Valedictory Speech – Ian Hugh Clary – May 2, 2008

President Thompson, Principal Wellum, Faculty, Staff and Students. It is my great privilege to stand before you this evening as Valedictorian for the academic year of 2008. I am greatly humbled by the honour that you have bestowed upon me and am thankful to God for the work that he has done in my life through TBS.
I first came to Toronto Baptist Seminary and Bible College in the summer of 2003. Michael Haykin had just become Principal and he asked me to join him as his research and administrative assistant. It was an interesting period in my life; a period of great change. I am originally from Windsor, Ontario and before coming to Toronto, I had never moved. The house that I came home from the hospital in as a baby was the same house that I left to come to the big city. For any of you who know me, I am much more at home in a boat with my fishing rod in the water than I am in a place like this. Coming to Toronto was an eye opening experience with its size, its cultural diversity, its population and its noise all beyond what I was used to. I would sometimes joke that I came to a city where the Rolling Stones held a concert whose number more than doubled the population of my hometown!
Yet, moving to Toronto and enrolling at Toronto Baptist Seminary, first as an undergrad, and now as a grad student, was one of the best decisions that I have ever made in my life. What I have received from TBS far surpasses merely academic knowledge, though it certainly includes that! TBS has developed my character, it has shaped my spiritual life and it has given me the tools to be able to approach this world with the life-changing gospel of the living Christ.
I want to take a moment and speak about character. This is a word that is so misunderstood in our day. No longer do we live in a society where good and evil are clearly distinguished. Gone are the days of John Wayne who could squarely face a tough situation and you could be sure that he would do what is right. But what I have found amongst the community of TBS is character. It is character that was clearly modeled to me in the lives of my professors. These men and women who sit before you today are not just teachers who sit coldly removed from their students as in so many universities. Rather, these are people who care deeply for not only the academic achievements of their students, but also for the character of each person who sat in their classes. TBS is a place where we learn that doctrine is practice, that you cannot have right living if you do not have right belief. When we learn about the mysterious depths of the Trinity, or of Jesus as the God-man, or how a holy God can forgive sinners, we are learning how to live our lives. Such living is manifested in the regular daily devotions of the Christian life, in prayer and in Scripture reading. It is manifested in character.
One of the most profound memories that of I have of TBS is of a trip to England that I went on with Dr. Haykin four years ago. What struck me, just as much as seeing all of these fantastic sites from church history, was the time we spent praying and reading the Bible together in a hotel room. Those were glorious times where I saw the depths that Christians were willing to go to honour Christ, as in the case of Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, sixteenth century Protestant martyrs whose place of burning I stood in Oxford. Yet, just as profound, I saw the Christian life modeled before in the life of one of my professors.
Probably the most spiritually enriching class that I have ever had, and probably ever will have, was Prof. Martin’s course on pastoral leadership. It is not often that one sits in a class in tears having just been confronted powerfully with the reality of my own sin and the even greater reality of the grace of God in the gospel. Each one of us men who took that course were changed deeply and would count Prof. Martin not only as a teacher, but as a mentor. I can never thank Prof. Martin enough for that life changing experience.
Character development also manifested itself in the relationships that I have shared at TBS. We are a small school and that has many wonderful advantages. Over the course of five years of study I have made deep and long lasting friendships with some of the most amazing people that I have ever come into contact with. I can recall time spent in Prof. Humfrey’s office where the weight of spirituality was so heavy in the room that it was almost physically tangible. Although Clint was only ever my first year Greek professor, his impact upon my life will only be realised in the life to come. I have found great friends in former students like Justin Galotti, John Bell, Josh Moser and Scott Bowman. Friends who have so shaped me that I would not be the Christian I am today if it were not for them. And I credit all of this to the glorious plan of God who brought me to TBS.
Toronto Baptist Seminary is a school that has high academic standards. I have heard testimony of students who have attended both the University of Toronto and TBS and who swear that our Seminary is much more rigorous. We learn languages like Greek, Hebrew and Latin. We take courses on western philosophy and church history. We delve deeply into the bible both in terms of biblical and systematic theology. We learn first hand applied theology in our fieldwork, internships and pastoral theology classes. When a student graduates from TBS you can be assured that he or she, to quote Prof. Humfrey, “Knows his onions.” Yet all of the rigour, all of the late nights writing papers and studying for exams, all of the long classes and Greek and Hebrew exegesis, all of this is for nothing if it does not help us come to know God more in Christ.
The measure of a school is taken by how well it prepares the student for whatever line of work they have trained for. The value Toronto Baptist Seminary is immeasurable because of what they have both taught and shown their students is priceless. You have shown us Christ and for that I am profoundly thankful.
Last year TBS celebrated its 80th anniversary. May it be in the providence of God that we will celebrate another 80 years with the same commitment to academic rigour, biblical fidelity and the building of Christian character. And may it all be to the glory of the Triune God.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Valedictory Speech – Ian Hugh Clary – May 2, 2008

  1. Christel Humfrey

    Ian, I didn’t know you were Valedictorian (although I’m not surprised)! Congratulations!

    Clint is at men’s bible study right now, but I’m going to tell him to read this when he gets home. He will be so touched at your kind mention of him! Give Vicky my love!

    Christel

  2. Benjamin Allison

    Wow! Congrats on Valedictorian. My dad (Brian Allison) used to teach there for years. Did you ever have him for anything? To be honest, I’m not sure if was still on staff by the time you started your studies there. He would have been teaching appologetics, hermeneutics, greek, hebrew, and some other stuff.

    Regardless, congrats again. I’m sure you’re looking forward to the next chapter in your life to begin!

  3. Elisha

    Great speech! Wish we had been there to hear it in person… Justin started reading it aloud to me with such gusto and charisma that I asked him to please stop so that I could read it for myself… :) Wonderful.

  4. Ian

    Christel: it would have been outstanding if you guys could have been there. I really felt yours and Clint’s absence. Hopefully we’ll see you again soon. Tell Clint to give me a shout when he can.

    Benjamin: thanks for your words of encouragement. I have never met your father, but I do have a copy of his book on apologetics that I really enjoyed reading.

    Elisha: man, it would have been great if you guys were there too. But alas. Such is life. Hope all is well!

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