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New beginnings

O' BrienThe pendulum has swung. The calendar has cast off its days and the Crossbearers Session has arrived at Crestmont College. They were preceded by one day by the return of the Ambassadors of Grace Session. Most people don’t understand that the training school continues to be a very busy place during the summer, but with the return of cadets, the sun breaks through and there’s a feeling that the world is right again.

So much is very different now. Not since 1975 has there been such tremendous change at the training school. That was the year the School for Officers Training relocated to Crestmont from San Francisco. In 1974, I had attended the welcome meetings for cadets in San Francisco and then left to do my first year of training in London. During the year I was gone, a decision was made to move to Los Angeles. I didn’t hear about that until I returned the next summer as a cadet-lieutenant. I sort of felt like the kid who went to the store and while he was gone, the family moved without telling him.

I doubt that anybody’s been in the dark about the changes this time around. This summer THQ moved to its new headquarters in Long Beach. Not until their departure could the work begin to physically open up this campus to its full potential as an educational center. Immediately, offices that had been used for finance and legal affairs were transformed into a wonderful lecture room and classrooms for continuing education. Offices were reconfigured to support the new Crestmont College organizational needs with a School for Officer Training, School for Continuing Education and a Business department to service both schools. The officers finally moved into their new offices to unpack on a Monday and the first cadets arrived three days later on Thursday. If you can believe it, everyone stayed remarkably upbeat and enthusiastic about what was going on.

This week the first session of the LEADS program will begin in the Richard Holz Conference Center ­ a long-awaited return to the purposes for which the building had been dedicated. In the next few months, boxes long hidden will be unpacked and the contents displayed in the Crestmont museum that will be located in our education building, in close proximity to our library and cadet classrooms. About the same time, the Supplies and Purchasing Department will reclaim the building originally built for it and take on additional responsibilities as the campus bookstore.

These physical changes give only a faint impression of the dramatic organizational changes that are occurring. Tremendous human resources have been committed to the development of Crestmont College. An equally impressive financial commitment has also been made to ensure the success of Crestmont College. I cannot adequately describe–or perhaps even imagine–all that Crestmont College will eventually become. But the concept of a flexible, pro-active, education and training program that is consistent with and supportive of the mission of the Army and the territory’s vision is one we have embraced. We now have a college President, a Dean of the School for Officer Training, a Dean of the School for Continuing Education and a Dean of Business Administration. These are no superficial appointments. This represents a commitment to structural change.

There has been a commitment to excellence. Last June the first component of the Bachelor of Arts degree programs was launched. The adjunct faculty assembled by Crestmont College included Dr. Denny VanderWeele of Occidental College, Dr. Gordon Coulter, Dr. Pat Brandt and Mr. Gary LeMaster of Azusa Pacific University, Dr. Roy Jeal and Dr. Dwight Cuff of William and Catherine Booth College, Dr. Jerry Mercer and Dr. Don Boyd of Asbury Seminary. All of the instructors have a close association with The Salvation Army and share a similar faith group orientation. Among them are active Salvationists. Selection of staff will always be prioritized to include qualified officers, soldiers and friends of the Army.

There has been a commitment to practical concerns. If Crestmont College is to be viable, it must provide officers, soldiers, employees and friends of the Army education and training programs that are faster, better, and cheaper than other programs. It will be faster, because it will be consistent and reliable. The education of officers is particularly susceptible to disruption and delay with any transfer. A degree undertaken at Crestmont can be completed in a timely fashion. Better, because the training programs will be developed and evaluated based on their relevance to our Salvation Army mission and vision. Cheaper, because we will not be paying for the maintenance and development of another’s institution. Crestmont College fees are an investment in a growth fund for our future.

There has been a commitment to renewal. A Crestmont steering committee, chaired by the chief secretary, Colonel Phil Needham, undertook initial substantive deliberations about the Army’s needs. Shortly, a formal proposal to constitute a diverse, representative, deliberative Crestmont College Council will be considered. It is likely to include members of The Salvation Army’s corporate board, Crestmont College staff, and representative officers and soldiers from across the territory. In addition, there will be individuals from the current College Board of Advisors whose function it is to consider community issues and give advice relative to the practical concerns of the college.

This is not an ephemeral dream. Crestmont College is already a fully accredited member of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Our staff, facilities and courses already meet or exceed the same standards for quality education as any of the western state colleges offering lower division degrees. The process for adding upper division degree programs will follow a natural process requiring several years. But we do not become Crestmont College when that certification is achieved. We have been and continue to be the first fully accredited college in The Salvation Army.

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