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CU Ministry Director Delivers Opening Prayer By Anne Kerhoulas Christian Union Martus Ministry Director Cory Lotspeich had the...
May 18, 2021

Santavicca ’73 Serves with Other Alumni on CU Vita Board

By Anne Kerhoulas, Staff Writer


The year of 1969 might call to mind images of anti-war protests, Woodstock, or landing on the moon, but for Ed Santavicca it was the year he experienced a revival on Cornell’s campus. Arriving as a freshman in Ithaca, New York, Santavicca’s world was saturated with the cultural upheaval of the Vietnam war, rigorous academics, and a very limited understanding of God.

David Navadeh Photography

“My life had little direction other than academic performance. My focus was very self-centered, with little capacity for loving others,” he recalls. “One day during my sophomore year, I was sitting in the dining area of the Straight, minding my own business, when Jody Dillow approached me and asked me an unexpected question: Was I a Christian, and if so, what did it mean to me?

This short conversation and pointed question would be the beginning of Santavicca’s conversion. “Soon after that, I opened my heart to God and accepted the love and forgiveness offered by Jesus. I experienced two things that were utterly new to me: total forgiveness for all of my sins—past, present, and future, and developing a personal relationship with Jesus.”

ed santaEd Santavicca, Cornell '73But Santavicca’s story is just one of the hundreds of testimonies about how God transformed the hearts of young people through the Jesus movement that swept the nation in the 60s and 70s. Revival happened not only on Cornell’s campus but throughout the West Coast as the Lord used Campus Crusade for Christ, Vineyard churches, Billy Graham, and others to bring salvation through a powerful movement of God. 

Santavicca would be forever changed as the course of his life became fixed on following Jesus, growing in his knowledge and love for the Bible by attending Dallas Theological Seminary, creating a Christian home, and serving in his church. 

“To this day, I am so excited when I see someone’s life light up after coming to Christ,” Santavicca says. “It never ever gets old! Once one is part of a work of God like that revival, it stays with you.”  

Santavicca attributes the collective work of multiple campus ministries as one of the reasons revival was possible during his time. “These ministries provided increasing on-campus biblically-based gatherings: Bible studies, prayer meetings, evangelism training classes, evangelistic meetings in fraternities, sororities, dormitories, as well as in the open air, and personal witnessing in the dormitories and student dining areas.” The bold faith, sound biblical teaching, and commitment to prayer and evangelism were all essential components of the revival Santavicca experienced—and all foundational elements of Christian Union’s mission. 

Today, he longs for college students to receive the good news of Christ just like he did, opting to serve on the Christian Union Vita Cornerstone Board. “In the spring of 2020, I attended a Zoom meeting of Cornell grads who had been involved in Christian Union, or other student Christian ministries while studying at Cornell. Previously, I had been receiving Christian Union: The Magazine and was very impressed by the ministry of the Christian Union folks. As I learned of the unique aspects of the ministry at the Ivy schools and others, I was interested in getting involved and helping out. When I learned of the opportunity to serve on the Christian Union Vita Cornerstone Board for Cornell, I jumped at the chance.”

Santavicca serves on the CU Vita Board, praying for nothing short of what he experienced during his college years: revival. 

“I would love to see another revival break out at Cornell, as well as at colleges and universities around the country. As we know, prayer, working in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, is the foundation of revival. I have memories of trudging up Libe slope at 6:00 am for a prayer meeting before the start of classes,” Santavicca recalls. “I truly believe that God used those prayers, and the prayers of many others to put the spark of faith in the hearts of many.” 

Santavicca hopes to give back to the school at which his life was utterly transformed so current students might experience the radical power of the gospel. Fortunately, Santavicca finds himself in good company as recent graduates who participated in CU Vita are just as zealous and passionate about seeing the campus transformed by the gospel. “I am excited to see the depth of faith and commitment among the board members, young and old. We have grads from the ’70s and from the last few years, and we are unified in our desire to support the current ministry in any way we can.”

One such co-laborer is recent Cornell graduate and CU Vita alumna Nayara Jordan ’19, who reflects upon her experience of arriving on campus saying, “Though I grew up in the church, I didn't understand what true relationship with the Lord meant until my time at Cornell in Christian Union. In my freshman year, I was going back and forth between wanting to be in Christian community and wanting to ‘do the college life,’ or, in other words, give into my desires of lust and drunkenness.”

“I was battling with myself until I acknowledged that God was calling me into relationship and Christian community. When I finally accepted that, my circle of friends started to change, and the way I spent my time completely transformed. For the rest of my time at Cornell, God was shaping me and transforming me completely.” 

When Jordan’s life was changed by the gospel, the community of CU Vita provided the resources and structure for her to continue to grow and flourish. “Through Christian Union I was being trained up in God's word, learned how to pray and have a robust prayer life, and had true, Christian mentors, a community, and accountability.”

Not unlike Santavicca, Jordan met Christ in a powerful way in college—a way that she hopes many, many more students will also experience. “God desires deep transformation and revival on campus. I jumped at the opportunity to be involved on the Cornerstone Partner board because I desire to support and be a part of this transformation.”

Santavicca and Jordan are just two of the many individuals who serve on the CU Vita Cornerstone Board. Santavicca’s classmate and friend Ken Wilmot, who also experienced the revival on campus in the 70s, has thrown his support behind CU Vita. With these two men serving as living testaments to the powerful and ongoing work of the Spirit to revive God’s people, the vision and hunger for revival at Cornell are growing.

“I pray for and desire more students to be trained up in and transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Jordan comments. “I pray that through the ministry of CU students would be encouraged to leave campus and offer their lives as a sacrifice, knowing that every good and perfect gift comes from God—our time, our jobs, our families, our church, our environment, and so much more.” 

May it be so at Cornell through Christian Union Vita, and may it be so in our nation and world.  

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