By Richard Vedder
As Christmas nears, I am reminded that Jesus Christ had 12 disciples who helped him in his ministry during his life and especially after his death. Many of us, in our own way, have our own disciples. I roughly have 12 disciples at CCAP, employees who have made the mission possible and provided much joy in my life. In Ohio, the disciples are the Whiz Kids --students of extraordinary talent. If Peter and Paul were first among equals among Christ's Apostles, so Matt Denhart is my Peter, and Jonathan Robe is my Paul amongst the Whiz Kids. These guys are simply spectacular in their dedication to our mission, and have shown a competence, a maturity, a degree of innovation that is simply extraordinary amongst persons of their age (about 22).
Today, I want to tell you a little bit about Jonathan, because if America had more Jonathans we would have far fewer social problems, far more prosperity,
and a higher quality of life. Sadly, he is moving on, having just graduated from Ohio University as a Honors student in electrical engineering. He will be attending Oxford University beginning next month. He was the top student in EE at Ohio University at the time of his graduation.
Whenever, I needed anything quick --I could call on Jonathan. Facts about student
loan default rates, per student spending on colleges in North Dakota, the growth in non-academic staff in public universities --whatever I needed, Jonathan found it --quickly, accurately, and without complaint. He also authored, with me, some studies on a variety of issues, some non-related to CCAP, and showed a maturity in his writing rarely found among persons so young.
Jonathan owes his success, I think, to several things that are increasingly rare in America. First, of course, he is a bright kid, possessing a lot of genetic human capital (high IQ). God gave him that, and he has been a good steward of that gift. Second, he has wonderful, devoted, loving parents and grandparents who inculcated
into him a sense of personal responsibility, honesty, and integrity. Two things helped here: a strong and unwavering Christian faith and home schooling. Jonathan never went to a formal school until he attended college, a remarkable achievement since there are 10 children in his family.
As Americans become more secular, less connected with family, and more willing than ever to send their kids to mediocre schools, it is not surprising that we have dramatic dropout rates from high school and college, and score low relative to students from other nations on international tests. The "Little House on the Prairie" environment that Jonathan grew up in is increasingly rare.
As I muddle through my 52nd year in American higher education, it is a joy knowing that I am going out with a bang --with superstar students who make me as enthusiastic
about American higher education and its potentialities as I was in 1958, when as a geeky 17 year old, I entered Northwestern University to begin a lifelong adventure that I have loved. And Jonathan Robe has been there with me for several of those years, and I am grateful --and wish him the best on what, no doubt,
will be a promising future.