Archive for January, 2013

Dockery to Transition to New Role

January 15, 2013

Editor’s Note: This article appears in the Jan. 16 issue of the Baptist and Reflector.

By Tim Ellsworth, Union University news office

JACKSON — David S. Dockery will transition from president of Union University to the role of university chancellor no later than July 2014, and Union trustees will immediately begin the process of searching for his successor as president.
“I am hopeful and prayerful for a good, smooth, joyful and positive transition,” Dockery said. “God has blessed the work of our hands and manifested His favor to this university time and time again during these past 17 years. I am confident that we will continue to see God’s grace made known to Union in the future.”
The announcement comes in the middle of what will ultimately be a three-year transition process. Dockery began talking with the executive committee of Union’s Board of Trustees in the fall of 2011 about the need to start serious succession planning for the university’s future, at which the board approved a five-member succession planning team. Dockery said discussions with that team and with other members of the board have taken place regularly since then.
Union trustees will appoint a search committee in the near future and will retain the services of an executive search firm to provide counsel in the transition process. As chancellor, Dockery will continue to serve Union as an adviser for the board and the new president for the next several years.
The search process is expected to take about a year.
“David S. Dockery’s accomplishments at Union University are unsurpassed,” said Norman Hill, chairman of Union’s Board of Trustees. “Although much of his work is visible in the form of buildings and numbers, his greater work is in the hearts and minds of the thousands of students and myriads of others that he and his administration have influenced through the years. He has had Union’s best interest at heart in everything he has done as president for the past 17 years.
“With this decision he is once again taking care of the institution by initiating a transition process at a time that he has deemed appropriate for the institution and his family,” Hill continued. “We praise God for David and Lanese Dockery and believe the Lord still has much to accomplish through this beloved couple at Union University.”
At the time of his transition in 2014, Dockery will have served as Union’s president for 18 and a half years, approximating the tenure of president Robert E. Craig as the longest in Union’s history. The list of Dockery’s accomplishments over that period is lengthy.
Under his leadership, following 15 straight years of enrollment increase, Union has more than doubled in size, growing from a fall enrollment of 1,972 to 4,262 in 2012. Donors have increased from 1,600 to 6,000 annually.
The budget has expanded from $18 million to more than $90 million per year. The university’s net assets have grown from less than $40 million to more than $110 million.
One of Dockery’s first priorities upon his election as president in December 1995 was to cast a vision for what Union University could become — a vision that included his desire for Union to reclaim and advance the Christian intellectual tradition. Early in his tenure, the university adopted a set of four core values: Excellence-Driven, Christ-Centered, People-Focused, Future-Directed. Those core values have provided the framework for the work of Union University over the past 17 years.
He developed five key strategic plans (for 2001, 2005, 2010, 2012, 2015) that have guided the university’s work during his tenure.
Dockery’s administration presided over major development of the Union campus — including such buildings as White Hall, Jennings Hall, Providence Hall, Hammons Hall, Miller Tower, the Fesmire Field House, Carl Grant Events Center, Bowld Commons and several student housing facilities. Union added campuses in Germantown, Hendersonville and the Olford Center in Memphis during Dockery’s presidency, and the school’s athletics program transitioned from NAIA to NCAA Division II candidacy.
Academically under his leadership, Union launched the School of Pharmacy, School of Theology and Missions and the Institute for International and Intercultural Studies, in addition to new undergraduate programs in engineering, social work, graphic design, ethics, political science, athletic training and organizational leadership, among others. The university also began about a dozen master’s degree programs and five doctoral programs in intercultural studies, theology and missions, education, social work, nursing and pharmacy.
“By any measure, David Dockery’s presidency at Union University has been the most laudable illustration of leadership success in Christian higher education,” said Greg Thornbury, dean of Union’s School of Theology and Missions. “Many will rightly praise him for Union’s phenomenal enrollment growth, outstanding academic markers and advances in local, regional and national stature.
“But all of this would not be nearly as important had it not been for his vigilant sense for and keen articulation of the university’s distinctive mission,” Thornbury continued.
Dockery guided a major institutional rebuilding made necessary by a tornado that struck Union’s campus on Feb. 5, 2008, causing about $40 million in damage and leveling most of the university’s student housing. Dozens of students were trapped inside collapsed buildings as rescuers worked for hours to free them. Several sustained serious injuries, but nobody was killed.
Though plunged into immediate uncertainty about the university’s future, Dockery led Union through a rebuilding process in which thousands of donors and volunteers came to Union’s aid.
“Out of the rubble across this campus I am praying that we will see renewal,” Dockery said during that time. “We lost the buildings, but we did not lose the Union spirit.”
Other achievements by Dockery during his administration include:
• establishment of the Hundley Center, Vocatio Center, Office of Disability Services and Office of Student Success.
• increasing the graduation rate from 55 percent to 67 percent, which has resulted in more than 13,000 students who have graduated from Union during these years, approximately 65 percent of all living Union alumni.
• moving from a second-tier ranking in the regional college division of the U.S. News & World Report annual college rankings to a top-tier recognition among the regional universities in the South (Union ranked 14th in the South in 2012).
• recognition of Union by “First Things” as one of the top 12 Protestant institutions in the country.
• selection of Union by the “Chronicle of Higher Education” as one of the best universities to work for in the nation.
• development of Union’s mission and identity statements and statement of faith.
A prolific author and editor, Dockery has written or edited several major books on Christian higher education and Baptist history and heritage, including Renewing Minds, Shaping a Christian Worldview, Faith and Learning, The Great Tradition of Christian Thinking, Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal and Southern Baptist Identity, among others.
He served as the chairman of the board for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, as well as serving on the board for Christianity Today International and Prison Fellowship. Dockery was a member of four recent committees and task force teams in the Southern Baptist Convention, and has spoken at major conferences and lectureships across the nation.
“When I came to Union, Dr. Dockery had already been president for several years and I was surrounded by effects of his leadership — Union’s strong commitment to keeping academic excellence while upholding the Christian faith; a thriving, growing campus; and scholarships to make a solid education available to people from a variety of backgrounds,” said Samantha Adams, a Union University senior from Glendale, Ky.
“While at Union, I have realized his leadership extends far beyond Union’s campus,” Adams added. “He has set an example to students for being a peacemaker among Christians, a reconciler between blacks and whites in the South and a humble student of God’s Word.”
Walton Padelford, longtime university professor of economics, described Dockery’s leadership as “extraordinary” and said his vision for Union — including improving Union’s academic quality, improving theological education and moving the university into the Christian intellectual tradition — was vital to the university’s success and growth.
“When parents visit me with their prospective students, and we’re talking about Union, many times I will say that this is the best time for your student to be here,” Padelford said. “We’re living in the golden age of Union.”

A lesson from Eli

January 8, 2013

Note: I want to thank everyone who has prayed for my grandson since his birth on Dec. 17. God has been faithful in answering those prayers.

Elijah David Beasley arrived into this world on Dec. 17, about four weeks or so before he was expected.
That joyous occasion of the birth of our first grandchild, however, soon turned into a time of uncertainty and concern.
Eli, because he was so early, had numerous health-related issues. To be honest, after we saw him the day after his birth, Joyce and I didn’t think we would ever see the day he would go home with his parents.
But God used Eli to remind his Pappy and Granny of a very important truth.
Don’t put your trust in what the doctors (or anyone else) might say. Put your complete faith and trust in God.
I know that I have spoken and written about trusting God for years. But when you see your first grandson in less than favorable conditions, Satan puts doubts in your mind.
The doctors were so pessimistic, telling us everything that could be wrong. I guess they have to prepare parents and the family for the worse. But the fact remains that ultimately everyone’s fate lies in the hands of God.
In Eli’s case, God was in control the entire time.
Countless prayers began going up for Eli even before his birth as word got out that our daughter Joanna had to have an emergency C-section to deliver Eli. Prayers from all over continued to be lifted up on Eli’s behalf in the days following his birth and continue now.
In the four weeks since his birth, Eli has gotten stronger each day. A myriad of tests have come back positive. Though he is still in NICU in a Greenville, S.C., hospital, the prognosis is good and we anticipate a day very soon when we can go to South Carolina and hold him for the first time. His parents, Joanna and Matt, already have gotten to hold him and that was truly a blessing for them.
God not only heard the prayers, but He answered them affirmatively on Eli’s behalf.
My cousin Stewart perhaps summed it up best: “I love it when doctors have to shake their head and say, ‘I don’t understand it but he is doing so well.’ ”
Well, I understand it without a doubt. God did it and He deserves all the glory and credit.
God also used Eli to remind me that I need to practice what I preach (or in my case write). My last editorial of the year dealt with sadness at Christmas and why people can still have a “Merry Christmas” even when circumstances have you down. I had written those words before we got the news of Eli’s early birth and health issues.
It’s really easy to give advice to others. It’s not as easy to follow your own advice.
On Christmas Day, though our grandson was in NICU and we still didn’t know if he would make it, I let go and trusted God completely. I was able to wish people a Merry Christmas and mean it.
Would I have desired that Eli had been born with no complications? Of course, but I know without a doubt God has used our precious grandson to strengthen not only our faith but Joanna and Matt’s as well. I believe they will be much better parents because of this experience. After all, they have seen God work a miracle in their son’s life.
I will always be indebted to the countless people who prayed for Eli. I am not a Facebook user, but my wife is. She told me it was amazing to have people we didn’t even know post that they were praying for our grandson.
It’s a reminder that we should never take prayer for granted.
Gerald Harris, editor of the Christian Index in Georgia sent me this word when he learned about Eli. “I appreciate you requesting prayer for your grandson. There is no greater honor than being asked to intercede for others.”
I diligently pray for others, but my goal for 2013 is to become an even stronger prayer warrior. I know prayer works. And, if I should ever forget, all I need to do is to look at my grandson. He’s living proof for me. God is so good!