New Grebel president calls for full involvement

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Grebel President Marcus ShantzWith an air of celebration, in a hall filled with support from over 400 friends, family, alumni, students, staff, faculty, University of Waterloo representatives, and community members, Marcus Shantz was installed as Conrad Grebel University College’s eighth president on October 29, 2017.

Shantz follows in the footsteps of visionaries like Grebel’s first president, Winfield Fretz. Quoting Fretz at length, Shantz reminded the audience that the original Grebel vision was “not to admit only Christian students, but to admit people who were interested in learning something about Christianity, about religion, about the whole nature and meaning of faith in the context of studying to be engineers, mathematicians, scientists, philosophers, or historians.” Today Grebel continues to honour the vision of its founders through residence and academic programs made up of students from many places, backgrounds, creeds, and cultures. 

Addressing the audience on the topic of “Gardening in Exile,” Shantz reflected that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all teach that life began in a garden, as told in Genesis. Adam and Eve were then exiled into a life of hardship and suffering. “We all experience an exile of sorts when we grow up, leave childhood behind, and go out into the real world where we have to work and struggle hard.”

“At Grebel, we think that it’s easier to succeed in the world if you’re part of a strong community.” Shantz compared Grebel to a garden in the academic wilderness for our students – a space to make connections, to belong, and to dream about a better world. “The most important things we do at Grebel are the most difficult to measure. They are part of our unwritten curriculum. They are seeds we plant deep in the ground, which will grow in some future season.”

Looking again to the Bible, Shantz quoted advice from Jeremiah to people in exile for generations: “But seek the peace of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its peace you will find your peace.”

“In other words,” Shantz explained, “get involved with the community around you. Plant gardens, and meet your neighbours. Work for the common good of the whole society. Implicate yourselves in its business. Interact. Mix and mingle with the people around you. Work for the common welfare.”

John Milloy and Marcus ShantzKeynote speaker John Milloy, Professor and Director at the Centre for Public Ethics at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, and former Minister of Post-Secondary Education in Ontario, also spoke about the power liberal arts students have to make a difference. “While we encourage training in engineering, science, and business, we also recognize the importance of arts and social sciences degrees, particularly in the current knowledge economy. These subjects go a long way in helping people interpret and analyze the radically changing world around us.”

In a parting remark, Milloy addressed Shantz directly. “Marcus, you have the opportunity to lead an institution whose main focus is to equip students with the knowledge, skills, and sense of purpose needed to change the world. When you think of that way, there really is no better job on earth.”

Shantz is a graduate of Grebel and the University of Waterloo with a BA in History and Religious Studies and a minor in Peace and Conflict Studies. Following a term with Mennonite World Conference in Strasbourg, France, he studied law at the University of Toronto, was called to the Bar in 2002, and practiced at Goodmans LLP in Toronto. Before coming to Grebel in October 2017, Marcus served as President of Mercedes Corp. in St. Jacobs.

As a college affiliated with the University of Waterloo and founded by the Mennonite community, Grebel’s mission is to seek wisdom, nurture faith, and pursue justice and peace in service to church and society.

View the Facebook album of photos from the Installation.

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