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Thousands gather for Adventist university celebration in Indonesia

“Reflecting on 50 Years of Excellence in Education”

On Thursday, October 15 at around 7 in the evening local Manado, Indonesia time, international audiences on-site and via web stream watched history unfold through narrated accounts and wonderful music from the stage of Mount Klabat University (UNKLAB). Students, teachers and alumni recounted memories as they celebrated the 50th anniversary of this Adventist educational institution in east Indonesia.

The three-day celebration highlighted the school’s beginning, history and UNKLAB’s founding leaders. Paul Emerson, then a pastor in east Indonesia, took the attendees down memory lane as he shared his involvement in the purchase of the land where the University campus now stands. That important decision by the Adventist church made it possible for UNKLAB to register 29 students on October 3, 1965.

During its first year of operation, UNKLAB students and activities made quite an impression in the neighboring communities. An archived excerpt from the November 1966 issue of the Far Eastern Division Outlook records community reactions as follows:

"What kind of college is this?" asked the townspeople as every afternoon all of the students (men and women) mounted shovels, picks, and hoes on their shoulders and paraded through town to the new land for work. Respect grew as new gardens and the beginnings of a new campus took shape. All students have paid part or all of their expenses through the work program, and, though a bit tiring and disagreeable at first, they began to look forward to this experience as enjoyable and profitable.

"It seems they are always singing," commented others. It is true, and this year the choir contributed much to evangelistic services wherein were baptized 152 souls, as well as to other meetings and occasions. Often they walked several miles in the evening to lend their assistance.

The article’s author, Edward W. Higgins Jr., who served as the first president from 1965 to 1974, was in attendance at the celebration. He came with his wife, Janice and their eldest son, Douglas, and his wife. UNKLAB’s third president John Pesulima and his wife, Lies; UNKLAB’s 5th president Sinjo J Laoh who is also currently an UNKLAB professor, and UNKLAB’s 6th president, Alfrits B Sepang also attended.

Over 7000 worshipers filled the school campus on Sabbath during which Dr. Hudson Kibuuka, associate education director for the Adventist world church, spoke for the hour of worship. He noted not only UNKLAB’s historical impact but its missional significance as well.

Dr. Ronny Walean, Academic Dean, shares the mission of the school by saying, “[it] prepares…students to have employability skills and entrepreneurship capability that uphold the ethical concept and [are] in line with the mission of the Adventist church.”

“UNKLAB is committed to equipping the students with Christian values, knowledge, and skills for the joy of service here and hereafter,” agrees Dean of Students, Dr. Joppi Rondonuwu.

When asked where some alumni are now serving, Rondonowu proudly shared, “Thousands of UNKLAB alumni are now working as pastors, teachers, secretaries, accountants, entrepreneurs, bankers, IT personnel, nurses, engineers, and many others serve Indonesia and the Adventist church worldwide.”

Rondonuwu also emphasized that the school believes in building good relationships, student involvement in activities and a strong alumni association.  

The comprehensive focus on personal, spiritual and outreach development began in 1965 continues today as UNKLAB looks to nurture new generations of students.

There are currently 3244 university students (undergraduate and graduate) at UNKLAB; and 1339 elementary, middle, and high school students. Fifty-two per cent of the student population is Adventist. The regular teaching staff numbers 112 while there are 55 non-regular staff and teachers.

[Gay Deles with additional reporting by Joppi Rondonuwu]

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