In India, Spicer University teaches mission, compassion on 100th birthday

News February 3, 2015

India’s Spicer Adventist University stayed true to its mission during five days of 100th-anniversary celebrations, setting aside a day to train 500 pastors and gathering community leaders for a meeting where Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson underscored the importance of showing compassion toward those in need.

The university, founded by U.S. missionary Gentry G. Lowry in 1915 with a mission to equip Bible workers and literature evangelists, used the festivities to reflect on its humble origins and to praise God for its growth into a powerful force for sharing Jesus in the Adventist Church’s Southern Asia Division and beyond.

“This is a huge milestone for Spicer Adventist University and takes the institution and the Southern Asia Division to a new level of commitment and responsibility for evangelistic outreach,” Wilson said Monday.

Dozens of local and church leaders descended on the university in the city of Pune for the celebrations, which ended Sunday. Among the guests were the influential governor of India’s Maharashtra state and senior leaders from the Southern Asia Division, which includes India, and the General Conference based in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The weekend marked the highlight of the program, with Wilson preaching to a crowd topping 2,000 people on Sabbath and meeting at the hotel Hyatt on Sunday evening with a group of several hundred people, including civic, educational, business, and health leaders, from Pune, India’s seventh-largest city with a population of more than 6 million.

“I was asked to speak to this unusual group of leaders coming from many religious backgrounds, including Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Jewish and Christian beliefs,” Wilson said by e-mail. “I emphasized the need for humility and selflessness to accomplish good things for humanity. I used references in Proverbs and focused on Christ’s humility outlined in Philippians 2.”

Wilson added, “Even though there were many non-Christians in the audience, the Holy Spirit used the message to reach many.”

On Friday, Wilson gave the keynote speech for “Pastors’ Day,” a day of mission-focused training seminars for a group of 500 pastors. Other speakers included Gary Krause, director of Adventist Mission at the General Conference, and Rick McEdward, director of the church’s Global Mission Center.

Spicer, the Adventist Church’s 66th educational institution, began with three faculty members, including Lowry as principal, and 27 students in July 1915, the same month that church co-founder Ellen G. White died in the United States, David Trim, the Adventist Church’s chief archivist, noted in a news commentary about the school published in the Adventist Review last week.

Spicer has since grown to 1,173 students, 132 faculty members, and 132 other staff. The school, which received university status last year but is still often referred to by its old name, Spicer Memorial College, is named after William A. Spicer, one of the first Adventist missionaries to India and a former General Conference president.

Spicer president Justus Devadas said the people of Pune have recognized the school as a “campus with a difference”

“Today, Spicer Memorial College, a recognized Christian minority institution with a distinctive educational philosophy and academic program, continues to be the flagship of Adventist education in Southern Asia,” Devadas said in prepared remarks for the anniversary. “The college continues to strive to uphold its vision of inculcating its graduates with commitment to unselfish service to God and fellow beings. The faculty strives to adequately equip students with the requirements of a decent life in this world and for citizenship in the world to come.”

Other anniversary events at Spicer included an ordination service, the release of several books, and the staging of a play recounting how God has led the university over the past 100 years. A public ceremony on Sunday featured the governor of the state of Maharashtra, Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao. He spoke warmly of Spicer and its contribution to India.

Also, a university centennial project was inaugurated and dedicated on each of the five days. Among them werethe Gethsemane Prayer Garden, the Marathi Church, and the $2.4 million Management and Computer Science Building.

“We praise God,” Wilson said of the celebrations. “He blessed in a tremendous manner.”