President's Forum 2007

by James M. Harder
Sept. 11, 2007
Founder's Hall

It hasn't been quite a year, yet, since I gave my inauguration address here in Founder's Hall last October. Since then, another annual chapter has concluded in the life of Bluffton University, with much to celebrate and savor, but also with moments of deeply felt loss and profound sadness. Today we are in the early pages of Bluffton's next annual chapter; with a new community to be built on the past and with the contribution and participation of the present—students, staff and faculty. In this annual rhythm, a campus community is always dynamic, always re-energized, always filled with new potential.

But I've learned in my role as president, that the past is at times closer than one might think. I experienced one of those moments a few weeks ago when I received this envelope in the mail. Through some miracle of modern information technology, this letter's computer generated mailing label is addressed to Samuel Mosiman, President of Bluffton University, 1 University Drive, Bluffton, Ohio. The school name and address is certainly up to date, but what was somewhat disconcerting to me was that Samuel Mosiman occupied my office seven presidents ago—he retired in 1935!

But actually, this envelope does lead in the right direction for how I want to begin my President's Forum this morning. First of all, it is from the North Central Ohio Solid Waste District, which relates well to our annual civic engagement theme of environmental stewardship. Second, its mailing label takes us back in Bluffton's history—a journey I'd like us to make this morning.

Looking back in Bluffton's history
It was the last day of October, 107 years ago, in the year 1900. A large crowd of about 1,500 people had gathered just west of the town of Bluffton for the dedication of College Hall – the first building of what today has become Bluffton University. The stately red brick building had been constructed on 10 acres of land near the crest of a small hill beside the Little Riley Creek—next to what was described as a splendid small woods that the locals had long-called "Eaton's Grove." A local citizen, Judge Eaton, had largely donated the land with its stand of hardwood trees, hickories, and oaks. He wanted to ensure that the new college would be lured to Bluffton because he cared about providing educational opportunities for future generations of Bluffton residents. The public schools had been dismissed and local businesses closed that day so all could witness the event, hear the speakers, and enjoy the music of the large choir.[1]

This must have been—for that time and place—a truly magnificent event culminating many hard years of prayerful work by a group of dedicated individuals who had seen their vision for a new college take physical form.

But step back that day from College Hall and its small grove of trees a few hundred yards. A broader scale perspective would have yielded the following stark truth: most of Bluffton's future campus—so blessed with magnificent trees and landscaping today—was nothing but empty agricultural fields and cow pastures that day in 1900. According to Bluffton's Professor of History, Dr. Perry Bush—author of Bluffton's centennial history Dancing With the Kobzar—at the college's founding the Little Riley Creek itself had virtually no trees remaining on its banks. In those days, townspeople used wood to heat homes and cook, and the banks of the creek and surrounding areas had been for the most part cleared of trees. Today, if you go into the 1899 meeting room in Marbeck center, as Dr. Bush pointed out to me, one of the interesting historical photos on the wall shows the vicinity of Ropp Hall shortly after it opened in 1914—tree stumps and all, where clear-cut logging activity had quite evidently occurred. In another photo hanging in the 1899 room, one can see the old Berky Science Hall, Bluffton's second oldest academic building—standing starkly alone in the middle of a wide-open field. A third early picture of Lincoln Hall is much the same. These images portray a very different environment from the wooded setting of these campus buildings today.

I think it is especially fitting this year, as we implement our first annual civic engagement theme at Bluffton, to begin by reflecting close to home—about our local campus natural environment. I like this year's theme, "Environmental Stewardship: Living in the Natural World." It is particularly exciting because it is a topic all of us can equally own and act on should we choose to do so.

So how did the Bluffton campus become transformed from what is described in the history books as an empty cow pasture to the tree-shaded, lush and landscaped environment that we enjoy today? Well first of all, it didn't happen overnight. And it didn't happen by accident or by happenstance. It happened because a few key individuals throughout Bluffton's history had a vision and passion for the environment. They took leadership roles to make change happen, and inspired many others to help along the way. Today, in 2007, we are the direct beneficiaries of farsighted individuals—campus leaders in nearly every era of Bluffton's history—who collectively transformed a relatively stark landscape into the wonderful natural setting that we now enjoy. I am sure that many of us have discovered favorite places on campus. Especially on days when the light and sun angles are just right, just being at those places and reflecting on the natural beauty of Bluffton's campus becomes an act of worship in and of itself, drawing us closer to the magnificence of our Creator.

Bluffton's first president, Dr. Noah C. Hirschy, was a remarkable man, with a clear vision for the new college that he had been called to lead. On November 5, 1900, addressing the five faculty members and 51 newly enrolled students at Bluffton, he declared, "(L)et this school be right with God, firm and decided against all the threatening evils of the day, and it will be a power for good and a mighty impulse to the kingdom of God. In matters of intellect let us be modest," he said, "but in matters of righteousness let us be firm and right with God, true to the high ideals represented here and to the highest conceptions of truth and virtue."[2]

Very evidently, Bluffton's first president was a man with many interests and many gifts. But as Professor Bush notes, Hirschy himself always said his true love was botany—a passion which he carried into Bluffton's classrooms whenever he could. He was described as a master teacher of the science of plant life, and students remarked on his ability to expound the mysteries of botany.[3] Inside the front entrance to Bluffton's Musselman Library today, just to the left as you enter the foyer, sits a marble bust of Noah Hirschy. If you look closely, you will see a clover leaf pinned to his lapel—a true botanist at heart.

So it is no surprise, then, that one of President Hirschy's first priorities was to begin the process of restoring nature on Bluffton's campus. Among his very first acts was a directive against the cutting of trees and picking of flowers on campus. Bluffton's second president, Dr. Samuel K. Mosiman—to whom my letter was mistakenly addressed—continued that agenda when he took over in 1910. In his fundraising travels, Mosiman picked up a variety of seeds, shrubs, and trees, bringing them home to campus.[4]

There are many other individuals—students, faculty, staff and others—who, over the years, have dedicated themselves to the natural stewardship of our campus. I want to mention three people in particular, from different generations of Bluffton's legacy, who have been true leaders in our community's environmental efforts. As I noted earlier, the environment is not something that any one individual can sustain by him or herself. Success in environmental stewardship—be it at the local, national or global level—requires a strong sense of shared values and commitment by an entire community. Still, there is a crucial environmental leadership role that must also be present as a catalyst.

Oliver Diller, or "Ollie" Diller as he was called, was one such environmental leader for Bluffton. While a Bluffton student, his interests were influenced by biology professor M'Della Moon (Della is one-half of the curious name of Bren-Dell Hall in case you are wondering.) She once told Ollie he had "a good ecology eye" and encouraged him to pursue botany.[5] During his senior year in 1930, Ollie was asked by President Mosiman to be in charge of a campus tree planting effort. "It was on that day," he later said, "that I planted a number of sugar maples, and dogwoods on the campus and I have been a compulsive tree planter ever since!"[6]

Oliver Diller went on to earn a Ph.D. in forest ecology from The Ohio State University and a remarkable career as a state forester with what is today called the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center—a career that earned him the nickname of "the Johnny Appleseed of Ohio" from former Bluffton President Elmer Neufeld. During his lifetime, Diller personally planted more than 50,000 trees. He became an expert in the restoration of farm woodlots and barren land, and worked with towns and cities across Ohio to organize shade tree commissions for the systematic planting of trees.[7] Dr. Diller, a graduate of Bluffton College, was an ecologist and an environmentalist long before most people knew the meaning of those terms, and for that work he received the Distinguished Achievement Award in Conservation from Ohio Governor James Rhodes.

But it's because of Ollie Diller's impact on the natural beauty of Bluffton's campus that I am including him in my presentation this morning. For 27 years, from 1943-1970, he served his alma mater as a member of the Board of Trustees, including the last six as chair. The citation read at Commencement on May 28, 1972, when Bluffton gave him its highest honor—the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree—noted that rarely did Oliver Diller come to the Bluffton campus without a car or a pickup load of trees for planting. Hundreds of the trees on campus today are Ollie's trees—both the trees most common to northwest Ohio as well as the specimen trees that add variety and uniqueness to Bluffton's landscape: trees such as the little-leaf linden, the persimmon, the ironwood, the maiden hair Ginko tree, the tuliptree, Japanese zelkova, cornelian cherry, bald cypress, red horse chestnut, and Serbian spruce.

At Oliver Diller's memorial service in 1984, a tribute read by the Rev. Harry Yoder on behalf of Bluffton College, began with these words: "'The heavens declare the glory of God and the earth showeth His handiwork.' This was the deep conviction of Oliver Diller. His mission was to help others to a deeper love for all of God's creation. Trees were the special part of God's handiwork that he sought to preserve and use for beauty and utility." The tribute continued, "To watch him plant a tree was a religious experience. He handled it with care, he planted it exactly right for beauty and growth, then he stood looking at it as if to say, 'God make you a blessing.'"[8] On the Bluffton campus today, and in many other locations across Ohio, Oliver Diller's benediction continues to be realized.

Next I call our attention to the enduring environmental impact of President Robert S. Kreider. Dr. Kreider lived for a time in Bluffton during his childhood, and then returned as a faculty member for one year before becoming academic dean in 1954. In 1965, Robert Kreider became Bluffton's fifth president and served in that capacity for seven years.

The historical record demonstrates his passion and breadth of vision—and his expansive dreams—for Bluffton. It was a time of considerable growth and change on this campus, as were the late 60s and early 70s across the country. Among Kreider's many contributions were two that still are very much reflected in the legacy he left Bluffton—Marbeck Center and the Bluffton University Nature Preserve.

But the location—the setting—of Marbeck Center was as important to Kreider as the interior design. Recently I had the opportunity visit with President Kreider, and I asked him about that. He recalled needing to have more land to expand the campus and taking steps to purchase the bottom land along the Little Riley Creek—extending downstream from today's wooden footbridge to Elm Street, in the vicinity of the softball field. He was intrigued by the thought of building a student center and dining hall with spectacular views and intimate connections to the environment of the creek. And since the floor level inside Marbeck Commons was just high enough that it still hasn't ever flooded—by three inches, to be precise, during last month's flood—I would observe he got it just about as close to nature as he could!

In the 1965 Bluffton campus plan, President Kreider wrote, "The woodland, the stream, the slightly uneven topography and the open spaces give the Bluffton campus qualities which are unique...These natural resources should be respected and used to affirm the character of the campus—friendliness and informality, simplicity and casual patterns, life in close fellowship with natural beauty, life in intimate community."

Also during his time as president, Robert Kreider initiated and developed the concept of our campus nature preserve—located across the road and just northwest of the Salzman football stadium. President Kreider told me these 160-odd acres were originally given to Bluffton for use as a college farm by the Thutt family during the Mosiman years. Students helped farm and harvest the land during the 1920s, and during the 1930s food grown on this land helped feed faculty and students alike during the Great Depression. Through the 1950s, the land was rented out to local farmers to earn income for the college.

In 1966, shortly after Robert Kreider became president, he initiated the concept of converting this farm into a permanent nature center and outdoor education site. Grants were secured from the Kettering Foundation and Audubon Society which were used catalogue existing flora, to seed fields into wild grass, establish trails, construct the eight-acre lake, convert the old farm house into a retreat center, and build the swinging bridge across the Big Riley. A naturalist was hired, and Ollie Diller, near the end of his tree-planting career, established a pine forest from free seedlings.

The nature center flourished for a time, but ultimately did not attract as much use from area public schools as hoped for, and could not be sustained with a fully-staffed program. Still, today the Bluffton University Nature Preserve is a marvelous natural resource available to all who pay it a visit, with its solitude and beauty—and home to a wide array of wildlife, no matter what the season. As President Kreider noted, "this is a vision and investment that has only partially been realized." I am among those who would agree with that sentiment. There is certainly good potential for enhanced educational use of the Nature Preserve, including needed long-term work to better connect it with walking and jogging paths back to the main campus.

Before moving to additional thoughts and future plans, I want to mention one additional environmental leader – a person who for 48 years, and still counting, has given generously of his passion and talent to Bluffton. I am speaking of James Bassett, who has been a Bluffton trustee since 1987 and who has served as Bluffton's primary landscape architect since the early years of his career in 1959. Bluffton is most fortunate to have a nationally-renowned landscape architect of Jim Bassett's caliber as a close friend of the university. The firm that carries his name, based in Lima, has developed plans for landscape projects throughout Ohio and nationally.

Jim Bassett has been an important advisor to six Bluffton presidents over the years. I, too, have consulted him as we have worked on the design and landscape plans for of our baseball memorial project, which will be completed in time for the opening of the upcoming baseball season in March.

Jim told me recently that his first involvement in giving shape and form to the appearance of Bluffton's campus back in 1959 was to help determine the location for a new music building, to be named Mosiman Hall. The proposal at the time President Ramseyer contacted him was to locate that building on the other side of the green in front of College Hall, by cutting down and filling in part of the ox-bow riverine forest. I should note that in addition to eliminating the natural habitat already located there, it would have threatened a long-standing tradition enjoyed by many a male Bluffton student who encountered those waters with the assistance of friends in an involuntary marriage engagement ritual.

Ultimately Jim Bassett proposed an alternate site for the new music building on the opposite side of College Hall. Later, in the 1960s, he was instrumental in siting several new residence halls in ways that helped create aesthetic quadrangles and opportunities for landscaping. His proposals eliminated old driveways and roadways that once circled College Hall and Lincoln Hall, creating instead a campus focused on green space and walkways. Although I didn't mention it earlier, Bassett was the consultant President Kreider used in developing the location for Marbeck Center. The design for the shaded wooden footbridge across the Little Riley between Marbeck and Riley Court should be credited to Jim as well.

Many additional landscaping design projects, including the new university front entrance features along College Avenue developed just a few years ago, are among Jim Bassett's nearly five-decade-long legacy of environmental leadership on this campus. The future Health and Fitness Education Center, planned for location on the hillside just north of Marbeck Center, with its ample views out over the Little Riley, will be yet another.

Extending environmental stewardship into the future
I've spent the first half of my address this morning recalling the strong tradition of environmental stewardship in Bluffton's past. It's time now for us to think together about the opportunities the current Bluffton community has to extend this remarkable tradition into the future, perhaps in new ways and in response to contemporary issues.

Two weeks ago many of us heard the opening convocation address by Dr. Carl McDaniel. As a scientist, Dr. McDaniel's work focuses on the many unprecedented environmental challenges faced by a planet whose human population, during Bluffton University's 107-year existence alone, has increased by nearly 400%--to more than six billion people. It's a sobering thought to consider that there are quite probably more human beings alive today—at this very moment—than in total have ever lived and died throughout thousands of years of history.

In my past teaching in global economics, I have used a compelling reading by Bill McKibben titled "A Special Moment in History."[9] He makes the argument that children being born today will most likely live in unique circumstances—different from anything in the past and more challenging than what is likely to come after them. They will live during the years in which the world's population will peak and then will quite predictably begin to decline to a more sustainable level. The challenge, McKibben argues, is to make it through the next 100 or so years of global environmental, political, religious and social strains caused by population-driven competition for land, opportunity and natural resources.

We have no certain knowledge based on prior experience and history of how the world's natural systems will function during those peak years with so many human beings trying to build shelter, grow food, earn a living, raise their children, secure their retirement, create and recreate. And of particular stress to the world's eco-system is the fact that a growing number of those six billion people now have the economic means to join the ranks of the world's super consumers.

Many on this campus—including all first year seminar students and faculty—are working through these and other environmentally-related issues in McDaniel's book, Wisdom for a Livable Planet. The topic is very much in the news these days—and is becoming increasingly the subject of political debate. In other words, this is a perfect civic engagement theme for a university campus—not just because it is a hot and current topic of public discourse—but because to the extent that environmental damage and environmental change happens, we or our children will not be able escape its effects as individuals. It is also fitting that we think about these issues together, since environmental systems are among that category of problems that no individual can satisfactorily address alone. Only by thinking together, working together and collaborating can a campus, a region, a nation or the world move forward toward environmental solutions.

The Bluffton University community of learners forms its own microcosm of society. We come from different traditions and backgrounds, different home influences and a wide range of life experiences. And because of that it is highly unlikely that all of us will think alike or even be able to agree on the best analytical lenses or starting points for a topic as complex as this one. And that's as it should be in any healthy academic community.

But that doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't work together to seek to find commonly-held ideas that can stand the test of open debate, critique and careful scrutiny. At Bluffton, we want always to challenge ourselves to engage this issue within the spirit of our university's enduring values of discovery, community, respect and service. We savor the enterprise of acquiring new knowledge and insight, we do it best in relationship with others, respecting our differences and openly and honestly trying our best to at least understand the others' point of view. And we do all this not just for the benefit of ourselves, but with a sense of our obligation to others with whom we share our community, and share the planet. Discovery, community, respect and service are values that should serve us well as we explore this year's civic engagement theme of "Environmental Stewardship: Living in the Natural World."

Yet there's one additional element of this environmental theme that was not addressed in our opening convocation—one that underlies all of Bluffton's values, and therefore informs our conversation on the environment. I am referring to the teachings of the Christian tradition. The preface to a book written by Christian environmental biologist Calvin B. DeWitt provides a clear statement of that tradition:

(W)e are talking about God's creation—not just our human habitat... As stewards of creation...we are responsible to God to think about what consequences our actions have for the environment. We are charged by God to keep and care for creation. As faithful stewards, we must raise awareness of environmental issues in our churches and communities and reflect that awareness in our own patterns of daily living.[10]

That challenge positions our civic engagement theme close to home—and within our community informed by the Christian tradition. It aligns well with the oft-heard admonition to think globally, but act locally. What can we do on this campus—and in the other communities to which each of us relate as individuals—that will make a positive difference in our collective environmental future?

As Bluffton's president, I was curious to learn more of what we are already doing on campus in the area of energy management and water conservation. I spent time interviewing some of the staff in our buildings and grounds department and learned that Bluffton has been working at this agenda for a number of years—both for reasons of environmental conservation and to save money for the annual operating budget.

Energy-saving windows are now in place in all campus buildings and residence halls, except for College Hall, Musselman Library and the old Berky Science Hall. Similarly, all but College Hall, Musselman Library and Berky Hall now have high efficiency heating units in operation.

Bluffton's energy management program also uses night-time ice making machines to help air condition five buildings in ways that minimize stress on the environment. Musselman Library, Marbeck Center, Yoder Recital Hall, Ramseyer Hall and Neufeld Hall all have tanks that make and store large quantities of ice at night when surplus electricity is available. Then during the day, the ice is used by the cooling system in a way that reduces Bluffton's demand for electricity during peak hours. In other words, when most people power up air conditioners during the hot afternoon and send their electric meters spinning, Bluffton can keep its electricity use down. For this, the university receives a reduced electricity rate from the utility company. At the macro level, our lowered electricity demand reduces pressure for utilities to construct additional greenhouse-gas-producing power plants that are only needed during the hottest times of the day.

In addition, through renovation programs during the past ten years, 90 percent of the lights on campus have been replaced with high efficiency fixtures. Only the library remains on the "to do" list. Energy management systems across the campus control temperatures by zone, and in some cases, as you might have encountered, automatically turn off lights at night. Most emergency exit signs use low energy LED lights.

Maintenance staff tell me that Bluffton saves about 40 percent on electricity for lighting—and gets perhaps 25 percent brighter light for these efforts. The campus saves about 50 percent on heating and cooling efficiency.

Water conservation depends more critically on the user to achieve real saving—that means you and me. There is still work that needs to be done in this area. Greater use of low-flow nozzles and fixtures will become more practical from a maintenance perspective when the improved village water supply, with a lower mineral content, arrives in a year or two.

This summer, a new more environmentally sound turf management system was implemented on Bluffton's athletic fields where well water is used for irrigation. With a longer but less frequent watering schedule, it has thickened the grass, deepened roots and generally requires half as much water as before, according to buildings and grounds director Mustaq Ahmed.

So that's where we've already come on campus—and once again, I think it's fitting for us to recognize, with appreciation, the vision and sustained efforts over time of those who have made these environmentally-friendly improvements. But of course we all want to keep this momentum going, because the need to care for our planet is so acute. Where can we go further?

As we continue to plan Bluffton's greatly anticipated Health and Fitness Education Center, we assume that such a large building must still be highly energy efficient and environmentally friendly. We must aspire for Bluffton's next major building to measure up against the high standards for environmentally certified buildings in the areas of energy use, building materials and design features.

This summer, while my family was vacationing, I was struck by signs on paper towel dispensers in washrooms that displayed the words, "towels = trees." Seldom is the link stated so starkly, but of course it's true. It's not hard to imagine ways in which all of us could reduce the use of paper products on this campus. Out of curiosity, I asked our business manager, Rick Lichtle, to calculate the annual paper consumption on campus in computer printers and photocopy machines alone. Based on invoices from paper orders, he determined that last year Bluffton University used about 3,682,000 sheets of paper in printers and copiers. That's an amazing total—requiring several hundred trees, according to Google—and breaks down to an average of about 3,000 sheets of copier and printer paper for each faculty, staff and student.

Quite obviously paper is essential for many purposes in an academic environment. But I wonder if as a community we can find ways to use less printer paper this year—and I might add that would also be good for the budget!

At the other end of the use pipeline are untapped opportunities for recycling. Imagine the benefit to the environment if we could recycle even half of the printed paper we generate each year on campus. Right now we have systems in place for recycling cardboard boxes, certain computer paper, and scrap metal at Buildings and Grounds, but for the most commonly recycled items of printer paper, beverage cans and plastic bottles, Bluffton has plenty of opportunity to do better. Near the end of the semester last spring, I received a delegation of leaders from the Student Senate who presented me with a carefully thought out and documented request for more recycling on campus. I appreciated their work in this area, and I told them I support fully the significance of the goal.

The challenge for Bluffton—as it is for everyone who works at serious recycling—is to get systems in place that are sustainable over time. Over the summer we did some additional research. I understand Bluffton has had recycling efforts in place on several occasions in the past—programs that were not maintained over time. Recycling—as environmentally critical as it is—takes dedication and work on the part of quite a number of people to manage efficient and effective collection systems. The cooperation of everyone on campus is needed to nurture the program in small ways, to minimize its labor expense, to avoid cross-contamination of materials at collection areas, and to move and store recyclables. And perhaps most critically, a successful program must generate the volume and quality of recyclables so it becomes profitable and still environmentally beneficial for a recycler to burn petroleum to drive to our campus and collect the material.

Still, all of these obstacles can be overcome. I will add my voice to those of our Student Senate leaders and others on campus in calling for a cooperative program on the part of students, faculty and staff for an expanded and sustainable campus-wide recycling program to be created as a lasting legacy of this year's environmental stewardship theme.

I have chosen to focus this year's president's forum primarily on issues related to the environment, in support of our new civic engagement emphasis. Yet I would be remiss if I didn't point out that a vibrant university must be about engaging the needs and interests of society in many different ways. I hope we all recognize that eloquent phrase from Bluffton's mission statement, about preparing "students of all backgrounds for life as well as vocation, for responsible citizenship, for service to all peoples and ultimately for the purposes of God's universal kingdom."

As I conclude, I want to at least mention another avenue for civic engagement that is currently being explored by two members of Bluffton's faculty. Professor Laura Brenneman of the religion department, who has developed opportunities at Bluffton for mediation skills training, and professor Mike Lenza in sociology, who teaches in the area of criminal and restorative justice, are currently assessing the potential for partnership around common interests with several organizations and individuals in Ottawa, Ohio. A number of people in that community have expressed their own interest in seeing if use of such "restorative" processes for conflict resolution would yield positive outcomes there.

Professors Brenneman and Lenza are currently in conversation with multiple potential partners in Ottawa. They have been talking with people at schools, within the criminal justice system, at social service agencies, and churches to determine shared interests in applying alternative conflict resolution practices. The conversation is about exploring the use of mediation strategies, attention to victim healing, and use of restorative justice approaches where appropriate, instead of the traditional approach of offender punishment. Professors Lenza and Brenneman will continuing to explore potential for two-way partnerships in this area. They are hopeful that the shared interests between Bluffton University and Ottawa will provide interested Bluffton students in several majors with opportunities to practice skills in restorative justice and mediation through service learning opportunities. This still-developing partnership will open up new opportunities for civic engagement in important areas.

There is almost no limit to what might be done. Three weeks ago this morning, a record or near-record flood hit this campus and much of the village of Bluffton. During and following that flood, members of Bluffton's athletics teams—who come to campus a week early for practice—engaged in many acts of flood related service. Some helped build temporary barriers to hold back rising water. Others went into the community offering help with clean-up in carrying heavy items out of basements. I am still receiving notes and letters of thanks from grateful residents of Bluffton—and I want to take this opportunity to add my own expression of appreciation for the service many of you offered.

This summer, on my reading list, was a recent book by Dov Seidman with the intriguing one word title of How. The book's subtitle went on to add, Why HOW we do anything means business (and in life.) The book explores the general premise that increasingly, as we move into a globally competitive future, the major advantage of any business or organization will not be what we do, so much as how we do it. It's an intriguing thought that is quite relevant for Bluffton, I think.

The book includes an illustration you might have heard before—the old story about two people doing masonry work on a building. The first one, when asked what he was doing, says "Laying bricks." The second replies, "Building a cathedral."[11]

I hope that each of us, day in and day out, sees the great potential we have for civic engagement. There is no shortage of ways in which we can make a positive difference, for this world has many needs. Ollie Diller might have planted his 50,000 trees—like laying bricks—one at a time. But many years later, his legacy on this campus, and elsewhere in Ohio, has become a cathedral of trees. Many years from now, what will be said of our life's work?


[1] Bluffton College: An Adventure in Faith, 1900-1950, pp. 31-36.
[2] Perry Bush, Dancing with the Kobzar: Bluffton College and Mennonite Higher Education, 1899-1999, p. 26.
[3] Ibid., p. 43.
[4] Ibid., p. 70.
[5] Archival clipping from Scope (undated but apparently from spring 1980), p. 6.
[6] Tribute read by Harry Yoder at memorial service for Oliver D. Diller on April 27, 1984.
[7] Citation read at Bluffton Commencement, May 28, 1972, upon granting of the Doctor of Humane Letters to Diller.
[8] Tribute read by Harry Yoder at memorial service for Oliver D. Diller on April 27, 1984.
[9] Reading found in Patrick O'Meara et. al. (eds.) Globalization and the Challenges of a New Century: A Reader. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2000, pp. 383-405.
[10] Preface by Harvey A Smit, in Calvin B. DeWitt, Earth Wise: A Biblical Response to Environmental Issues. Grand Rapids, MI: CRC Publications, 1994.
[11] Dov Seidman, How. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2007, p. 9.