Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How I got on VPL's "A-List"

Echo Ranch
(If you're still looking for the soccer reunion post, just scroll down below this one!)

The other part of my birthday celebration over in DeLand involved visiting my great friends at "Echo Ranch". Here is the cliff-notes version of our history:

I met Linda Davis in England in 1975. We travelled Europe together with YWAM (see a couple of key chapters from "The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian" for more on that experience!). Later, she joined me and my friend John Hess when we organized and led an epic two-month Appalachian Trail hike in 1976 (more on that in the same book).

Long story short - Linda introduced me to Stetson University. Her amazingly cool parents - Harold and Rabel Parson - made their home (Echo Ranch) available to me as a safe haven and retreat center during my undergraduate years. Later, they loved Rebekah immediately and generously, and we have remained close all through the years.

The old farmhouse at Echo Ranch
They're both pushing 90 now, but belie their age in every way possible. Most convincingly, both Harold and Rabel have the hearts of lions and the spirits of twenty-five-year-olds. They're active in the Presbyterian Church, are recognized as cornerstones of university life, and rival the chamber of commerce as enthusiastic supporters of the community. Rabel plays church organs all over the county, Harold attends every imaginable sporting contest the university can conjure, and together they grace pretty-much every conceivable cultural event within the radius of Stetson's reach.

Between them, Harold and Rabel Parson pretty much define DeLand and Stetson University.

"VPL" at the Garden Party
My friend Linda and her husband, Mike, live in the old farmhouse on Echo Ranch. I always stay there when I visit. It's a slice of traditional old Florida sitting on 30-acres in the middle of rampant development. The place is as much a haven today as it was when I first walked up the long driveway in 1976.

Stetson = a jewel of a campus:
Linda, who has been working with Stetson University over three decades, is the institution's vice-president for University Relations. In that role, she has been responsible for bringing in tens (and probably hundreds) of millions of dollars for the endowment, capital funds, and general revenues.

Elizabeth Hall
The result is a stunning campus, a vibrant learning community, a state of the art mission, one of the strongest academic programs in the Southeast, and a core values initiative that's both groundbreaking and visionary.

"I went to a Garden Party" -
In terms of net worth (remember, I'm a freelance writer, with the emphasis on "free"...) I'm not generally first on most people's list of high-profile invitees when it comes to events such as garden parties with the president. But I'm on the "A-list" when it comes to VPL (that's vice-president Linda!), so on Saturday morning I sampled great food, listened to live chamber-music, and got to hobnob with the swells on President Libby's pristine lawn. Nice.

University Entrance at Elizabeth Hall
So, thanks VPL, and "Nice to meet you", Wendy Pres. The old alma mater seems to be in good hands.

I spent the balance of my morning wandering the campus. It's always been a beautiful location, but the past few years have seen an acceleration in renovation and landscaping. So I'll conclude today's post with a series of pictures. In order: The front entry and Elizabeth Hall; The Student Union; Flagler Hall (Where I studied psychology) and Sampson Hall. Check the place out one day... send your next child... sponsor a scholarship - you'll be glad you did.
Student Union Building (enter for a great coffee house)
Flagler Hall
Sampson Hall

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