JACKSON, Tenn. – Dec. 18, 2006 – For the Betts family, Union University’s graduation ceremony Dec. 16 was a family affair.
Steve Betts, of Jackson, graduated with a Master of Arts in Education degree. His nieces – Jenni Betts, of Franklin, and her sister Melissa Betts Alexander, of Memphis – also received their degrees. Jenni graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, while Melissa received her Master of Business Administration degree.
The three were just a part of the ceremony at West Jackson Baptist Church that included 242 students graduating from the university.
Jenni called the event a funny coincidence, and said she just found out last year that the three would be graduating at the same time.
“It’s neat because all of our family can come and watch all of us,” she said.
For Steve Betts, whose wife Jane is Union’s registrar, the day was an answer to prayer. He began the degree in 2003, but open heart surgery slowed down his progress.
“I praise the Lord we can do this, because I’ve had some serious health problems,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m so late graduating with this. I love both of my nieces and I’m proud of them.”
Union University President David S. Dockery gave the commencement address, in which he encouraged graduates to embrace faith, hope and love in their futures. He reminded graduates that their accomplishments always depend upon the work of others.
“The reality is that we accomplish nothing in this life alone,” Dockery said. “We do it with the help of others, and ultimately, by the grace of God.”
Dockery said that faith and love spring from hope, which fills people with joy during trials, encourages them in the midst of suffering, strengthens their faith, enlarges their love and anchors them to God’s faithfulness.
“Today, we wish for you a hope-filled future,” Dockery said. “Not just a self-generated optimism that suggests things really will somehow get better and better. Not some empty dream, but a life filled and shaped by genuine hope, grounded in God’s promises and his incomparably great power.”
As part of the ceremony, Dockery presented Emily Cox with the Robert E. Craig Service Award. The award is named after the university’s 13th president, who led the university for more than two decades and was responsible for reestablishing Union with the churches of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Craig was also responsible for relocating the university campus to north Jackson.
Cox is a charter member of the Union Auxiliary and a member of First Baptist Church of Paris, Tenn. She is a former special education teacher.
“Emily Cox is more than just a prayer partner with Union University. She is a prayer warrior,” Dockery said. “She has a heart for all aspects of this university and prays for trustees, administrators, faculty and staff on a regular basis and recruits others to do the same. She loves Union students and ministers to them in many ways. Mrs. Cox is truly an amazing lady. We are extremely grateful for her support over the years.”
Cox and her husband, James, have been married for 46 years and have two children.