JACKSON, Tenn. – Aug. 30, 2004 – Classes begin on Sept. 1 for the fall semester at Union University, but the new students who moved into residence complexes Saturday, Aug. 28 are already learning what it means to be a part of the Union family. As families arrived on campus with vehicles brimming with all the essentials of college life, scores of faculty, staff and student leaders were on hand waiting to unload students’ possessions.
According to Union President David S. Dockery, the move-in day tradition is at least a decade old and displays to the incoming freshman class the priority the university gives to service.
“Today provides a great opportunity for upper classmen, faculty, staff and administrators to demonstrate to incoming freshmen one of the core essentials of what Union University is all about,” Dockery said. “At the heart of Union University lies a commitment to being Christ centered, and understanding Christ’s life is to understand him as a servant, giving himself on behalf of others. Today demonstrates that priority.
“You would expect the new freshmen to be the bottom ones on the totem pole within a university like this, and in most schools they have to wear beanie caps and serve others, but here we turn the pyramid upside down and everyone joins in serving them as a model of the way Christ lived his life,” Dockery said.
Union’s first lady, Lanese Dockery, surveyed the parking lot in front of Hurt Housing Complex, keeping an eye out for families needing assistance.
“We want to reassure parents that this is the place that their child has chosen and that God has brought them here,” Mrs. Dockery said. “We’re just really thankful that they’re here. We want to encourage them and help them in the process to navigate through Union as smoothly as possible.”
Mrs. Dockery has first-hand knowledge of the anxieties those parents face. Two of the Dockery’s three sons have attended Union.
“I felt the same way when my guys came through,” Mrs. Dockery said, “and I know these parents want that same security.”
Mary Ellen Vaughn is a freshman from Paris, Tenn. After the family’s vehicles were unloaded and all her belongings were delivered to her room, Mary Ellen and her mother Donna Vaughn quickly began arranging the room and unpacking boxes. As a bright bed spreads and throw pillows were added to the room, the bare environment took on an air of home.
“When we pulled up, people just came over and said, ‘What can we do? Let me take you where you’re supposed to go,’” Donna Vaughn recounted. “The staff and students have been really helpful to help me know that she’s going to be just fine.
“This is our baby daughter,” Donna Vaughn said. “She has emptied our nest. This is our second time to move somebody in, but we have just two daughters. It’s kind of hard, but we’re so excited because she’s looking forward to being here and we’re excited for her to be here.”
Mary Ellen Vaughn also admitted she was apprehensive as she neared the campus.
“When I was passing Target my heart started beating really fast,” Mary Ellen Vaughn said. “Then when I got here, just seeing everybody else kind of clueless like me, it was ok.
“As soon as I got here, people just rushed to me,” she said. “They were ready to help. I didn’t touch a thing out of my car; everybody got it for me. Everybody’s been so accommodating of my needs and taking me everywhere. I didn’t have to find anything on my own.”
Donna Vaughn expressed confidence that her daughter is in the right place.
“The bottom line is this is where God has led us for her to be,” Donna Vaughn said. “She really feels that calling to come to Union and we all have a peace about that. Everybody has continued to reconfirm that. Even though I’m going to miss her, I know that she’s going to be here and be happy.”