of the university’s goal of producing interculturally competent graduates. A respected teacher and scholar on African-American education in the antebellum, reconstruction and progressive eras, Burnley also will serve on the faculty of the history department and will teach several courses per year.

"The search committee and the campus community had very high standards and an outstanding pool of candidates from across the country as we sought to fill this very important position at Whitworth," says Michael Le Roy, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty. "However, we had no difficulty recognizing that Dr. Burnley’s knowledge, skills, and values make him a great fit our community."

Le Roy looks forward to the vision and leadership Burnley will bring to Whitworth students, faculty and staff and to the larger Spokane community. "Larry is a Christ-centered person with an understanding that a commitment to just relationships is derived from a sincere effort to follow Jesus," Le Roy says. "And he also is an academic leader, teacher and scholar who can balance pastoral sensitivity with the prophetic word and lead Whitworth to the next level in its efforts to develop an intercultural campus."

Whitworth’s strategic plan calls for strengthening the intercultural competencies of its students, faculty and staff; enhancing efforts to ensure Whitworth is a welcoming community to all people; and expanding curricular and co-curricular programs related to intercultural relations. The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities presented Whitworth the 2008 Robert and Susan Andringa Award for Advancing Racial Harmony for its vital role in launching the successful Act Six Leadership and Scholarship Initiative and for its other diversity commitments.

Burnley, who will join President Bill Robinson’s senior leadership team, said that joining the faculty and administration of Whitworth as it seeks to become the community God calls it to be is an exciting and challenging opportunity.

"Whitworth University has placed itself in a position of leadership among Christian colleges and universities with regard to its demonstrated commitment to diversity and intercultural relations," Burnley says. "The senior administration of the university understands that a faithful response to God's love and grace, as well as the achievement of sustainable academic excellence, is not possible without such a commitment."

Burnley continues, "Without question, learning to live harmoniously and equitably while purposefully embracing the diverse dimensions of the human experience is fraught with many challenges. It's a journey many individuals and institutions choose to avoid. However, this is the journey Jesus made and we are invited to follow. Whitworth University has chosen to accept the invitation of Christ and I'm both humbled and honored to have the opportunity to join the faculty, staff, administration and students on this journey."

Burnley holds a B.A. in African American studies from the University of Cincinnati, and a Ph.D. in education from the University of Pennsylvania, where his dissertation focused on the role of African Americans in the founding of African American schools associated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He also holds an M.Div. from Christian Theological Seminary and is ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

In his current position at Messiah, Burnley leads a comprehensive diversity strategic plan for the campus; offers training and professional development in multicultural competencies; chairs the racial justice and multicultural education committee; and oversees the day-to-day operations of the Office of Multicultural Programs. He previously served as executive for racial/ethnic relations for global ministries of the Christian Church and the United Church of Christ, and as director of the Greenfield Intercultural Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He publishes and speaks widely and has received numerous awards for his scholarship and service to academia and the church.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,700 students, offers 55 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Contacts:

Michael Le Roy, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty, Whitworth University, (509) 777-3702 or mleroy@whitworth.edu.

Greg Orwig, director of university communications, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4580 or gorwig@whitworth.edu.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Nationally renowned artist Ben Frank Moss to present lecture Sept. 24 as part of Whitworth University's Homecoming celebration

Weekend also to include performance by world-class soloists Heather and Derrick Parker

Whitworth University will kick off Homecoming 2009 with a lecture by nationally renowned landscape painter Ben Frank Moss, a 1959 alumnus and the George Fredrick Jewett Professor of Studio Art at Dartmouth College, in New Hampshire. Moss's lecture, "Silent Sounds/Invisible Stillness: A Mystery Experienced," will take place on Thursday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m. in Room 111 of Weyerhaeuser Hall at Whitworth University. Admission is free. For more information, please call (509) 777-3732.

For a complete listing of Whitworth Homecoming events taking place Sept. 24-27, please visit www.whitworth.edu/homecoming.

Moss has exhibited extensively throughout the U.S. for the past 30 years. He has received numerous honors and awards, including membership in the National Academy of Design, Christians in the Visual Arts, the Ford Foundation Research and Travel Grant, and the Distinguished Alumni Award at Boston University, where he earned an M.F.A. in 1963. As a landscape painter, he seeks to establish a sense of "place" in his work. He observes light and space as shaped by time and season, and brings these observations to his work. In his small oil in paper paintings, he uses color, form and gesture to evoke memories of place.

Homecoming will also include a recital by world-class soprano and Whitworth alumna Heather Steckler Parker, '96, and her husband, Derrick Parker, a respected baritone. The Parkers will perform selections from their repertoire on Thursday, Sept. 24, at 8 p.m. in the Music Recital Hall at Whitworth. Admission is free. For more information, please call (509) 777-3732.

Steckler Parker made her New York opera debut at Alice Tully Hall as a winner of the 2002 Puccini Foundation Competition. She holds an M.M. from Eastman School of Music, and she has performed with opera companies all over the U.S.

Moss and Steckler Parker are two of four Whitworth alumni who, along with key university donors, will be recognized at the George F. Whitworth Honors Banquet on Friday, Sept. 25, at 5:45 p.m. in the Hixson Union Building. Moss will receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award for extraordinary service to the community and achievement in his field. Steckler Parker will receive the Recent Alumna Award, which recognizes alumni who have achieved significant success in their careers within 15 years of graduation.

Also being honored are Kathie Koopmans Neir, '64, who will receive the Alumni Service to Whitworth Award for her significant support of the university, and Ben Lindstrom, '63, who will receive the Alumni Mind & Heart Award for exemplifying the Whitworth mission.

Other Sept. 26 Whitworth Homecoming events include:

· Open house for the new East Residence Hall, at 11 a.m.

· Whitworth Pirates Football vs. Chapman, at 1 p.m. in the Pine Bowl.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,700 students, offers 55 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Contacts:

Aaron McMurray, director of alumni, parent relations/annual giving, and special gifts,
Whitworth University, (509) 777-3730 or amcmurray@whitworth.edu.

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-3730 or eproffitt@whitworth.edu.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Donald Miller, author of bestselling book, Blue Like Jazz, to speak at Whitworth Sept. 18

Miller’s Whitworth visit part of 65-city national tour to promote new book


>> View Photo Gallery

Donald Miller, author of the bestselling book, Blue Like Jazz, will discuss the relevance of Christian faith for everyday life on Friday, Sept. 18, at 7 p.m. in Cowles Memorial Auditorium at Whitworth University. Admission is free for Whitworth students, faculty and staff, and $15 for the general public. To purchase tickets, visit http://amillionmiles.com/. For more information, please call (509) 777-4655.

Miller, whom Publishers Weekly calls "an earnest evangelical who nearly lost his faith," is a writer, campus ministry leader, and speaker who resides in Portland, Ore. His new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life (Thomas Nelson), is due out later this month. Miller’s visit to Whitworth, which is one of only three stops in Washington state, is part of a 65-city national tour to promote the book.

"We are excited to have Donald Miller on campus to talk about A Million Miles in a Thousand Years," says Nicole Boymook, associate director of residence life at Whitworth. "His writings have had a tremendous impact on many Whitworth students over the past several years. He has a unique, creative way of challenging his readers to look at their faith from new and inspiring perspectives, which is something we're committed to helping our students do as well."

Miller is best known for his New York Times bestselling book, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality (Thomas Nelson, 2003), in which he tells how he came to "throw out Christianity and embrace Christian spirituality." He says he sees the message of Jesus as personally and culturally relevant, but is troubled by the way Christianity is practiced today. For instance, Miller says he has been disillusioned by his encounters with churches in which love and community are given conditionally. His search for the essence of Christian spirituality has led him to believe that authentic Christian practice ultimately means "loving people just to love them, not to get them to come to church."

In Blue Like Jazz, Miller wrestles with questions about life and faith; his intellectual curiosity and skepticism; and art, literature, film and pop culture. He explores sin, guilt, doubt, loneliness, romantic relationships and the importance of community. The book's name reflects its tone as an episodic rather than linear narrative, written as a series of short, improvisational essays.

"I used to not like jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve," Miller writes. "I used to not like God because God doesn't resolve…The first generation out of slavery invented jazz music. It is a music birthed out of freedom. And that is the closest thing I know to Christian spirituality. A music birthed out of freedom."

Publishers Weekly calls Miller "enjoyably clever, and his story is telling and beautiful, even poignant." Christianity Today says the stories within the book are "permeated with gritty authenticity and humor. Miller's words will resonate with any believer who has ever grappled with the paradoxes of faith."

Miller also is the author of To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing up without a Father (NavPress Publishing Group, 2006), Through Painted Deserts: Light, God and Beauty on the Open Road (Thomas Nelson, 2005), Searching for God Knows What (Thomas Nelson, 2004), and Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance (Harvest House Publishers, 2000). In addition, he founded The Belmont Foundation, which works to recruit 10,000 mentors through 1,000 churches as an answer to the crisis of fatherlessness in America.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,700 students, offers 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Contacts:

Nicole Boymook, associate director of residence life, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4655 or nboymook@whitworth.edu.

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or eproffitt@whitworth.edu.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Former attorney general of Alaska to speak at Whitworth's annual Constitution Day Lecture Sept. 17


>>Listen to Podcast

The Whitworth University 2009 Constitution Day Lecture will feature a lecture by Talis Colberg, J.D., Ph.D., who served as Alaska's attorney general from 2006-09, and is now mayor of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, in Alaska. Colberg will present "Poets, Teachers, Turkeys and Constitutions," on Thursday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. in the Robinson Teaching Theatre in Weyerhaeuser Hall at Whitworth University. Admission is free. For more information, please call (509) 777-4263.

Earlier this year, Colberg was elected mayor of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, which is about the size of Pennsylvania and includes three cities: Houston, Palmer and Wasilla. He was appointed attorney general by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in 2006.

Colberg, a life-long Alaskan, graduated from Pacific Lutheran University, in Tacoma, in 1979 with a B.A. in Oriental history. In 1983, he earned his J.D. from Pepperdine University. In 2008, he completed a Ph.D. in northern political history & culture at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

From 1984-85, Colberg was an associate attorney at the law firm Kopperud & Hefferan in Wasilla, Alaska. From 1985-92, he served as staff counsel to The Travelers Insurance Companies. Since 1992, he has owned his own law practice and has been an adjunct history instructor at Matanuska-Susitna College, where he teaches Eastern and Western civilization.

Constitution Day is a federally recognized national celebration of the signing of the United States' government's founding document. The U.S. Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787, by the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention, in Philadelphia, Pa.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,700 students, offers 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Contacts:

Julie Shanholtzer, program assistant, Speakers & Artists Series and psychology department, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4263 or jshanholtzer@whitworth.edu.

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or eproffitt@whitworth.edu.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The late Kim Dae-jung of South Korea leaves a complex legacy that changed the Korean peninsula

As published in the Aug. 28 issue of The Seattle Times

Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who died in August, made great headway in bringing improved relations with North Korea, writes Whitworth faculty member Norman Thorpe. Although some controversies cloud Dae-jung's legacy, the doors the Nobel laureate dared open continue to benefit South Korea's relationship with North Korea.

By Norman Thorpe, M.A.
Adjunct teacher in political science
Whitworth University
Special to The Seattle Times

Former South Korean President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kim Dae-jung, who died Aug. 18, leaves a complex legacy of accomplishments and controversy.

The 85-year-old liberal politician spent much of his career fighting for democracy, battling a series of former generals and their backers. Twice, only U.S. intervention kept him from being killed. Finally, in 1997 he was elected president — the first opposition politician to win South Korea's presidency.

After being elected, Kim was surprisingly conciliatory toward his former enemies. He focused on reducing tension with South Korea's enemy, North Korea. Forty-five years of confrontation with the North having changed nothing, Kim adopted a new approach, the "Sunshine Policy," based on engaging Pyongyang instead of confronting it.

He opened the door for South Korean companies to do business with the North, and for South Koreans to visit the North as tourists. In the years that followed, more than 1.5 million South Koreans made trips to North Korea's famed Diamond Mountains; others made visits elsewhere in the North.

In 2000, Kim himself crossed the DMZ for a summit with northern leader Kim Jong Il. Before South Korean TV cameras, North Korea's dictator turned out to be charming and respectful, surprising many South Koreans, who had been educated to expect a tyrant and boor. The two Kims signed an agreement to seek reconciliation.

South Koreans soon learned, however, that North Korea would exploit them at every opportunity. North Korea charged a fee for every tourist and extracted other payments from other visitors. A museum director had to send camera equipment, film and other goods before Pyongyang approved a trip to the North. When his group applied for a second trip, Pyongyang demanded $120,000 worth of fertilizer. The group canceled its plans.

Kim Dae-jung apparently got caught by the same web. After the summit, allegations emerged that he had paid North Korea around $500 million to get Kim Jong Il to agree to the meeting. The allegations quickly tarnished the Nobel Prize Kim had been awarded for his outreach to the North, with critics asserting he had paid North Korea a half-billion-dollar bribe to win it. Kim never adequately addressed the issue, which along with charges of corruption by members of his family, clouded his image.

Meanwhile, North Korea continued developing nuclear weapons and missiles, and last year northern soldiers shot and killed a woman tourist at the Diamond Mountains. Trips there were suspended.

I last saw Kim two years ago with a group of reporters who had covered the democracy struggle. Kim discussed the Sunshine Policy, saying much had been achieved, including reunions between several thousand people in families divided between North and South, the hiring of thousands of northern workers at South Korean factories in a North Korean industrial park, and cultural change in North Korea, with residents secretly listening to southern TV dramas and pop music. Continued negotiations with North Korea could solve the nuclear issue, he said.

What about human rights in North Korea? someone asked. The key to improving those, he said, was engagement. "No matter how much you criticize outside of North Korea, that doesn't improve North Korean human rights. The way to improve human rights is to open the country."

I visited Seoul again recently. Kim was hospitalized, with the media following his condition. As his health faded, I asked acquaintances what they thought his legacy would be. Opinions were divided, and some critics were vehement.

It's too easy for Kim just to die, a conservative said, adding that Kim should have to reveal details of the murky financial deal he apparently made with Pyongyang. A Korean diplomat said that even if Kim had good intentions, whatever money he gave North Korea was probably used for nuclear weapons and missiles, so the gift weakened Seoul's security.

The museum director, however, said that despite Pyongyang's profiteering, the Sunshine Policy achieved important gains. Most notably, he said, North Koreans learned South Koreans don't hate them. In North Korea, security officers monitored his group's every step, but after a couple days of awkwardness, they developed a friendly relationship, he said. When they said goodbye at the end of the trip, people on both sides had tears in their eyes. In both North and South, attitudes about the other side have changed, he said.

Critics' views of Kim may be changing, too. During his last days, former foes visited Kim's wife as she maintained a vigil at the hospital, signifying their desire to put past issues behind them. After his death, Kim's contributions were praised by both ends of the political spectrum, and the government honored him with a state funeral, something not done for another past president who died recently.

Current President Lee Myung-Bak, a conservative, has offered to help fund economic development for North Korea if it abandons its nuclear programs. He has asked Pyongyang to discuss reducing conventional arms, as well, and says he, too, is willing to meet Kim Jong Il. His offers are based partly on the foundation Kim Dae-jung laid with North Korea.

So the groundbreaking effort that Kim Dae-jung launched to end tension with the North could keep moving forward. Or, Pyongyang could be intransigent and keep that from happening.

Even if that's the case, some people told me: How unfortunate it would have been if no Korean leader had taken the risks Kim took, to try at least to bring d├ętente to the Korean peninsula.

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company

Norman Thorpe teaches about modern Korea as part of the Asian Studies program at Whitworth University, in Spokane. He also teaches a summer-session course about Korea at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, in Seoul. In the 1970s and 1980s, he was a reporter in Seoul for the Asian Wall Street Journal and The Far Eastern Economic Review. He also was co-founder, editor and president of the Journal of Business, in Spokane.

Note: The opinions expressed in works written by Whitworth faculty and staff do not necessarily represent the views of Whitworth University or members of its community. They are, however, symbolic of Whitworth’s commitment as a Christian university to the free exchange of ideas.