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Judson installs Gene C. Crume Jr. as Elgin university’s sixth president

Installatiservice for new president JudsUniversity Gene C. Crume Jr. school's Herrick Chapel.  With Dr. Nate Adams looking Dr. Gene

Installation service for new president of Judson University, Gene C. Crume Jr. in school's Herrick Chapel. With Dr. Nate Adams looking on Dr. Gene Crume Jr. asks for quiet from the crowd. | Joe Cyganowski-For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 26, 2013 6:25AM

ELGIN — As Gene C. Crume Jr. was officially installed as Judson University’s sixth president Thursday afternoon, he talked about the unity symbolized by a folk hymn often sung by Christian youth. And the former president of the college he attended decades ago recalled recognizing the makings of a “star” in Crume while he was still a youth.

The crowded event in Judson’s Herrick Chapel included salutes from Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain and Elgin Community College President David Sam. Then, as all three surviving former Judson presidents and acting presidents (James Didier, Jerry Cain and William Crothers) laid their hands on him, emcee Steven Titus from Iowa Wesleyan College prayed for God’s help in making him a great leader. Finally, Judson Board President Nate Adams and Presidential Search Committee Chairman Carol Thompson made his presidency official by handing him a copy of the university bylaws and hanging a medallion around his neck, suspended from a blue ribbon.

Speaking for only about 10 minutes, Crume said there are three kinds of unity — “crazy unity,” as when people want to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel; the “courageous unity” shown by firefighters and soldiers; and the kind of unity he said he sees in the Christian university that is “based on a desire to serve others rather than ourselves.”

Crume quoted the popular youth hymn, “We will work with each other, we will work side by side, and we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.”

But Crume also showed a sense of humor. He said the men who live in Wilson residence hall have posted a gag video in which they claim to be planning to take over Judson. They warn in the video, “Dr. Crume, we’re coming for you.”

“Well, bring it on, big boys!” Crume said from the pulpit, causing some pew-fuls of Wilson Hall students sitting in the audience to emit loud whoops.

Crume ended his talk with an exchange that has become his buzz word since he arrived on the campus last spring.

“I can’t finish any speech without saying that ‘It’s a great day to be ... ’ ”

“... A JUDSON EAGLE!” students in the audience shouted.

A young star

Thomas Meredith, former president of Crume’s alma mater, Western Kentucky University, said that one great thing about his profession is being able to identify “future stars.” “And when I came to Western Kentucky, Gene Crume’s bright light was shining out,” he said.

Meredith praised Crume’s work ethic, his Christian character and “his easy, natural leadership style.”

“He had an easy way of communicating with people of all ages,” Meredith recalled.

Kaptain said he has met with Crume and that they have made plans to “introduce the students of Judson to the Elgin community” and “intertwine our two organizations.”

“Elgin’s image and reputation are as good as they have been for half a century, and a big part of that is Judson University,” Kaptain said.

Speaking on behalf of the faculty, professor James Halverson told Crume that “your quiet, honest confidence has already begun to transform this institution.”

“Our commitment to Judson is to represent the church at work in higher education,” Halverson said.

Speaking for the student body, Shalina Wozny said, “I would ask you to dream bigger about what the future can hold for Judson after we graduate ... and above all, believe in our abilities, so we can believe in ourselves.”

Judson is celebrating its “Golden Centennial” Founders Days, which will continue on Friday with a convocation featuring Pastor Bill Hybels at 10 a.m. in the chapel and then a luncheon in the Lindner Campus Commons. Tickets for the latter are sold out.

More events Friday

This fall is the 100th anniversary of Judson’s being founded as the undergraduate division of the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Chicago. It is also the 50th anniversary of the college renaming itself “Judson” and moving to Elgin.

Adams said the fact that Judson has gone through only five permanent presidents and one acting one shows both how young the university is and the level of dedication that each of those past presidents had.

Adams recalled that when he married his wife, a man who had been married 65 years came up to him in the receiving line and said, “The first 50 years are the hardest.”

“If that’s true, these gentlemen have already taken care of the hard part for you,” Adams told Crume, referring to the three former presidents on the stage.

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