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A Salute to Veterans

Bill Bridges, founding professor of Communications and Retired Ohio Air National Guard Chaplain, fondly looks back on his time on campus and shares with us the value and importance of our motto, established by Founding President Stephen W. Nease — “To Seek To Learn Is To Seek To Serve” and its relevance today as well honor our veterans.

Mount Vernon Nazarene University was founded while the Vietnam War was still in full swing in the late 1960s. It was seen by many as almost foolhardy to start a new college at that time since most existing institutions of higher learning were rife with protests, shootings, burnings, and indescribable anger against the war. Veterans returning from the war zone were themselves met consistently with disrespect and name-calling; were spat on, and often personally attacked as if they themselves were responsible for all that was being challenged.

In the midst of all this, a working farm and cornfield in a small city in central Ohio was being transformed into a fledgling college associated with The Church of the Nazarene, a conservative denomination proclaiming that every Christian has a calling to serve. The founding president, Stephen W. Nease, challenged all who would hear with a profound motto, that in this place “To Seek To Learn Is To Seek To Serve.” From that inauspicious beginning, MVNU has sent into the world thousands of young men and women saturated with the concept of lifelong serving, not simply helping out, but a convincing lifestyle of living beyond yourself.

This writer was privileged to be a part of those founding years, and oddly enough while serving as a teaching professor on a college campus was also a member of the United States Air Force Reserve — a front-row seat to all that was happening. Returning members of the military began to find their way to the campus as students.  Many waited for the social uprising and explosion of high-temperature emotions, which never happened.  Instead, from my seat, I witnessed and heard from veterans, from faculty, students, and administration a profound respect and acceptance of these men and women who had laid their lives on the line for nameless others. MVNU became for them a place to belong, a family which some of them did not have. Some examples might include: 

  • The Vietnam veteran who came to school, married, went into a lifetime of full-time ministry.

  • A prior-service Navy veteran who came to MVNU, married a student who had waited for him, re-enlisted in the Air National Guard where he served until retirement, and after graduation returned to MVNU as an administrator! He never heard, experienced, or saw any kind of disrespect.

  • A veteran of the Korean War who as a young meteorologist knew nothing about salvation, but was led to Christ by fellow Navy personnel, came home and attended another Nazarene college, where he met his wife, entered the ministry, and in later years as a district superintendent was a member of the MVNU Board of Trustees!

  • A student, called to the ministry while at MVNU, chose the United States Navy where he excelled as a career chaplain!

  • And this writer was invited to speak in chapel in uniform on Veterans Day to describe the function of a military chaplain and to honor veterans in the student body as well as faculty/administration.

It is obvious that from whatever perspective one chooses, MVNU has always been not only receptive, but welcoming to those who have served and encouraging to those who wish to spend their lives in military service.  There is no record of any occasion when any veteran has ever suffered verbal or physical abuse at MVNU because of his/her service! It appears to go back to the inspiring challenge of Dr. Nease: “To Seek To Learn Is To Seek To Serve.” The area of service will vary, for graduates have departed and made their mark in multitudes of ways. There have been ministers, teachers, doctors, nurses, business leaders, missionaries, military leaders, and the list seems ad infinitum, all united to serve, all following the flame!

Today at the campus entrance there are three flag poles with three distinct flags: the Christian flag, the MVNU banner, and waving high is the flag of the United States of America. MVNU is dedicated to the Lord Himself, to the Godly principles on which MVNU was founded, and to the principles of freedom under which we live in this our land. May it always be true!

To MVNU, we say, “You started this, just keep it up!” And, to all of you serving scattered around the globe, in uniform, in scrubs, in blue jeans or suits we say, “Well done! We salute you!”

William H. “Bill” Bridges
Founding Professor of Communication, MVNU (Ret)
Chaplain, Colonel, USAFRes/Ohio Air National Guard (Ret)
State Chaplain, Ohio Air National Guard (Ret)
Air National Guard Assistant to Command Chaplain, United States Air Force, Tactical Air Command (Ret)