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Corban University

December 11, 2019

Remembering the Legacy of Anne Jeffers—Professor, Mentor, Colleague, Friend

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” – Proverbs 31:25-26

In the early morning of Friday, December 6, Anne Swearingen Jeffers passed away just two months after her 91st birthday. On behalf of Corban University, I’d like to take a moment to remember the legacy of a woman who has shaped and guided generations of Corban students.

Anne’s life first intersected with Corban University (then Western Baptist Bible College) in 1949 when she met her husband Adrian on the Oakland campus in California. They married the following spring, and although Anne completed her undergraduate degree at Piedmont Bible College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Grace College, Winona Lake, Indiana, God brought Anne and Adrian back to Western Baptist in 1971, this time on the newly acquired Salem campus, to serve as staff and faculty.

They initially made the move to Oregon from Tennessee so Adrian could take a faculty position teaching Old Testament and Hebrew, but the following summer, Anne was asked if she’d be interested in the position of Dean of Women. She accepted it, and began discipling students in a variety of roles over the next four decades. She has served as Associate Dean of Students, Director of Career Services and Field Education, and Assistant Professor of Women’s Ministries, where she was known for teaching the much-loved Ruth & Esther course, Women of Faith, and many others.

I (Sheldon Nord) first met Anne when I was a student, serving as a Resident Assistant in 1981-82 under her supervision. I remember her as a remarkable mentor. She inspired us to high standards and she made it fun to do hard work and grow in our faith. Anne challenged us to pursue excellence and to not take ourselves too seriously, and she modeled strong and compassionate leadership. I am forever grateful for the way she and Adrian opened their home, hearts, and lives to such mediocre and squirrelly students as myself.

In addition to being respected by students, Anne was deeply admired by her colleagues in the Ministry Department and beyond. Dr. Greg Trull, Dean of the School of Ministry, says, “In my years working with Anne, I loved two things most. First, she sought joy. ‘If it’s not fun, why do it?’ she would say. Second, she inspired a multitude of young women to fully use their gifts to serve the Lord. She cheered many to reach higher than they could imagine. I’ll always be grateful for that legacy.”

Dr. Marty Trammell, Professor of English, says, “I am forever grateful to Anne for discipling my wife, Linda, and for counseling me first as a student, then as a member of the Student Life team and finally as a faculty member. As a Dean of Students, she championed several initiatives that ministered grace to the student body. As a member of the Ministry faculty, she inspired us to consider even our grading as an opportunity to love someone who might be hurting. I loved hearing the stories of students whose lives were changed because of her carefully planned assignments and her comforting words.”

Dr. Tim Anderson, Professor of Theology, says, “She had joyous fun in helping others discover themselves and their unique ministry capabilities. She celebrated this. I still remember her chuckling when she would give all the freshmen the MBTI personality test and then divide the room into E’s and I’s. The silence at one side of the room and the pandemonium at the other brought her sheer delight in this demonstration of how the Lord has uniquely created us.”

Students too remembered Anne’s heart of service and compassion as she faithfully taught the Word of God. On her 90th birthday, just a year ago, several of her former students reflected on how much Anne’s mentorship and teaching had impacted them.

Christy Davis Nordstrom (’97) said, “What a beautiful example you have always been of a godly woman serving as called in each season.”

Another student, Adree Thompson (’09), said, “I loved taking your Ruth and Esther class. Your gentle way of teaching has stuck with me, especially when I read those books. It is good for me to remember that authority can be gentle.”

Mark Swaim (’86) reflected, “I wish you could know how much I have truly respected you.”

Corban University will forever be grateful for the impact Anne Jeffers has had on students, on campus culture, and on the Ministry Department. As we celebrate her life and, amidst our sadness, rejoice in her eternity with Christ, I find it fitting to share a quote from of the articles Anne wrote for Corban’s Dedicated journal, where she expresses her heartfelt hope in the resurrection of Christ and the power it has to conquer death. In “Living in the Reality of the Resurrection,” Anne herself writes,

I often wonder how people who do not have hope in Jesus Christ stand by the grave of a loved one without the hope that only He can give. For me, the confidence that He lives and we, too, shall live means I can face whatever comes, no matter how painful or devastating it may be. I am confident of the words of Bill Gaither’s classic song, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone—because I know who holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.”

My heartfelt condolences go out to Anne’s family as we experience life on this earth without her. At the same time, my heart rejoices, knowing Anne is with the Savior she has spent her life loving and serving. Join me in pausing to reflect on her life of ministry and servant-leadership, and celebrating her decades of impact on Corban University.

To Christ be all Glory,

Dr. Sheldon C. Nord

The Celebration of Anne’s life is scheduled for Saturday, January 11, 2020, at Bethany Baptist Church, Salem.