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Wheaton College celebrates new leadership Friday with the inauguration of Philip Graham Ryken as the eighth president of the 150-year-old school.

State and local leaders, as well as trustees of 115 colleges are expected to join Wheaton trustees, faculty, students and alumni for the inauguration ceremony being held at the evangelical Christian school in Wheaton, Ill.

Wheaton is often referred to as the Harvard of evangelical colleges, and U.S. News & World Report frequently ranks it among the best liberal arts colleges in the nation.

"I am deeply humbled by the weight of this responsibility, while at the same time full of faith in what God can do," Ryken said. "By the grace of God, Wheaton College is a world leader in Christian higher education, with a spiritual and social influence that spans the globe."

Ryken, a 1988 Wheaton graduate, added that he wants the school "to have the kind of faithfulness, freedom and excellence that come from having full confidence in the truth of the gospel."

The author of more than 30 books about Christianity and the Bible, Ryken earned a master of divinity degree from Westminster Theological Seminary and a doctorate in historical theology from Oxford University. Before his appointment at Wheaton, he served as senior pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

Ryken has served on the college's board of trustees since 2006 and is the son of longtime Wheaton English professor Leland Ryken. After Ryken's appointment was announced, some criticized the school for choosing a "safe" candidate rather than someone who would bring more theological or ethnic diversity to the college.

In an interview with Christianity Today earlier this year, Ryken said he has long been committed to connecting Wheaton with "the full breadth of evangelical Christianity in America and worldwide, including being proactive in building relationships with a wide variety of ethnic communities."

"I believe a Wheaton education is enhanced by having broad ethnic diversity in our faculty and our student body," he said.

He added that globalization is also an important aspect of Wheaton's education "because we are committed to Christ and His kingdom, and that kingdom has a global vision."

Wheaton trustee Donald Meyer, who was co-chairman of the presidential selection committee, said Ryken will keep Christ pre-eminent as he leads the noted Christian college.

"There is no doubt in our minds that Dr. Ryken will hold the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ and His kingdom above all else as he becomes an influential part of the life, spirit and future of Wheaton College," Meyer said.

"He lives and breathes his commitment to the college mission statement: to help build the church and improve society worldwide by promoting the development of whole and effective Christians through excellence in programs of Christian higher education, and to do all things for Christ and His kingdom."

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