President Jon Wallace leads his last annual hike with students

In his last semester as president of Azusa Pacific, Jon Wallace led his final annual President’s Hike on Saturday although it was not the traditional hike.

Wallace has served as president of APU for 19 years. The hike, put on by the Office of Communiversity, had to change its location due to the recent heavy rains.What was supposed to be a hike up Colby Trail moved to a tour of APU’s east campus due to the mudslide warnings.

At 7 a.m., a group of more than 60 students and faculty participated in an intimate walk with Wallace. Wallace took the time to talk with nearly every student who participated, answering personal questions and explaining some of APU’s history as well.

Madelynne Kutcher, a junior and kinesiology major, shared her thoughts.

“Honestly, it was pretty sweet to hear about his insights and about the campus history,” Kutcher said. “He’s been around a while. He’s a wise guy.”

Despite the President’s Hike no longer being a hike, the overwhelming response to the tour was positive.

“As often happens, what we plan for isn’t exactly what lands,” Wallace said. “So today, being able to walk around campus and talk about the origins of the buildings or how God worked through both times of real disaster and disappointment into real remarkable successes and his provisions, being able to tell those stories to students was pretty remarkable.”

Although Wallace did not recall when the annual hike began all those years ago, he linked the concept to Walkabout, APU’s leadership course of hiking alongside new resident advisors. Through participating and sometimes leading Walkabout for the past 35 years, Wallace found a rich love for nature.

“I love being outdoors, and I have often gone on runs or walks by myself for the gift of solitude and reflection,” Wallace said.  

That love of the outdoors, met with his love for students, paved a way for the President’s Hike.

Judson Lim, assistant director of Campus Recreation, expressed his admiration for Wallace.

“Jon loves the students so much that he would join us and do this [hike],” Lim said.

Wallace recently endured another round of chemotherapy from his long battle with cancer. The current semester is his first back on campus since the chemo, and his last semester before retiring. He explained the meaningfulness of Saturday’s harmonious walk around campus.

“Today was better than I could have hoped by a large margin,” Wallace said. “Typically when we are hiking up Colby, you can’t have a conversation with everybody, but today we got to have that conversation.”

These meaningful conversations and personal attentiveness to students have been a part of Wallace’s entire career at APU.

After the tour of campus ended, the participants went to the Cougar Dome to enjoy a Chick-fil-a breakfast. While eating warm biscuit sandwiches, Wallace answer more questions from students. Many students asked for advice.

“Jon gave a lot of good advice today,” Lim said. “The best advice he gave was that we learn the most through our failures.”

Wallace is known for his concept that “success is not final, failure is not fatal.”

Although the hike may have been considered a failure because no actual hiking occurred, the morning festivities were a huge success. Students got to have one-on-one conversations with their president and obtained a history of their school.

The morning ended with a group photo. Each student left with a smile on their face, deepened pride for their school and even more respect for their president.