Thirty four years ago, Victor Stoltzfus served as Goshen College’s 12th president. He now lives with his wife Marie on College Avenue, only meters away from the college that their daughter, President Becky Stoltzfus, is now the face of.
“I’d of told them to take a cold shower and come back to reality,” Vic said, when asked what his reaction would have been, if someone had told him that his daughter would follow in his footsteps and take on the role he once carried. Vic served as president from 1984 to 1996.
Like any parent would admit, both Vic and Marie are proud of Becky’s achievements, but they shy away from taking the credit of her many successes. The pair explain how a parent’s influence is just one of many in a person’s life.
“You will have examples of good parents whose kids make tragic choices and respond to very negative pressures beyond the home,” Vic said. “I don’t think those parents should be made to feel that they own all of that kid’s tragedy. Just like parents whose young folks become a college president or some other important work… don’t have the right to take all the credit in that either.”
A few days before the news of Becky’s appointment was announced, she informed her parents.
“She took us into her confidence a few days before,” Vic said. “We were sworn with blood not to say anything.”
Reflecting on the memories from Vic’s presidency, the couple worried about the difficulties and backlash Becky would face in such a prestigious role.
“I know there will be hard, difficult times,” Marie said. “I have a heartache for that, but that’s part of life.”
But even with a mother’s worry, Marie took comfort after hearing Becky speak at her first convocation in November. Upon hearing her, she realized that her daughter would be OK.
“It was a good feeling,” Marie said. “I don’t need to be worried about this.”
“I felt really good [about] somebody with that breadth and that preparation which was better than my own,” Vic said. “I came in younger than she [is], with less of that kind of upper level admin. experience.”
It’s not just her “wealth of experience” at Cornell that Vic believes will benefit Goshen. It’s also her extended insight in being an alum and a parent to students at the college.
“She has a rather rare skill of deep listening… rather than just constantly spending your mental energy with how you’re going to reply,” Vic said. “Out of that deep listening, she regards that, as a good scientist would, as data.”
According to her parents, Becky’s always had the curiosity of a scientist. They reminisce about a time when this curiosity lingered to a more dangerous experiment.
“We told her that electrical sockets are things that you don’t put metal objects into,” Vic said. “Like any good scientist would, Becky decided to find out the reasoning behind this.”
“So she took a hair pin and of course there was a flash of light and she burnt off part of her skin,” he said.
“At that time I didn’t give it so much a curious thing, but more of a, ‘why did you do that? We told you not to,’” Marie said while laughing. “It was a right and wrong thing [to me] but for her, it was trying to find something out, ‘why did they say this?’”
“She’s more sophisticated in her experiences now,” Vic added.
One would think, that this past weekend’s inaugural event would have been another chance for the couple to reminisce about Vic’s own inauguration.
However, the former president stated that rather than being “submerged in nostalgia for 1984, I was very much pulled forward by the excellent planning and the performance.”
Maire explained how both of Becky’s sisters intended to be at the event, but Malinda was unable to make it after catching the flu. Instead she was able to watch the livestream.
“She was just so thrilled by what she saw,” Marie said. “She just wished that she could have been here.”
In terms of advice for their daughter, the couple explain the importance of time management for the work she has to carry out, as well as time dedicated to herself and family.
“You need to learn in new situations,” Vic said. “She needs to be attentive in how much fits within one day.”