JACKSON, Tenn. – July 28, 2012 – Barbara McMillin has spent the past 20 years working at Union University in a variety of roles, in addition to the four years she studied at Union as an undergraduate. On July 28, her commencement address served as a farewell.
“If you are so blessed, as I have been for the last 20 years, to serve alongside colleagues whom you love and respect doing meaningful work that is God-honoring and kingdom-building, then I encourage you to jump at the opportunity, as I will now, to turn to them and say 'thank you' from the bottom of my heart,” McMillin told graduates. “You are my inspiration for seeking God's favor, trusting him that the mountain he has called me to will stand firm for excellence, for Christ-centeredness, for service and for tomorrow.”
McMillin, who most recently was Union’s associate provost and dean of instruction, is the new president of Blue Mountain College in Mississippi. She was the keynote speaker for the summer commencement service of the 187th graduating class at West Jackson Baptist Church.
Two hundred three students received their degrees during the ceremony, concluding a third consecutive academic year in which the number of Union University graduates has exceeded 1,100 students.
The commencement was also the last for Ron Boud in his role as Union University organist. Boud is retiring after serving Union in that role for 16 years.
McMillin challenged graduates to pursue being first in a number of ways in their lives, whether such achievements earn recognition or not. Her first charge was for them to be the first to perform acts of kindness for others.
“Be the first to welcome a new hire and offer to show her around the office,” McMillin said. “Be the first to volunteer to finish up so that a colleague can make it to his son's baseball game. Rest assured that your kindness at work will be no less mood-altering than the discovery that someone has already picked up your Starbucks tab.”
She also advised the graduating class to be the first to speak an encouraging word to others, and she cited Union Provost Carla Sanderson as an example of how to do that.
“I’ve spent many hours over the last several weeks cleaning out drawers and shelves in preparation for our move,” McMillin said. “Among the many discoveries, the most precious and poignant are the literally dozens of cards and notes written over a 20-year span by my colleague and friend Carla Sanderson, who has the gift of encouragement. Her wisdom and grace are chronicled in this now prized collection which will no doubt continue to be a source of comfort and inspiration even though we will find ourselves in new and different places.”
McMillin further told graduates to be the first to be accountable and to address a problem.
“Being the first in the ways I have described will require that you be a careful listener and a close observer so as not to miss the opportunity to offer kindness and speak words of encouragement,” she said. “Being the first will require courage -- courage to overcome the inclination to be a follower instead of a leader. Being the first will require humility, for a prideful spirit will not stoop to take on what is unpleasant or uncomfortable.”
Contact: Mark Kahler, Associate Vice President for University Communications, (731) 661-5543