What Time Is The College Football Championship On Tonight Changing Your Organization’s Name

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Changing Your Organization’s Name

Names are a central feature of our lives. In a very real sense without a name we are unknown. Names tell us who and what, sometimes even where.

Using a person’s name signals some contact or familiarity with that person. To “know” a person is to know their name, even if it is prefaced with “g.” or “Miss” or “Mrs.” Knowing a person well means using his or her name. Knowing a person very well means using a nickname or some other endearing personal term. Americans name people, places, things, and organizations for deeply philosophical reasons, frivolous goals, and practical concerns. Sometimes we give organizations multi-word names because those words create a meaningful acronym, for example, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, MADD. Or we choose a name simply because it’s unique and we like the way it sounds, for example, Google.

For most Americans, names are practical, if not always philosophical.

In ancient times, people gave names for all of these reasons, with the possible exception of acronyms. But usually people in ancient cultures gave names because the name had some special meaning. The names were more than a label.

Names are often given to symbolize some significant event or characteristic in a person’s life. Names often represented a person’s essential nature and could reveal some aspects of a person’s innermost being. Eve was “the mother of all living.” Names were often changed in biblical times to mark some new beginning. Abraham became Abraham, and Sarai became Sarah. Jacob became Israel. The newborn baby was named Ben-oni, “son of sorrow” by his dying mother Rebecca, but his loving father Jacob quickly renamed him Benjamin, “son of the right hand.” Jesus renamed Simon, the rough fisherman, Peter.

Name changes were part of the history of the college I had the privilege of leading for several years: Grand Rapids Baptist College and Seminary (GRBC&S). In 1941, an evening Bible school was established under the name Grand Rapids Baptist Bible Institute. As the number of students and educational program grew, the name was changed in 1959 to Grand Rapids Baptist Bible College and Seminary. Later, the term “theological” was dropped when Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary was established as a separate but related graduate school with the same board of trustees and president.

In 1972, the name of the college was again changed from Grand Rapids Baptist Bible College to Grand Rapids Baptist College. This new name describes the expansion of the academic program from a Bible college curriculum (with Bible and music majors) to a Christian liberal arts college curriculum (containing Bible, music, history, biology, English, business administration, education and several others majors). But the new name still suffered some limitations. For example, it was geographically limited to one city. The school’s longtime nickname continued as “Baptist College,” which tended to send the message that non-Baptists need not apply. And the school’s name was still regularly confused with the previous name or derivative, Grand Rapids Bible College, or the more convoluted Grand Rapids Baptist “Church.”

This name confusion was particularly problematic because it tended to perpetuate the institution’s earlier mission as a Bible rather than a Christian liberal arts college. Thus, in the spring of 1992, the Board of Directors once again approved a study to consider changing the name of the institution. After a preliminary review, the Board of Trustees voted in the fall of 1993 to conduct a process to determine the best name for Grand Rapids Baptist College. At that time, the Board also voted to retain the Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary name.

One of the wisest decisions the board ever made was to allow me, then president, to immediately announce the board’s decision, to announce it as a “study” instead of a name change fiat accompli, and to announce it as a study to consider what might be the “best name” for the school. On a political level, this meant several things: that voters heard about the possible name change without opting out of the process, which gave many of them time to acclimatize, and that people who thought the old or current name, GRBC, The “best name” was not dropped from the process, as it was still possible that the board would eventually reconfirm that name.

Over the next several months, students, staff, constituents and the public were invited to submit ideas or suggestions for names. Perhaps the most amusing submission was the name “Hobbes” for the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes. This created a local joke that Calvin College, a quality institution of higher learning, was only three miles from GRBC&S on the same road. If the board had chosen Hobbes as the college’s new name, locals would have forever referred to “Calvin and Hobbes” on East Beltline Ave.

In March 1994, the GRBC&S Board of Trustees reviewed approximately one hundred and thirty names in four categories: geographic, theological, historical, denominational, narrowed the list down to three names including GRBC, and finally decided to rename the college “Cornerstone College. ” The name Cornerstone College filled a practical need for a name that reduced confusion about the college’s mission. But it was also philosophically anchored in Christian symbolism and biblical meaning.

In the epistles to the Ephesians, Paul speaks of Christians as “members of God’s household, who are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” In it, the whole building comes together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord” (2:18-21). Jesus is the “tried stone” who makes “righteousness the measuring line, and righteousness the plumb line” (Isaiah 28:16-17). Jesus Christ is a “living stone” and Christians, “like living stones, are built into the spiritual house…through Jesus Christ…the chosen and precious cornerstone” (1 Peter 2:4-9).

A cornerstone is also the key building stone or block in the foundation by which all other stones or blocks are measured. The cornerstone speaks of the permanence of values ​​such as truth, faith, beauty, virtue, righteousness, justice, freedom, peace and love.

By any objective measure, the new name Cornerstone was an unqualified success. Students embraced it quickly, if not immediately, and the business community and the public responded with astonishing enthusiasm. The reaction from alumni was initially mixed, as is to be expected for any faculty name change, but within a relatively short time most alumni signed on. The primary value of the new name was the message that a new wind is blowing into the institution, which looks ahead and positions the school for the future.

In the fall of 1998, after an internal academic process and interaction with the appropriate state authorities, the Board of Trustees voted to change the school’s name again, this time from Cornerstone College to Cornerstone University. At the same meeting, the board and administration agreed to announce the new status in April 1999, not knowing that the school’s basketball team would win the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship in March of that year. This unplanned public relations gift created a media platform far greater than would otherwise have been available because a national championship is notable and rightfully so at any level of the sport.

The university avoided a backlash from those who might have dismissed the change as cheap brass-ring grabbing, probably because, in the end, it made sense. The university was growing, the national championship didn’t hurt, and a well-designed marketing campaign attracted positive attention. The campaign featured billboards across the city showing a small shoot of green spring corn in a plowed field, the new name and the phrase “Think Big, Think Big.” Simple. People understood it and liked it.

Organizational name changes are not to be entertained lightly. Nor should they be avoided at all costs, as the cost may be lost potential or even the premature demise of the organization. Name changes offer an unparalleled opportunity to send a message to constituents, clients or the general public. New initiatives, new products, new services, or even better, a new and worthy vision can be written in people’s minds when an organization changes its name.

What’s in a name? The future of your organization.

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