Humberto M. Rasi

Dialogue with the founder of this journal

Humberto M. Rasi has had a long and fruitful career as a teacher, editor, educational administrator, and author. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the home of an Adventist minister, he completed his secondary studies and a one-year pre-university program at River Plate Adventist College. While finishing an advanced degree in Spanish language and literature instruction, he began his teaching career at Instituto Adventista Florida in Buenos Aires.

He and his wife, Julieta, moved to the United States in 1962, where his first job was as a translator and editor at Pacific Press Publishing Association. A master’s degree at San Jose State University was followed by a Ph.D. from Stanford University in Hispanic literature, with a secondary emphasis on Latin American history.

Between 1969 and 1978 Rasi served successively as a teacher, department chair, and dean of graduate studies at Andrews University, with a break for a postdoctoral year at Johns Hopkins University — thanks to a scholarship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Returning to Pacific Press as chief editor for international publications (1978-1986), he supervised the production of books and journals in several languages, including the seven-volume Spanish edition of the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary.

In 1987, Rasi joined the General Conference world staff as associate director of the Education Department. In 1990, the world church elected him as the director of the church’s global education system, a post he held with distinction until he retired in 2002. During his leadership, the church’s global education ministry had more than 1.5 million students in 145 countries around the world. Among his initiatives were an increased focus on and development of the integration of faith and learning from elementary to university level, and the establishment of Dialogue, an international journal addressing the intellectual, spiritual, and social needs of Adventist students attending public and private tertiary institutions around the world.

Rasi’s scholarly activities include authoring numerous publications in English and Spanish on religion, literary areas, and education. In recognition of his professional achievements, three universities granted him honorary doctorates. In 2002, the General Conference recognized his contribution to Adventist education by bestowing on him its highest award: the Medallion of Distinction.

Currently among the ranks of the “retired,” Rasi continues to lecture, publish, and direct special projects in the field of Christian higher education and apologetics.

Most of your professional life has been focused on education and publications. What attracted you to these areas?

Jesus chose to come to this world as a teacher. He is my model. To be an agent in the development of young men and women in the context of Christian education has been a great privilege. I was blessed with several outstanding teachers who taught me to think both critically and creatively, and I’ve attempted to pass that on to my students over the years.

Our mind expands as we feed it true, life-transforming ideas. For centuries, those ideas have been communicated mainly through books and other publications. Think of the positive impact that printed copies of the Bible have had on the lives of millions around the world. For these reasons, I’ve enjoyed research and writing as well as helping others share their ideas with a wider public through the printed page. My two grandfathers were involved in publications, so I feel that some printer’s ink runs through my veins.

In recent years, electronic media have become another important source of information. However, it’s vital to use discernment as we negotiate the flood of information it brings. Our goal as Christians should be wisdom — the ability to choose the best way to achieve the highest goals in life.

Which aspects of your work in education have brought you the greatest satisfaction?

After I left the classroom for administration, I focused on strengthening the identity and mission of Adventist schools and universities, and to use the accreditation process to raise the quality standards of our academic and professional offerings. In 1987, partnering with Dr. George Akers, we launched the Institute for Christian Teaching. Its purpose was helping Adventist educators integrate their biblical faith and values with the subjects they teach. After coordinating 40 seminars in many countries of the world, we were able to publish a total of 38 volumes of Christ in the Classroom, a series with more than 700 essays in various languages (http://ict.adventist.org and http://fae.adventist.org).

Which book projects have been favorites?

For 10 years, I served as contributing editor of the Handbook of Latin American Studies, produced by the Library of Congress, and several of my articles and essays were published in professional journals. In addition, I edited, with Dr. Fritz Guy, Meeting the Secular Mind: Some Adventist Perspectives (Andrews University, 1985, 1987). I believe it to be a positive influence among thoughtful readers. After my retirement, I co-edited, with Dr. L. James Gibson, Understanding Creation: Questions on Faith and Science (Pacific Press, 2011), which includes 20 chapters written by specialists. This work has been published in Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. I also co-edited, with Dr. Nancy Vyhmeister, a parallel book, Always Prepared: Answers to Questions about Our Faith (Pacific Press, 2012), which is being translated in several languages as well. Both books are useful to Adventist university students and professionals who want to explain and defend their biblical-Christian worldview and beliefs.

You currently direct a consortium called Adventus. What is it, and what need does it fulfill?

Adventus is a consortium of 13 Adventist universities in Latin America and is supported by the Department of Education of the General Conference. The consortium publishes and distributes academic and professional books written by Adventist authors in Spanish, as well as in English, French, and Portuguese. With more than 400 titles, Adventus (www.adventus21.com) addresses a lack of Spanish-language textbooks in our universities and provides opportunities to publish research conducted by teachers and scholars.

I understand that you’ve recently published a book on the environment. Can you tell us about it?

I was happy to serve as co-editor with Drs. Stephen Dunbar and L. James Gibson on Entrusted: Christians and Environmental Care. I believe it is the first substantial Adventist book on the topic. Its international group of authors answers 23 questions on our responsibility as stewards of our earthly home. Their approaches are various — biblical, educational, ethical, scientific, and theological (www.adventus21.com).

Over the years, you’ve shown a special interest in Adventists studying in public universities. Why is that?

My own studies in public and private universities have given me a sense of the opportunities and risks therein. Too many Adventist students abandon their faith and leave our church. The painful loss of bright young men and women led me to recommend in 1987 the establishment of a General Conference working committee, AMiCUS (Adventist Ministry for/with College and University Students). The committee involves Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries, the Education Department, and Youth Ministries. Its purpose is to provide guidance and support to regional initiatives that minister to thousands of Adventist students around the world. Our church loves and needs each one of them. Upon the conclusion of their studies, they can join the Adventist Professionals’ Network (http://apn.adventist.org) free of charge. APN is a global registry of Adventist professionals that helps those seeking to offer employment or mission assignments locate prepared individuals in any field.

This year, College and University Dialogue celebrates its 25th year of publication. Why did you decide to launch this magazine?

Dialogue began as part of the AMiCUS project. On a side note, it was the first journal published in parallel editions at the General Conference — English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. Addressed to Adventist university students in public colleges and universities, my hope was to encourage them to better know, live, and share their faith while studying in an environment that at times is hostile to biblical beliefs, values, and lifestyle. Through this magazine, I wished to affirm their high value to our faith community, and encourage them to be ambassadors where future world leaders are being trained. I strongly believe that the Adventist message is coherent and life-transforming, and can be presented eloquently and without apology. (http://dialogue.adventist.org)..

As Dialogue’s former chief editor (1989-2007), I remember the long hours devoted to this publication as a worthwhile investment. Most new journals have a short life. I am delighted to see that Dialogue has at this point reached the average age of its current readers: 25 years old. And some of its essays have been quoted in scholarly publications.

Can you tell us something about your family?

Julieta and I have been blessed by two children who are now Christian professionals and good parents. Our son, Leroy, is an orthopedic surgeon. Our daughter, Sylvia, holds a doctoral degree in linguistics, and is a university professor and department chair. We have three granddaughters!

You seem to have a very busy life. Should I ask if you have any hobbies?

I certainly do! Playing the piano and listening to good music. As a young man, I sang in choirs and male quartets, and directed musical groups. My wife and I are interested in cultural travel and have had the privilege of visiting and photographing historical sites in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. I also try to keep up with issues relating to geology and paleontology, and have a small collection of fossils.

How do you keep healthy and active in your retirement?

I was a sickly child, but God miraculously restored my health and has protected me through my travels. My parents gave me a living example and wise counsel regarding biblical principles and lifestyle. A plant-based diet, daily physical exercise, and plenty of water help maintain physical health. Friendship with God, being content with what I have, and helping others contribute to a positive outlook on life. Of course, having a good and supportive wife like Julieta is the cherry on top!

What advice would you like to offer to our readers around the world?

Adventist faith and lifestyle constitute a dynamic and living force that can transform individuals and communities for good. Treasure them both. You are university students, and as such, each of you is part of a very privileged minority — only about 1 percent of the global population. Make the very best of your opportunity. God has given you many talents, and He has put you on your university campus with a double purpose: to be His special representative, and to prepare for a life of generous service. Fulfill your mission! As you put Christ and His teachings at the center of your life every day, He promises to be your faithful friend and guide (Proverbs 3:5-7). With your priorities straight and your objective clear, you will succeed!

Sylvia Gregorutti (Ph.D., Georgetown University) has specialized in linguistics (applied and sociolinguistics). She chairs the Department of Modern Languages at Pacific Union College, where she is a professor of Italian and Spanish. While a university student, she contributed articles and interviews to Dialogue. E-mail: srasi@puc.edu.

Humberto Rasi: h.rasi@roadrunner.com.