If you pass by President Derek Halvorson’s office in Carter and glance in the secretary’s office window, you will see Joan Stanton working hard to organize the busy schedule of Covenant’s beloved president.
What you might not know is that she actually graduated from Covenant. She recently gave me the opportunity to interview her and get a perspective on her experience with Covenant over the years.
She graduated with an Inter-Disciplinary Studies major and a certification to teach, since there wasn’t an education program at Covenant at the time. She “always knew about Covenant, even as a little girl,” Stanton explained, because she grew up in St. Louis, the home of Covenant College during its early years. In high school, she attended a public school, but “Covenant introduced me to a way of thinking about all of life from a Christian perspective.”
When Stanton was a student, Covenant was quite different than today in terms of growth. 500 students were enrolled and Carter was the only building on campus. There was no elevator available to students, making the trip to the fifth floor, where Stanton lived, rather annoying, compared to the ease of travel today. “The food,” Stanton commented, “was not very good and there was little selection...Every evening we had a family-style dinner with assigned seats around a round table. Everyone dressed nicely. ...One or two of the guys would get the food from the kitchen and bring it to the table.” That process ended shortly after her freshman year, but the range of food options remained the same.
Since then, Covenant College has undergone countless changes, which can be largely credited to the president at that time. Joan explained how each president at Covenant has brought different changes to the college, focusing on different intentions and goals based on their backgrounds and values. She observed, “God has used each president to bring in what we needed at that time.” Dr. Brock came in as a businessman, with more of a focus on growing our donor base and campus facilities, while Dr. Neilson sought to grow Covenant’s academics. Stanton shared that one of Dr. Halvorson’s challenges is to seek to maintain and protect the identity and core values of the school.
Despite the many changes Covenant has experienced, its foundation remains solid, keeping the important things intact. In the aftermath of the Mandatory Meal Plan, we can look back and see how Dean Voyles and the administration graciously responded to the cry for justice that followed the first email announcing the change. We can be sure that, whether it be policy changes or radical renovations in Carter Hall, thanks to the diligent efforts of President Halvorson, as well as the rest of the faculty and staff, Covenant College will not stray from the firm foundation of the Gospel and its implications. Stanton remarked that Halvorson “has a difficult job, because as society changes around us, he needs to decide how Covenant will respond. Christians have to stand for what they believe.”
Policies may change, Contract might be adjusted, but we will maintain our foundation in Christ. Of course, we know our natural brokenness means the school will not always make the best decisions, but because our structures and systems are guided by the Word of God, we can trust that the college leadership will, Lord willing, follow the implications of our motto.
As a Student Admissions Representative, I get the regular opportunity to explain to prospective students what makes Covenant different from all the other schools they are considering. I believe that our pursuit of Christ’s preeminence in everything, which specifically applies to maintaining our foundation through the changes of time, makes Covenant entirely unique. We can trust in the institution of Covenant College as a source of spiritual and academic education because this institution strives to stay true to God’s Word—because Covenant’s foundation is set on a Rock.
I believe it is because of our focus on maintaining this foundation that people like Joan Stanton have continued to invest in Covenant College. She explained, “It’s hard to believe that I’ve spent four years as a student, worked for 25 years, and even sent three kids through Covenant. It’s such a big part of my life, and such a unique place. I’m thankful that over the years Covenant has kept true to its mission and vision. I pray that it would continue to live out ‘In All Things Christ Preeminent.’”