Michael T. Nixon
Over the last few weeks I have been delighted to get to know an individual who will become an integral part of the senior leadership team at Andrews University. His resume spoke to some of his life priorities and his accomplishments, and that was encouraging. But it is Michael Nixon as a person, his story, that I will share with the campus community today as I want you to meet the person I have met over the last few weeks: Caring, passionate, faithful, hopeful, determined and thoughtful. You will have much more of an opportunity to meet Michael as he takes up his position as Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion on August 1; however, in the meantime, here is a window into the story of our newest vice president. In 2009, Michael graduated from Andrews University. Up to that point, his life had been comparatively sheltered within the Seventh-day Adventist community, though he had enjoyed some diverse experiences during his college years, studying at Antillean University (Puerto Rico), Oakwood University (Alabama) and then Andrews. However, upon his graduation he decided to broaden his horizons and step out of his comfort zone. This journey took him as an AmeriCorps worker to a Catholic university, through law school, involved him with work for immigrant populations and ended with his role as a civil rights attorney in New York, specifically in the arena of fair housing. Those are the facts, but behind those facts is the story of an individual who has had to face challenging decisions on his faith commitment and his choice of priorities. In making his choices, Michael’s passion for his faith has deepened, and so has his understanding and commitment to equity and inclusion. In the last few years he has shown unequivocally that when it comes to faith and career, faith must come first. And when he has chosen where to walk it has been to walk alongside the disadvantaged, rather than where he might find visible personal success. Please do take the opportunity to get to know Michael better through his own words, as he shares his story through the lens of a critical moment in his life. Read his story in Stories of Andrews. Thank you, Michael, for taking the step to join us at Andrews University and share with us your skills, talents and passion for faith and diversity. You represent the spirit of Andrews and we welcome you to our—and your—campus!
Teela Shawn Ruehle
Desperate and terrified cries ring out in the night. I hear them before I see them, and my eyes scour the coastline to locate the raft where the cries are coming from. It’s 30 degrees on the coast of Lesbos Greece and under the protection of the dark, raft after raft of infants, children, elderly and adults wash ashore. Roughly 1,800 refugees arrive nightly—Syrians who have traveled through Turkey escaping certain death in their homeland.
As Teela Ruehle, associate dean of University Towers, recounts this story to me I sit enraptured, overwhelmed with the picture she paints of the desperation and hope of a people running for their lives. Teela recounts that after seeing the deep need of these people, she canceled her Christmas vacation plans, bought a ticket to Greece and spent two weeks helping independent humanitarian groups care for displaced refugees on this portion of their journey.
Nightly, she would walk miles of the coastline watching for rafts and helping people to safety. One night she could see the intermittent light of a raft from afar and tracked it for hours while aiding other refugees to shore. Finally the raft washed ashore empty. She stood speechless at the site, honoring the lives of those refugees lost at sea.
Teela, thank you for letting your story be part of the Andrews Story, for showing us an example of compassion, empathy and care for humankind. You and your story are part of the spirit of Andrews.
Read more of Teela’s story by visiting Stories of Andrews at andrews.edu/stories.
Also, consider attending the conference on “Mission in an Era of Migrants and Refugees” here at Andrews University, Sept. 13-16. For information, visit nadei.org.