Today Legacy Institute had the pleasure of an extended visit from a young woman (probably in her early thirties by this point) who had taught in about 2003-2004, had a master’s degree in biomedical science, and is studying international medicine at a medical school in Beersheba, Israel, though she is from Texas. She had been in the country after doing some volunteer work for Habitat For Humanity in Cambodia, and watched a few classes. Her visit reminded me that I know little about the teachers that have come before me at Legacy, how many they have been, what they have done, and what sort of international experience they had before or after Thailand—though the more I know the more cosmopolitan as a group Legacy teachers seem.
I sometimes muse about the difference between the sense of legacy that exists from Legacy Institute and those of other educational institutions I have been involved with. I did not have any great connection to my schools growing up, for though they had histories (some, like Cork Elementary School, founded in 1867, very long histories), I did not feel enough a part of the local society to care about the two-bit schools there full of rude and obnoxious children. When I went to the University of Southern California, I was aware of the university’s noble history (ironically enough, as a private nonsectarian religious university), but the school’s history as a Christian institution did not seem to have any influence on the way in which the school behaved, either as students or as an academic institution, and not least in the corrupt way its athletic program behaved.
The Ambassador Bible Center has only been around since 2000, and I was a part of its 2004 class. Despite the newness of the institution, I feel a certain tie and a connection to its legacy, and I have promoted the institution myself at meetings where prospective students came to hear alumni and instructors. I am a strong supporter of solid and deep religious education, I am fond of Bible study, and I like the equipping of people to become leaders in biblical understanding in their home congregations. I therefore support such institutions as I have attended that share those personal aims.
I have attended two graduate schools, and I have a different understanding of their legacy. I received my first master’s degree from the University of South Florida, a university that despite a recent history (I believe it was founded in 1960, several years after my mom’s birth) is an up-and-coming public university within the state. For me, the University of South Florida ws not only a place where I got a master’s degree, but also during my high school years rather like my public library, besides being the place where IB exams were held at the end of my senior year, in May of 1999. Nonetheless, as the university has little reputation in the outside world it has not been one I have had occasion to comment on greatly with others, despite its importance as a community bastion within the city of Tampa.
On the other hand, I was a remote graduate student from my second graduate school, Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, only attending there physically during the week of residency preceeding my graduation in June of 2010. Norwich, despite its moderately remote location, is a university with a great deal of cachet, especially as it was the first private and nonmilitary engineering school in the entire United States. The fact that Norwich started a boom of private military academies that has remained particularly important in the South (see VMI and the Citidel), and remains attached to its tradition of duty and honor, and one whose pull is international in scope, given its profound interest in the military arts, and one understands why such a university would interest me.
For me, the age and tradition of an institution are important, but more important are the ways in which the influence of that institution has spread and and wide as well as the ways in the which the institution has remained loyal to those principles that attracted me in the first place. A school that pays lip service to noble standards but engages in corruption will not retain my loyalty and respct. On the other hand, a university that is noble and even generous will have little cause for me to praise it if it remains obscure and unknown (and disrespected) by others.
Part of the way in which a legacy is formed for an institution is by allowing for past members and participants in the institution to keep in touch with each other, to speak highly of its actions, and to show a continued awareness and interest in its activities. By such means an institution of learning expands beyond its origins and develops roots, like an oak tree, able to provide shade for a wide area and enough acorns to feed many squirrels—even the nutters on the campus of USF in Tampa. A sense of history, a sense of shared identity, a sense of worth and of purpose, a sense of nobility and a sense of involvement all help institutions leave a lasting and positive legacy in the lives of others, and in the networks that others form. Let us hope that we can all build legacies of our own that allow our own memory, and our own works, to endure long after we are gone.