Dr. Jonathan Parapak, Rector of the Universitas Pelita Harapan in Lippo Karawaci, Indonesia, spent three days on campus meeting with faculty, touring the facilities, and finally addressing the audience at Commencement on Saturday, May 3, 2008. He was given an honorary professorship as Corban faculty prior to his Commencement message.
When Parapak and his wife, Anne, arrived in front of Schimmel Hall on Thursday morning, May 1, they were given a tour of the lower campus. Both commented repeatedly on the beauty of the grounds, particularly the presence of trees and fresh air. Faculty and administrators including Dr. Greg Trull, Floyd Votaw, Gary Taylor, and Marty Ziesemer all spoke briefly with the couple. Chairman of the Board of Trustees Tom Carlson also spent a few moments with the Parapaks during an interlude in Board meetings. Museum curator Adrian Jeffers provided a brief tour of the Prewitt/Allen Archaeological Museum as they visited the library.
Thursday afternoon some of the faculty met with Parapak in the office of Corban Provost, Dr. Linda Samek. Those present, including Dr. Virginia Cross, Dr. Rich Meyers, John Scott and Dr. Jim Hills, provided the opportunity to discuss liberal arts and psychology issues. According to Samek, both are key areas of interest at the Indonesian university.
Friday morning a larger group of faculty gathered for a presentation of “what we’re doing in Indonesia.” Parapak described major challenges, Christian education in Indonesia, the founding of Pelita Harapan Foundation and Universitas Pelita Harapan by Christian visionaries James T. Riady and Dr. Johannes Oentoro, as well as goals of the institution. He and Mrs. Parapak, who teaches religion, literature, and psychology classes at UPH, also responded to questions from the group.
During that meeting, Parapak maintained that education is one of the most effective ways to make an impact in Indonesia for Christ. He announced that a second university operated by the Pelita Harapan Foundation is set to open in Surabaya, Indonesia this July, with others being planned for two more locations in Indonesia, as well as Singapore and Korea, in the near future.
Parapak pointed out the potential influence in the world of the triangle formed by Indonesia, India, and China: “With the openness of India, the technology of China, and the raw materials of Indonesia, this is an area to watch over the next 10-20 years.” “By God’s grace and leading, you can make an impact,” he said, encouraging faculty exchange between the two schools.
During Commencement exercises, Parapak received the title of “Honorary Professor” before his brief message to the audience. According to Samek, it was “to acknowledge his very important contributions to Christian higher education in Indonesia and beyond.”
Parapak graduated from the University of Tasmania in 1969 with a Master of Engineering Science degree. His career has spanned information and telecommunications to education, particularly Christian education, over the years. He was president and CEO of P.T. Indostat—the second largest telecommunications company in Indonesia--for eleven years.
He was responsible for pioneering modern communications in Indonesia through satellites and submarine optical fibers as well the introduction of digital technology into the telecommunications infrastructure of his country. He also served as Secretary General of the Department of Tourism, Posts and Telecommunications and member of the Presidential Council for Information and Communications policies.
For many years he has been active in education, holding the offices of Vice President and Director of the Graduate School at UPH before becoming Rector. While at the University of Tasmania, where he met his Australian-born wife, Anne, Parapak was President of Intervarsity Fellowship. He is now Chairman of the Board of Intervarsity Fellowship Indonesia, as well as an elder in his church.
“It was wonderful to trade challenges and ideas with such excellent colleagues,” said Samek soon after the Parapaks’ visit.