Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

God is doing a new thing

Deana Porterfield inaugurated as SPU’s 12th president
Seattle Pacific University President Dr. Deana Porterfield smiles after her inauguration ceremony at the First Free Methodist Church on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in Seattle.
(Rio Giancarlo)

Applause thundered through the First Free Methodist Church as Deana Porterfield, first female president of Seattle Pacific University, accepted the Presidential Medallion from Chair of the Board of Trustees Dean Kato.

One hour earlier, around 500 attendees crowded into pews — alumni and staff embracing old friends, students settling in the balcony, choir members shifting at the front. On the first warm notes of Leslie Martin’s “Entrata Festiva,” faculty in full regalia paraded into the chapel. Professor of Philosophy Leland Saunders led the way, holding the university mace.

The mace, adorned with the SPU’s academic seal, according to the inaugural program handed to attendees upon entry, is a physical symbol of the responsibility and authority the university president holds.

Vice Chair of the Board Deborah Wilds read Isaiah 43:15-19, the foundation of Porterfield’s chosen theme for the 2023-24 year: God is doing a new thing.


Forget the former things;

     do not dwell on the past.


See, I am doing a new thing!

     Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

    and streams in the wasteland.

Douglas Cullum, pastoral representative, reflected on Porterfield as a friend in work and faith. Describing her as full of “freshness, candor and precision,” Cullum brought Porterfield herself to tears with numerous blessings and tender expressions of appreciation.

“May the Lord bless you,” he finished, moving to embrace the new president.

Representatives of the board, faculty, staff, students and alumni then pledged to support and pray for Porterfield. On being presented the presidential medallion, Porterfield mouthed “Thank you, thank you” to all those standing and applauding her.

When people took their seats, Porterfield approached the podium to address the SPU community for the first time as the official university president.

She thanked the faculty of SPU, the board of trustees and her friends and family for their support in an opportunity to serve the university. Porterfield, with heartfelt emotion, thanked students last, holding back another round of tears.  

“And to our students – the heartbeat of who we are. You are why we are here. Thank you for being here during a busy time in the quarter,” Porterfield said. 

Porterfield’s address focused on how the university can overcome tensions among the campus community – alluding to, but not explicitly naming the recent lawsuit brought against the board of trustees and on-campus activism to protest the university’s human sexuality statement.

“As I have thought about my comments for this morning, I have been reminded time and again of the tension of an internal community in need of healing,” Porterfield said, “and an external community watching to see who we are and what we will become.”

Earlier, as attendees entered the doors of the church, they were first greeted by a small group of students handing out masks and pride flags. Inside, a row of students held them close.

Martina Daly, senior music education major, sang in the choir and appreciated Porterfields’s acknowledgement of campus atmosphere. 

“I don’t feel comfortable speaking about the tensions of the university, but I do like that she addressed it openly, that she desires to have a positive change and to come together with the community to move forward together,” Daly said.

Porterfield spoke on character education at SPU in her speech.

“Character education really embodies the ability to hold different views, and have complicated conversations, and still care for each other,” Porterfield said. 

Becky Gilman, an SPU alumnus, was part of the Presidential Search Committee that landed on Porterfield as SPU’s 12th.

“The speech was quintessential Dr. Porterfield,” Gillman said. “When we interviewed her, she was powerful and fresh. I think that the success of SPU relies on its distinction as a Christian university, and I think she will help propel that forward. I’m very hopeful.”

Porterfield’s address was followed by a performance of “He Will Hold Me Fast,” a hymn she personally requested. 

“It’s such a beautiful, soothing, comforting song about being in the presence of God and God really holding on to us, no matter what the circumstances,” Porterfield said. 

Choir members, all students, filled the chapel with song and awe. 

“It was a very unique experience,” said Adam Haagenson, a soloist for the piece. “It’s a powerful way to worship.”

The entire audience joined choir members in singing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” to preface the benediction, given by dean of the school of theology Brian Lugioyo. Hands — wrinkled and smooth, wavering and still, palm out and palm in — extended towards Porterfield at Lugioyo’s request in an act of support and prayer.

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About the Contributors
Ella Beth Sessions
Ella Beth Sessions, News Editor
Ella Beth is a second year english literature and honors liberal arts double major with a minor in journalism. She occasionally finds time to pursue her hobbies, which include reading, biking and crafting.
Rio Giancarlo
Rio Giancarlo, Chief Photographer
Rio is a sophomore visual communication major with a minor in photography. Rio manages a team of photographers and illustrators to supply content for the greater SPU media groups. Before he took his current position he worked as a staff photographer, mostly covering sports. When not working for The Falcon he works for the SPU athletic department and as a freelance photographer. In his free time you can find him skiing, or wishing he was skiing. 
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