Don Simmonds – Family Christmas Letter 2014

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Donald Simmonds – Crandall University Chancellor’s Acceptance Speech

Crandall University, Moncton, NB
Chancellor’s acceptance speech
Sunday September 21st, 2014
Donald E. Simmonds

Why Crandall?

Good morning to all of you. Thank you so much for your warm welcome this morning, and of course, for this deep, and very humbling honour of being invited to be the Chancellor of Crandall University. Equal to the honour, is the great privilege of following in the footsteps of such respected contributors as Dr. Ralph Richardson and Mr. Jack Stultz, men that have had an immense impact on what Crandall is today and the solid foundation and reputation that has been laid for its future.

Thank you to you both for such incredible contributions.

We came to love the people of Atlantic Canada through our involvements in the Baptist family. Working with the late Dr. Richard Coffin I was National Youth coordinator for our 1150 Baptist churches from 1989-1994. But even before that I met Pastor Greg Pike (now in Cornerbrook), and Chetty McPhail… way back in 1982 ….when they were just kids! Greg was the President of your youth convention. It was first in 1989 that I heard Dannie Brown play the keyboard! The first time I came into the crowded administrative offices at ABC, the offices of Ralph Richardson, Seth Crowell, Bev Robart (Ching) and Ken Mcloed, encircled a number of small desks with names like Sandy Sutherland (Short) and others that have gone on to contribute so much to the fabric of your communities all across the Atlantic Provinces, Canada and indeed the world.

And I see Garth and Heather Williams from St, Stephens are here, and Trevor and Wanda Jones who live across the street from the University. While I take credit for introducing these two Ontario girls to the east, these men made sure they didn’t come back. And Gary and Debbie Evans are here too. Debbie is a daughter of Donna and the late Rev. Jerry Myers. Deb got her Ontario man to move to Moncton! It just so happens that Gary was the ring-bearer in our wedding, since as a teenager, I worked as the hired man on his family’s dairy farm.

I should also acknowledge my new friendship with Student Council President, Matt, and for his warm welcome at the dinner last night!

As you can tell, our lives have been intertwined here with the people of Crandall in some way or another, for the last 25 years. This makes this new involvement with you very special indeed.

Let me just take a moment to thank Fay also for her support in this appointment. Some of you know that she lives with the challenge of liver cirrhosis, and while we’ve always taken things on together, we are naturally being even more careful of what we engage in at this point.

Craig is our second oldest of 4 children. When he was in grade 12, he was doing a co-op at the local hospital. At the time he was thinking of a medical career and they placed him for 2 weeks in each of the departments as a means of him determining if it is something he wanted to pursue.

One winters evening he came home and said: “Hey Dad, I can tell a McMaster University doctor from any other school.” I thought this was quite a claim for a high school coop student, so somewhat skeptically, I asked, “how can you tell?”

He explained: “This week I’ve been helping in the emergency department. Tonight, Dr. Simpson had finished with an elderly patient who was ready to go home. But is was snowing, so he took his keys walked out to the parking lot and brought the man’s car right up to the emerge door for the man.”

And you know. Craig was right. If you know about McMaster’s fame in their medical program, they are re-knowned for producing doctors that care holistically about their patients, not simply producing experts in medical diagnosis and treatment.

Is it possible for a Crandall Alumni, wherever they are or whatever they are doing, to carry uniquely distinguishing marks?

Would you consider with me this morning as a text, 4 verses from Proverbs 9: 9-12:
Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you…

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Fay and I have led pretty active lives and still get interesting requests for contribution of our time and involvement. So when Dr. Fawcett spoke to me about the possibilities of becoming your new Chancellor we wanted to prayerfully consider if this is where God wanted us at this time. This led us to ask the all-important question: Why Crandall?

I’d like to share my conclusions to this probing question this morning in the form of three very distinct marks, marks that help form a unique imprint on a Crandall student.

The first mark is this.
Crandall has a proven legacy of believing in the potential of young people!

A legacy simply means “something that is handed down from the past.” And you only have to be here this weekend to see the impact this school and its predecessors have had on students from the late 50’s, but then, those students passing the torch down from generation to generation creating this very legacy.

God believes in young people. 1 Timothy 4: 12 says:
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”

And I have seen thousands of young people lead effectively at a very, very young age, out of a confidence and character that arises from an authentic faith in God, —not a reliance of the artificially fabricated mini-gods they are exposed to–like wealth, athleticism, popularity, or if I might say even as your new Chancellor—the little g god of intellect or education. God suggests that effectiveness comes through the strength of one’s relationship with Him, rather than the credentials of age or achievement and these other things that we seem to credit so highly.

And in these days, we have presented our youth with a difficult cultural reality to operate in. I have spoken out strongly as the CEO of Crossroads and on 100 Huntley Street about the “perfect storm” we have handed our young people:

The storms of:

o diluted values
o failing faith foundations
o media dominance, and
o rapidly personalizing technology.

This situation came right home to us when Dylan, one of my goalies on our hockey team decided to take his own life early in the morning a few doors down from his home in our little town of Uxbridge, two years ago. He was caught in the midst of this perfect storm and felt he could not see a way out.

In fact, a fairly new Canadian study of our Christian youth is most concerning. It measures what happens to young people that commit their lives to Christ and come regularly to church through their teenage years. Only 1 in 4 of these young people will describe themselves as still committed to their faith in God once they hit their adult years.

The study is eerily called: “Hemorrhaging Faith”.

Another statistics puts it this way: “Of children raised in church from infancy, only 4% profess a faith in Jesus when they go to university (a 96% fail rate).

And we know that as many of our young people abandon their faith their moral compass also dissolves….and you may have a son or daughter, or grandchild that you are concerned about and don’t need any statistics to prove the perfect storm I am speaking about is very real.

It is a proven fact that this loss of faith and values is greatly amplified when exposed to the ideas and environment of typical university life. Often it is the death knell for many a student who is vulnerable when making some of life’s most important decisions in what is often a hostile, anti-Christian environment.

So, Crandall has a role at this particular point in history that has never been more strategic or more important in the lives of young people transitioning from youth to adulthood….as your motto states: “TRANSFORMING LIVES.”

As I said earlier, the invitation to be the Chancellor of Crandall University is a very great honour. But it is also a bit of a surprise!

o I’m an unlikely Chancellor in many ways.
o Don’t live in Atlantic Canada
o Not an alumni
o And, I do not have a university degree. I made sure the decion-makers knew this of course.

And for the record, its not because I failed a degree, very simply I chose to enter the business world directly after completing high school and working for a year on the Evans progressive dairy farm.

In my first two years in the electronics business I drove to work every day with my father where I received my “masters in business education”…mentored by my him in the realities of actually running a growing business in the midst of 22% interest rates and rapid technology change. So, most of my education has come as a practitioner, learning by doing, careful observation and working hard.

But lest, you think I know nothing about post secondary school education, I’ve hired or been responsible for some 5,000 staff with degrees and post secondary school education! And I’ve established and defined roles that require a university education! And I certainly have experienced, first hand the implications of various post secondary institutions that have granted degrees! So I do have some very strong opinions on what Crandall must be and do to produce a fully developed contributor to our society today.

I first visited Dr. Robert Knowles at Atlantic Baptist College….I have to admit, we called him Bobby then. He was President of the Atlantic Baptist Youth Convention and said, Don, anytime your feet are on Atlantic Canada soil, I’m here for you. And he was. He introduced me to virtually every youth leader he knew and I always stayed at Rev. and Mrs. Knowles place when I was here in Moncton.

Then I met Dr. Bruce Fawcett. He was a young youth pastor at Lewisville. On a youth leadership retreat at camp Wildwood where I was speaking, he quizzed me on youth strategy, the needs of our youth, Baptist vision for youth ministry and how Baptists were governed. And we talked until almost 5 am and I realized I had been in the company of someone who was very, very serious about God’s call on his life to bring help young people.

Bruce led your Baptist youth movement here and I can say that on a per capita basis it was the finest denominational youth movement anywhere in North America. So, your legacy of belief in the potential of young people continues. It is alive and well right at the top of the organization.

This is a compelling reason for us to join you.

But there’s a second reason. Crandall, has created a centre of excellence.

As you know, I come from the business world…and gone are the days when something is seen as credible just because it is Christian. What really counts now, are organizations that deliver excellence. But I like to think that an organization can achieve an even higher level of excellence, because they are Christian.

Crandall’s leaders and faculty throughout its history have had this driving ambition for excellence.

One of the last businesses I started combined wireless with a technology few had heard about—GPS! We grew over 10,000% in the first 5 years. I can remember being concerned about the pace of hiring and wondering just how we could hire people quickly but not degrade our standards of excellence.

As a result, I now usually make very rapid assessments of people using 4 elements: Motive, Execution, Quality, and Quantity.

I am often amazed at how people justify deficiencies in one area or another. For example, when they make a mistake in executing or implementing a plan, they often say “well, at least my motive was right”. Or when they aren’t particularly productive, they hide behind “well quality is more important than quantity”.

And I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but excellent organizations are made up of those who have high standards in all areas and don’t allow themselves to excuse what they don’t accomplish. They are characterized by :

o Pure motives…no hidden agendas
o A high standard of implementation with attention to detail
o High output and productivity
o Never compromising the quality of the result.
o Strong interpersonal relationships and united teams

Colossians 3:23 is really clear about high our standards should be:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…

I have become convinced that one of the distinguishing marks of Crandall University is that of a high standard of excellence. Administration and faculty, but also, groundskeepers, the catering and cafeteria staff, admissions, recruitment, student services and every single corner of the Crandall family, a team that is just not satisfied with good, average, or a pass. But instead a group of people whose intimate knowledge of the God we serve have them bring the highest possible standards in life, in work, in goal-setting and in being a living example of excellence to the students who for a time are under Crandall’s direct influence.

Ladies and Gentlemen, these are two very compelling answers to the question: “Why Crandall.” A legacy of belief in the potential of young people. And, a dynamic centre of excellence. And as critically important as these two traits are, I’m sorry to say that they alone are not sufficient to distinguish Crandall as a student’s obvious first educational choice. Let’s face it, numerous other esteemed institutions also carry these two traits.

But I am so glad there is this uniquely differentiating third element that is not found in very many universities. You see, the Crandall community “knows the source of all wisdom”.

If you don’t hear anything else from me this morning, note this. It is the intimacy of our personal relationship with God and our trust in what He asks of us that gives access to the very wisdom and character of the Creator Himself. And at Crandall, you know the source. Better study habits, more powerful ways to access information and tips to retain it or innovate some of the latest scientific findings–all are very valuable. But knowing the very source of all wisdom——priceless!

And we have a huge dilemma today. There is unprecedented access to information—more than at anytime in history. But Wisdom, or Insight, as the Bible calls it, is the ability to “properly use information and knowledge in real life.”

Friends we have a wisdom gap….a surprising paradox, more information than ever, but a decreasing ability to put wise choices into practice.

That is why it has been such a thrill to coach our High school hockey team, the Uxbridge Tigers. Our Tigers motto is “to win at hockey and win in life”. We use sport to try and develop 14 character traits in our players and early in the season we assign each one of these traits to a player whose responsibility it is to make sure that our team exhibits that trait in its conduct…..things like honesty, respect, hard work, optimism, citizenship and responsibility.

While in the public school system it is not easy to speak directly about a relationship Jesus Christ, the source of all wisdom, the school loves the fact that Mr. Simmonds helps his players with strong character and values.

One day after an away game, our team had boarded the bus on the way back to our school. I was just climbing on when the zamboni driver at the arena came running after me. Not sure if you’ve ever had a zamboni driver come running after you, but you automatically figure you or one of the players has done something very wrong. He was puffing as he said, coach, your team left the dressing room the cleanest I’ve ever seen after a game. I thought you should know. I thanked him and got on the bus.

The trait of respect. They’d got it. I was proud of my players and told them so.

One time we were going for gold at a very prestigious tournament in Lake Placid called the American Cup….For this group of young men, I suspect that this may be one of their best hockey memories. It ranks high for us coaches as well.

You see we were playing teams that were stronger than we were. We had tied a pool game that meant we had to battle for the right to go on to the final game. It was Saturday night and our fourth game, and the tournament was so close at that point we not only had to win, but we had to win by 3 goals, or we would be going home. Well, the game was a seesaw battle that was still tied 0-0 with just 3 minutes to go. You don’t have to use your imagination to picture me pacing up and down the bench, with obvious concern written all over my face….and then above the noise of the game, I heard Kyle, #13 say, “hey coach, remember the trait of optimism”!

And having played 42 minutes with no goals scored, I chuckled inside as he applied this character trait the very way I’d asked him to…..the trait of optimism…and, in a near miraculous finish, we ended the game 3-0 and went on the next morning to win the gold medal. Tigers lore says that the coach that day cried real tears….but what happens in a hockey dressing room, stays in a hockey dressing room!!!

There near universal view that values are deteriorating, leads us to a strong consensus that something must be done. However, there is not a consensus in our world today on what that right value set is. This neutralizes our ability to train and set consistent expectations for our young people. When I was a teenager, there were understood values, that enabled my parents, teachers, coaches, youth workers, and even neighbours, to mutually re-inforce what we were taught. Not so any more.

Drs. Fawcett or Knowles did not think up these values. Nor did Chancellor Richardson or Stultz. Yet, we would have complete agreement that every one of them is a necessity for the health and wellbeing of any society. But let’s be very clear. These values originated from the Creator Himself and are modeled by God’s own person and character.

Let’s look quickly at some specific examples.

o Take Honesty for example—one of the 10 commandments-“do not bear false witness”….this value is not meant to wreck your life….without it, trust is breached and relationships intended for our happiness get ruined…7

o Respect….arises out of 2 primary commandments underscored in Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Sir, which is the most important command in the laws of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.’ 38-39 This is the first and greatest commandment.

The second most important is similar: ‘Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.’ 40 All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them. Keep only these and you will find that you are obeying all the others.”

Smart, intelligent high ranking academic students are vital. But God’s higher standards are the values to which we are called upon to live. And this is where an entirely unique and different confidence comes from.

In the Labour Day edition of the Toronto Star a front page headline rang out….”Educators look beyond the 3 R’s…measuring the impact of how well a school nurtures body and soul, as well as brain”.

Because of the wisdom gap, educators are realizing they have no choice but to look beyond academics and activities to the inner character of the person.

One might say it is like a top NFL football player, having highest running yards, many touchdowns, being physically strong, making millions of dollars, with thousands of fans wearing his number—-and then all of a sudden, everyone realizes that in private, he uses all that strength and ability to beat his wife and children.

It undoes everything!

What will really endure for a Crandall student is a life reference point that does not decay with time, become irrelevant with circumstance, shift based on the views of a particular culture, or change with technology advancement.

It is only God’s values that meet this definition of absolute truth. “something that is right for all people, for all time, in all circumstances.”

And interestingly enough such truth is possible, such truth exists. But it can only be found in a personal and intimate knowledge of God Himself.

Because Crandall University knows the Source of all wisdom, its differentiating element will be this—a call for its students to embrace the Source of all wisdom!

Our youngest daughter April just started grade 12. She is a very serious equestrian athlete, who is working very hard with her three horses to be selected for the Pan Am games which take place next summer in Toronto. She is also the co-president of our church youth group. So you can imagine, she is one busy cat….

So at the end of the summer we recommended that starting September 1, she take up the advice of Bill Graham to read a chapter of Proverbs each day as part of her devotions. And we have been joining her in this just before she heads out to school each morning.

It’s amazing. Regardless of how many hundreds of times you may take in God’s truths, they are new every morning! Just listen to some of our journal entries….and re-consider the power of God’s wisdom as it is passed on to a busy young person like April……

8
18 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 10 My son, if sinful men entice you, do not give in to them.

3
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.[a]

9 Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

4
23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep corrupt talk far from your lips. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

6
6 Go to the ant, if you are lazy; consider its ways and be wise!

11
3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity. 13 A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. 14 For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers. 25 A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

12
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.

3No one can be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be uprooted.

15 The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. 18 The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. 19 Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. 22 The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.

13
20 Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

14
12 There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. 30 A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

15
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 5 A fool spurns a parent’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence. 22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

16
16 How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver! 18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. 24 Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

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Recently we were invited to a movie launch at the influential Toronto film festival. It is called the good lie, and stars Reese Witherspoon. You must see it when it hits the theatres. It chronicles the moving story about a family of Sudanese children, 4 surviving brothers and their sister, whose parents, other siblings and community are completely wiped out in a genocide. They walk literally hundreds of miles 9 and are ultimately extracted as refugees to America, where they get split up on the weird culture not their own.

The story flashes back to a game they played when they were children. They did not have much so it was very simple……they put their hand on the others and said “the name of their dad, the name of their grandpa, the name of their great grandpa, the name of their great, great grandpa…etc”

Ultimately as they reconnect years later, they are not sure exactly how to verify they are truly brothers and sister, until one of them starts playing the game, “the name of their dad, the name of their grandpa, the name of their great grandpa, the name of their great, great grandpa” and they all began to join in with voice in a unified chorus. Ah, the imprint of crucial marks for a lifetime!

Why Crandall University?

A belief in the potential of young people.
High Standards of excellence.
Loving and Obeying the Creator, the source of all wisdom.

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Do you bear these marks?

Hey Dad, I can tell our company’s lawyer was a Crandall student.
Hey Dad, I can tell my teacher was a Crandall student.
Hey Dad, I can tell my coach was a Crandall student.
Hey Dad, I can tell my boss was a Crandall student.
Friends, let’s fully embrace these marks!
To the Glory of God, Amen.