UNIVERSITY OF MOBILE SELECTS 4TH PRESIDENT: TIMOTHY L. SMITH, PHD, PHD, CRNA, APRN
MOBILE, Ala. – The University of Mobile Board of Trustees has selected Dr. Timothy L. Smith as the fourth president in the Christian university’s 54-year history.
Smith, who holds two Ph.D.s, two master’s degrees and is licensed by the South Carolina Board of Nursing and the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, has extensive experience in Christian higher education and the field of healthcare education.
Smith, 52, said he is coming to the University of Mobile to listen, collaborate, partner and build.
“The University of Mobile has a great foundation, with many building blocks already above the foundation. I believe there are huge opportunities to serve the community and partner with so many organizations. My methodology in leading as president will be a very collaborative approach. I want people inside the institution and externally to know that I’m coming in to listen; I’m coming in to collaborate; and I’m coming in to partner,” said the president-elect.
Smith will assume the presidency on May 16. He succeeds Dr. Mark Foley, who announced last October that he would step down after 18 years as leader of the Baptist-affiliated liberal arts university. In January, the Board of Trustees launched a nationwide search for the next president.
UMobile Board of Trustees Chair Fred Wilson, former partner in P.J. Lumber Co. in Mobile, introduced the president-elect at a press conference Monday at the Harrigan Center on the University of Mobile campus. Joining in the introduction were Terry Harbin, chair of the Presidential Search Committee, and Foley. The press conference followed a Board of Trustees meeting called specifically to elect the university’s next president.
“Dr. Tim Smith will be a president for every constituency of the university. He is a tireless worker and a great visionary with a broad range of experience,” Wilson said.
Smith is provost of Anderson University in South Carolina. Previously, he was dean of the School of Nursing at Union University in Tennessee, where he oversaw a 79 percent expansion in enrollment and founded the Center for Excellence in Healthcare Practice that included a nurse residency program for five hospitals.
Harbin said the search committee recommended Smith for three primary reasons.
“He is unbelievably well-qualified through his academic preparation. Secondly, he has practical experience. He has done in other places what we need done at the University of Mobile. And thirdly, he has demonstrated humility. A man who has accomplished what he has accomplished in life to come in and be a down-to-earth, Christ-centered servant is amazing,” said Harbin.
“We saw in Dr. Smith an absolute commitment to academic excellence in faculty, staff and students. I think the bar will be raised significantly,” added Harbin, who is past chair of the UMobile Board of Trustees and market president of BancorpSouth Bank in Mobile.
Smith said he and his wife, Penney, are excited about the opportunity. She is a healthcare administrator consultant, serving as chief quality officer and helping hospitals with healthcare regulatory compliance. The couple has two children: daughter Ashley Wainscott, 24, who lives in Jackson, Tennessee with her husband, Alex; and son Blake Smith, 21, a junior at Clemson University studying engineering.
Foley said he and the Board of Trustees have been working toward the goal of having a new president in place, with a planned strategy for a successful hand-off of leadership.
“Marilyn and I are delighted to welcome Tim and Penney to the University of Mobile family,” said Foley. “We have invested 18 years of our lives into this special place, and I can think of no better person to lead the university to even greater things than Dr. Tim Smith.”
His dissertation for the Ph.D. in leadership was “A Study of Factors that Predict the Success of Christ-Centered Higher Educational Institutions: A Mixed Method Study.” His Ph.D. in nursing dissertation was on “The Evaluation of Auditory Evoked Potentials and Psychological Priming Techniques as Indicators of Implicit Memory Formation During General Anesthesia” with an emphasis in anesthesia with foci in neuroanatomy and physiology. His thesis for the M.S.N. was on “Effect of Propofol and Desflurane on Recall During Anesthesia.”
Smith has held a variety of academic positions, from assistant professor to provost. At the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, College of Nursing, from 1997-2004, he rose from assistant professor to associate professor and director of the nurse anesthesia program. At Union University from 2005-2014 he started as associate professor and dean of the School of Nursing, rising to professor and then executive director of the Center for Excellence in Health Care Practice.
He joined Anderson University in 2014 as vice president of strategic initiatives and special associate to the provost, becoming provost in 2015. Since 2014 he has served as adjunct professor in the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He is the author of numerous scholarly articles as well as book reviews and research abstracts.
He worked as a cardiovascular intensive care registered nurse in Memphis, Tennessee, at Baptist Memorial Hospital Central and Methodist Hospitals Central. Later, he was a CRNA, RN and physician assistant with Medical Anesthesia Group and Cardiovascular Center, both in Memphis. He also served as a CRNA with Anesthesiologist Associates and also Anesthesia Consultants, both in Chattanooga.
“When I looked at the University of Mobile, what I saw very quickly and what I heard very quickly is that it is an institution that it is rock-solid in its faith on God’s Word, in that we depend on Him and we are led by Him as we continue moving forward. My experience in academia is that there are a lot of changes you can make in an institution, but if an institution has wandered from its faith, it is very hard to bring the institution back to that.
“The University of Mobile has such a strength in the intentionality of its faith-based approach to Christian higher education. That’s the No. 1 thing that attracted me,” Smith said.
Both Anderson University and Union University are Southern Baptist-affiliated schools, like the University of Mobile. Smith said serving in Christian higher education “has been a calling on my professional life for several years. This is why I went back to seminary, to continue to strengthen my understanding of Christian world view.”
Trustee chair Wilson said prayer was at the heart of the presidential search.
“So many prayers have been lifted for all of this process, both inside and outside the university. The committee prayed that each one of us would be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and not our own, individual thoughts and perhaps desires. There were 10 committed, but independent, Christians chosen for the search, and if we worked at this task through our own human strengths and weaknesses, it would have been difficult to reach consensus. With all 10 dedicating themselves to follow God’s lead, He clearly directed us to Tim Smith as His candidate. Reaching Tim as the unanimous choice was the result,” Wilson said.
Search committee chair Harbin agreed.
“God did the whole thing. We just tried to listen. It’s just absolutely clear that Dr. Tim Smith is God’s man for this time. I could not be more thrilled,” Harbin said.
The Smiths are members at Taylors First Baptist Church in Taylors, South Carolina, where he serves as guest teacher in the Life Group while focusing on the development of care groups throughout the church. Previously, he has taught young married classes at church and led annual mission trips to the Dominican Republic.
As dean and professor of the School of Nursing at Union University, he grew the program over nine years from approximately 400 pre-nursing and nursing students and 17 faculty/staff to 747 students and 55 faculty/staff, becoming the largest faith-based nursing school in the nation.
He was responsible for the day-to-day operations of Anderson University, which at 3,200 students is over twice the size of UMobile. While there, he led the effort to establish the university as a leader in the health sciences, and worked with administration and faculty to expand other educational programs to meet the needs of the region.
The search process included extensive interviews and surveys with students, faculty, staff, alumni, community leaders, denominational leaders and trustees to develop a list of key characteristics of the ideal president. Those four critical leadership benchmarks were:
A faithful servant-leader
Fundraising and growth strategist and spearhead
Executive leader, steward, wise decision-maker
Peacemaker, influencer, educator, community builder.
Search Committee chair Harbin said 38 candidates applied for the post, and the committee interviewed six. While any of the final six would be well qualified for the job, Smith was the unanimous choice to recommend to the Board.
“He is a collaborative team leader who knows how to give people the opportunity to succeed, and he is able to make the tough decisions. He uses team members to develop a vision, and he is able to cast a vision and get out there and make it happen. He has a demonstrated track record of successful leadership,” Harbin said.
During Foley’s tenure, the university invested $44.8 million in capital projects, started online academic programs, built residence halls and doubled the residential capacity to 734, created the Center for Performing Arts and the humanities Honors Program, and developed an active Campus Life program with extensive opportunities for mentoring, leadership development, service, missions and more.
Dr. Smith holds two Ph.D.s and two master’s degrees, is licensed by the South Carolina Board of Nursing and the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, and is ordained as a Southern Baptist minister. Prior to joining UM, he has held a variety of academic positions, from assistant professor to provost, while serving at Anderson University, Union University, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center. He is the author of numerous articles and publications on topics relating to Christian worldview, Christian higher education, adult and professional programs, and anesthesia. He was recently selected for the Harvard Business School Executive Education Program.
Under his leadership, University of Mobile is focused on its mission as a Christ-centered academic community providing liberal arts and professional programs to renew minds through intellectual and spiritual development for the fulfilling of one’s professional calling. This Great Commission university has adopted four core values that drive its growth and development: Christ-Centered, Academically-Focused, Student-Devoted, and Distinctively-Driven.
The university is launching innovative programs including the College of Health Professions with the School of Nursing, newly developed School of Health and Sports Science, and newly created School of Allied Health. The new Center for Excellence in Healthcare Practice provides state-of-the-art simulation labs for obstetrics and adult health, a health assessment and sports science lab, and a skills lab.
The new Alabama School of the Arts houses the departments of music, worship leadership, theatre, and visual arts. The School also has a professional recording studio. Students gain practical experience with performance opportunities through the Roger Breland Center for Performing Arts and productions such as Christmas Spectacular that draws an audience of more than 10,000 locally and is televised worldwide.
The university’s spirit of educational entrepreneurship is resulting in new academic programs and initiatives, including a four-day academic week with Focus Fridays that encourages community involvement and spiritual development. This era of growth embraces collaboration and partnerships that enable the university to efficiently develop new academic programs that respond to workforce needs and changing markets.
Dr. Smith is a rotarian of the Sunrise – Mobile Rotary Chapter and serves as an advisory member on the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. He and his wife, Penney, a healthcare administrator consultant, have two adult children and a son-in-law: daughter Ashley Wainscott and her husband, Alex; and son Blake Smith.