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August graduation ceremony closes out record year at Union

Union University President David S. Dockery presents the university's first Doctor of Education in Higher Education degree to Beverly Absher during the August 3 commencement service at West Jackson Baptist Church. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)
Union University President David S. Dockery presents the university's first Doctor of Education in Higher Education degree to Beverly Absher during the August 3 commencement service at West Jackson Baptist Church. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)

JACKSON, Tenn.Aug. 6, 2007 – Graduation from college is only the beginning of a lifetime of learning for Christians who have an obligation to make an impact upon their culture, Richard Land told a group of Union University graduates Aug. 3.

“This is all prologue and preparation for the rest of your lives,” Land said. “We who are Christians follow a savior who is a never-changing savior in an ever-changing world, and he is the rock of our foundation.

“He is not just true, he is truth. He is the definition of truth.”

Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, was the keynote speaker for the August graduation ceremony, held at West Jackson Baptist Church, in which 262 students received degrees from Union.

As part of the ceremony, Union presented an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree to Jim Moss, retiring president and CEO of West Tennessee Healthcare. Union President David S. Dockery said the university faculty and trustees vote on rewarding such a degree to someone who has demonstrated significant leadership and made considerable contributions to society.

Moss began as WTH president in 1986, when Jackson General was the only hospital in the WTH system. WTH now owns five hospitals and six clinics, with more than 5,000 employees and a budget of $1.2 billion.

Under Moss’ leadership, WTH also added a new children’s clinic and programs for cancer treatment, rehabilitation, heart surgery and cardiology.

“That only tells a portion of the story,” Dockery said. “For during the years that Jim Moss has led West Tennessee Healthcare, he has changed the culture of a public hospital – a culture that is characterized by love and service and care for people.”

Dockery noted that over the past 12 years, WTH has given or pledged $6 million to Union.

“He is an incredible friend to Union University,” Dockery said. “For their kindness and generosity, particularly for our nursing program and other healthcare-related programs, we are indeed grateful.”

Dockery also announced Land’s induction into the university’s Carl F.H. Henry Society of Fellows.

He described Land as “a person whose voice matters in our culture.”

“He is a brilliant thinker,” Dockery said. “He has provided leadership for Southern Baptists in thinking about church-state issues and cultural engagement over the last 20 years.”

In his address, Land encouraged Union graduates to take time to enjoy their accomplishment, as he said graduation from college is a significant milestone in their lives and in the lives of those who invested in them.

“You have been privileged to receive an education at one of the premier liberal arts universities operating within a Christian worldview anywhere on the North American continent,” Land said.

Land also stressed the importance of reading, as it is the means by which their education will continue for the rest of their lives. He cited advice from C.S. Lewis to read old books.

“Studying history -- studying the past -- can be an exercise in which we cleanse our senses of the stale, indoor air of the present,” Land said. “We can’t know the future, and so the only way we can gain perspective on the present is by increasing our knowledge of the past.”

He cited Lewis’ essay, “The Abolition of Man,” in which Lewis addressed the growing emphasis on moral relativism – which Lewis said tears the chests out of men and removes their essential moral character.

Land said it’s important for Christians to stand against the prevailing notion of moral relativism and to be firm in their commitment to God’s truth.

“It is in the providence of God – your destiny – to live in a time when your culture, your civilization, is under severe assault by those who would create men and women without chests,” Land said. “You have a calling. You have a responsibility. You have a destiny to go forward and to be the salt and the light that your savior has commanded you to be.”

The graduation marked an end to an academic year filled with highlights for Union University. Among them:

“By any marker, or from almost any perspective, the 2006-07 academic year at Union University has been the very best year in the long and storied history of this institution,” Dockery said. “For God’s ongoing blessings and favor to Union University, we are indeed most grateful.”

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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