Given by Multnomah's President
Dr. Joseph C. Aldrich
February 20, 2009
It is my great privilege to speak of Dr. Joe’s impact on Multnomah University.
Dr. Joe Aldrich served as Multnomah’s third president for nineteen years. As his successor, I believe it is impossible to overestimate his imprint on this institution both then and now.
When Dr. Joe became president in 1978, he was God’s man for God’s time. When he arrived, Multnomah stood at a generational crossroads between a School of the Bible of the 30’s and what it is now becoming in the 21st century, a university. Joe walked the narrow tightrope between the past and the future, negotiating the tricky winds of change that were swirling around our culture and blowing through the church. It was a challenging task which he shouldered with grace, courage, and class.
It is tempting to summarize his influence through listing some of his tangible accomplishments.
- He built Multnomah’s Mitchell library and the Scruggs married student housing.
- He envisioned and launched Multnomah Biblical Seminary, and oversaw its accreditation.
- He pioneered the pastor’s prayer summits, and shepherded them into a movement that became International Renewal Ministries.
But his impact is so much more than that. Joe came to the presidency with youth and vigor, with vision and energy, with passion and perception. He helped us in the Multnomah community to define what authentic biblical education and professional pastoral training would be for the next generation. In a word, he gave all of us hope for what we could become and that we could make a difference.
But Dr. Joe not only showed us how to be God’s man for God’s time, he was a man who embodied powerful leadership gifts with unprecedented personal piety.
And, oh my, what amazing gifts he had! He could move you to tears with his sermons and stories. He could cast a vision that would electrify you and charge your batteries. He could motivate people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds to follow Christ and become more like him. And he could roll up his sleeves, change the oil of his neighbor’s car while telling him about the Savior.
What amazing gifts! And believe me, his successor has often envied such gifts.
But Dr. Joe was a paradoxical blend of professional leadership gifts and personal humility.
In the early 90s, a Christian leader of a national reputation and a close friend of Joe’s became furious with him. A meeting was called; people from both sides gathered. For thirty minutes, this man delivered to Dr. Joe face to face the harshest of criticisms. And Dr. Joe’s response? He simply said, “Well, I don’t walk on water.” He gave no rebuke, no venom, no self-defensiveness. Instead he worked to destroy that wall of hostility, seeking to reach across the rubble to restore a ruptured relationship.
When Parkinson’s struck his body, Dr. Joe modeled to us how to accept from the hand of the same Lord both prosperity and adversity. Joe told me that many pastors, with the best of intentions, asked if they could lay hands on him and pray for him to be healed. And Joe never turned one away. But he said to me, “Dan, I know in my heart, that this is what the Lord has for me.”
I once asked Joe what he missed most about being sidelined from public ministry. He looked at me for a long time in silence. Then, with tears in his eyes, he said, “I asked the Lord to give me one hour—just one hour—when I could stand before an auditorium full of people, open the word of God, and preach again with power and passion. But I know I never will.”
I will not remember Joe Aldrich for the buildings he built, the books he wrote, the students he taught, the sermons he preached, the prayers he prayed, or even the remarkable gifts he possessed.
Nor should you.
Rather, I will remember Joe Aldrich as a man who was willing to be God’s man for God’s time, shouldering the unrelenting mantle of the presidency like a champion. I will remember Joe as a servant-leader who wrapped powerful leadership gifts in the clothing of personal humility. I will remember Joe Aldrich as a man who taught us what it means to live a life truly devoted to the Lord.
And above all I will remember Joe as a mentor and friend who showed me how to finish well to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.