Beeksma Theology Center dedication and Storm Family Dean of Spiritual Life installment

Rachel Ayres | Staff Writer

Whitworth recently celebrated the installation of Forrest Buckner as the Storm Family Dean of Spiritual Life and the dedication of the new Beeksma Family Theology Center.

On October 11, 2018, President Beck Taylor appeared in his academic regalia at the regular 11 a.m. chapel service for the ceremony.

Taylor installed Buckner, and the Reverends Dr. Nancy Fox and Dr. Peter Barns presented him with a plaque and a medal. Taylor said that this deanship is a first of its kind across christian universities in the nation.

After the installation ceremony, Buckner led regular chapel services.

“[I] didn't get all dressed up here for nothing, we are here to worship our living God today,” said Buckner, also in academic regalia.

The Whitworth Choir performed and lead worship, and communion was served. After the service, Taylor, Buckner, and others took pictures with the donors of the endowment, alumni Anne and Kim Storm.

“I hope [our gift] brings front and center the belief and understanding of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,” said Kim Storm.

The Storms’ endowment will cover the salary of the dean of spiritual life, which allots other funds to extend the work and outreach of campus ministry, said Buckner.

“One of the things that the Storms really care about is that students have opportunities to take steps closer to Jesus,” said Buckner. “They care about helping campus ministry have more what we call boots on the ground, more people who can be Christian witnesses and pastoral witnesses on this campus.”

The couple has promised a gift of $3 million to be endowed.

With every Whitworth endowment, the money is invested a year before use, said Buckner. “Starting July of 2019 is when funds from this endowment will be able to be accessed to increase campus ministry efforts,” said Buckner.

Later in the afternoon, the dedication was held for the Beeksma Family Theology Center.   

The new addition houses the offices of Church Engagement, the theology department, and campus ministry. Staff and faculty members moved into the space at the beginning of September.

Before the new building, these departments were all separated. For example, the theology department was in the basement of Westminster.

“You were at the edge of campus, down below. You were just kind of sequestered away from campus and felt kind of distant from things,” said Keith Beebe, the chair of the theology department.

Multiple generations of the Beeksma family were present for the ceremony which included a prayer of blessing, recognition towards all who made the project possible and a special video thanking the Beeksmas.

Barney and Joyce Beeksma are the primary donors for this project. The couple met while attending Whitworth and graduated in 1954. Many of their children and grandchildren have attended the university over the years and a son-in-law is currently on the board of trustees.

“[The Beeksmas] gave the major $1.5 million gift that really got the project off the ground. It was a $2.8 million project so there were many other generous donors who filled in the rest of that, but over half was them,” said Buckner.

With their gift, the Beeksmas have clearly expressed the importance of keeping Christ always at the center. “When they announced the award…[Barney Beeksma] turned to us and said ‘always keep Christ at the center,’” said Beebe.

Symbolically, that focus is expressed in the location of the building being in the center of the campus and in the mission of the departments housed in the building.

“This is Whitworth at this time and at this place saying, ‘Oh, no no no, we are not going to go the route of the other universities and colleges, some of which who used to be strongly promoting a Christian mission and aren’t doing that anymore. We intend to maintain that mission and we have got a symbolic center to convey that.’ Bricks and mortar to say we are putting our money where our mouths are at,” said Beebe.

To get involved with campus ministries, Church Engagement, and the theology department, students can visit the offices now housed in the Beeksma Center.