New Hesston president brings international perspective

Manickam inaugurated during homecoming

Oct 9, 2017 by and

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HESSTON, Kan. — Even before he made his way to the podium, Joseph A. Manickam got a standing ovation from nearly 650 people gathered for his inauguration as the ninth president of Hesston College on Sept. 23 in Hesston Mennonite Church.

Looking out on the array of faces, Manickam brought his hand to his heart and said, “Sisters and brothers, in case you didn’t tell, my face is red.”

Hesston College faculty member Michele Hershberger, right, prays for President Joseph K. Manickam during the inauguration ceremony. With him are daughter Faith; wife, Wanda; and son Matthew. Surrounding the family are, from left, Amy Nissley Stauffer, pastor of Hesston Mennonite Church; Koyuki Sakamoto, sophomore from Osaka, Japan; Stephanie Yoder, Alumni Association president, Weatherford, Okla.; Kelvin Friesen, board of directors chair, Archbold, Ohio; Carlos Romero, Mennonite Education Agency executive director, Goshen, Ind.; Brent Yoder, vice president of academics; Cindy Loucks, president’s administrative assistant; Michelle Armster, Mennonite Central Committee Central States executive director, North Newton, Kan.; and Kansas Independent College Association representative Amy Bragg Carey, president of Friends University, Wichita, Kan. — Larry Bartel/Hesston College

Hesston College faculty member Michele Hershberger, right, prays for President Joseph K. Manickam during the inauguration ceremony. With him are daughter Faith; wife, Wanda; and son Matthew. Surrounding the family are, from left, Amy Nissley Stauffer, pastor of Hesston Mennonite Church; Koyuki Sakamoto, sophomore from Osaka, Japan; Stephanie Yoder, Alumni Association president, Weatherford, Okla.; Kelvin Friesen, board of directors chair, Archbold, Ohio; Carlos Romero, Mennonite Education Agency executive director, Goshen, Ind.; Brent Yoder, vice president of academics; Cindy Loucks, president’s administrative assistant; Michelle Armster, Mennonite Central Committee Central States executive director, North Newton, Kan.; and Kansas Independent College Association representative Amy Bragg Carey, president of Friends University, Wichita, Kan. — Larry Bartel/Hesston College

A spirit of humor has always accompanied Manickam, said Phil Zehr, Manickam’s professor while at Hesston College.

And, indeed, Manickam’s journey with Hesston began well before he was announced as the presidential candidate of choice last October.

A 1987 Hesston graduate, Man­ickam first came to the college from Thailand, seeking an automotive technology degree.

“I remember his mother asking me, ‘Do you think my Joe can earn a living as a mechanic?’ ” Zehr said. “I replied, ‘Oh yeah, and he can do more.’ ”

Manickam’s journey led him to earn his master’s and doctoral degrees in intercultural studies from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., his bachelor’s degree in communications from Goshen (Ind.) College and an associate degree in automotive technology from Hesston.

Before accepting his new position, Manickam directed the Institute of Religion, Culture and Peace at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Bringing his global perspective and cross-cultural experience to the forefront, Manickam titled his inaugural address “One World to Share.”

“Wanda and I have had the privilege of traveling around the world,” he said. “I’ve traveled to close to 50 countries, and the world is a beautiful place. Don’t believe the lies you see on TV. The truth of it is we have one world to share.”

Manickam acknowledged the diversity of the Hesston College population, now including 1 in 8 students from outside the United States. The inauguration’s key Scripture passage, Matt. 22:23-40, was read in three languages: Amharic, Korean and English. A banner hung above the stage representing all the colors used in flags of the world.

“Today, we must recognize the individual giftings that we bring to the table together to share with one world,” Manickam said. “This is the world that I believe Hesston College is poised to go and engage. We’re doing it already, but there’s more that we can be doing.”

Brent Yoder, vice president of admissions, said Manickam often poses the question, “What does the world need from Hess­ton College?” With so many diverse perspectives, thinking about what Hesston College can do for the world is at the forefront of Manickam’s agenda, Yoder said.

Manickam has already begun to inspire his vision across the campus. Speaking in chapel and campus worship, he continues to expand the worldviews of students and challenge them to be “Grounded in Community [and] Globally Engaged” — the homecoming weekend theme that surrounded the inauguration.

Mackenzie Miller is a Hesston College student intern at MWR.


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  • Rainer Moeller

    ““I remember his mother asking me, ‘Do you think my Joe can earn a living
    as a mechanic?’ ” Zehr said. “I replied, ‘Oh yeah, and he can do more.’

    That’s why I distrust college education. They believe – and teach – that a college president ” does more” than a mechanic.

    In reality, he often does less and it is of less use to mankind. They don’t only stir a sinful pride in their students; it is also a pride which is not grounded in merit.

    Paulus worked as a tentmaker.

    • Philip Zehr

      Rainer, I am the Zehr your are referring to in the inauguration article. I am keenly aware of how our society fails to value those of us that work with our hands. I am the son of a farmer and have worked as a school bus driver, an auto mechanic, an automotive technology instructor, and a locksmith.
      Let me explain what I meant when referring to my comments made to Joe Manickam’s mother after his graduation. Could he make a living as a mechanic? Yes, he could and he did. He was talented working with his hands and was able to apply theoretical knowledge to that work. “and he can do more”. Additionally, Joe possesses good communication skills and exceptional “people” skills.
      All of the skills and talents I have mentioned were given to him as a gift from God. The “more” I was talking about is not putting down his mechanical accomplishments, but an addition too his mechanical talents.
      Heber Ramer and I, Joe’s automotive instructors, honored his automotive background at the inauguration. It is my belief that Joe’s auto mechanic background is a great asset, giving him a diversity that will help him succeed as Hesston College President.

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