Emmons Photo

Couple Uses ‘God’s Money’ to Spread Gospel Through University of Mobile Students

Kathy Dean Giving, News

MOBILE, Ala. – Butch and Sharon Emmons love the theatre. When they attended their first theatre production at the University of Mobile nearly 20 years ago, they expected to see a good show.

They saw something even better – a way to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ through students at the Baptist-affiliated university. 

“We saw what these kids were doing and how they were promoting the gospel – not only in the United States, but all over the world as they travel,” said Butch Emmons. 

It’s a mission and message the couple believes is so important that they established the Eileen J. and Sharon B. Emmons Performance Scholarship in 2019 for students in the performing arts. They also included the University of Mobile in their estate planning, bequeathing their house and property upon their deaths.

Now, the Emmons continue that legacy with a gift of $100,000, adding to their endowed scholarship and supporting additional scholarships through the University of Mobile Scholarship Banquet.

As lead sponsor for the upcoming University of Mobile Scholarship Banquet, the Emmons are inviting the community to enjoy an evening featuring guest speaker and football legend Archie Manning while raising funds for scholarships. A limited number of tickets are still available at umobile.edu/banquet for the Oct. 26 event at Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center in Mobile.

The couple said their decision to invest financial resources they have spent a lifetime earning into students at the University of Mobile was easy – after all, it’s not their money.

“Our money is not our money – it’s God’s money. We have only been given the opportunity to use it to further the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sure, we could have ‘built bigger barns,’ etc., but we realized this was God’s money. When we saw how the students were being used by God, we decided this was where we wanted to invest,” said Butch.

“We wanted to make an impact and leave a legacy for all to come,” he added. “These students may have a desire to come here, but not be able to afford it – but through scholarships, it is possible. Then they have the opportunity to leave and go out and spread the gospel of Christ.”

Sharon said, “We realized as we look at the world that Christianity and its influence is declining. And we thought, if we don’t step in and take the few things that we have and help the university and the students that want to come here, Christianity would die.”

The Emmons have been members of Spring Hill Baptist Church in Mobile for over 30 years. 

“We firmly believe that Christianity is the way to live,” Sharon said, and they want to encourage others whom God has blessed to help the younger generation spread the gospel message.

“We want young people who have that fire and that passion to be able to live out their dreams and promote the Word of God through their life and their example. If someone doesn’t help them and support them, they aren’t going to get that opportunity. That’s why we feel it is so important for the Christian community to support students at the University of Mobile,” Sharon said.

Butch said he wants more young men and women to have access to the Christ-centered environment at UM as they pursue college degrees and prepare for life beyond college.

“There are some kids who come here who probably aren’t Christian. Just being in the environment here, they see other students who are inspired and have a passion for the Word of God, and I believe some of them will catch that,” said Butch. 

Dr. Lonnie Burnett, president of the University of Mobile, said the impact the couple is making in the lives of students is immeasurable. 

“Mr. and Mrs. Emmons have been a blessing to many of our students through their generosity. I admire the fact that, when they see a need, they are quick to respond,” Burnett said.

The Emmons said years of hard work have given them the opportunity to give back.

Butch Emmons invested his career in higher education, starting as a student taking inventory in the bookstore at Mississippi College. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. During training in Pensacola at the Naval Air Station’s Corry Field, he would drive through Mobile on the way home to Clinton, Mississippi – an experience that helped him in later years make the decision to move to Mobile and join the University of South Alabama administration.

After the service, he returned to Mississippi College, earned a Master of Business Administration and worked as assistant bookstore manager. That led to a position as bookstore manager at Western Carolina University before he moved on to University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he rose from bookstore manager to executive director of auxiliary enterprises.

He then joined the University of South Alabama, where he served nearly 30 years before retiring as assistant vice president of auxiliary services. During his career, he was instrumental in managing the construction of The Mitchell Center, among other major facilities.

Sharon Emmons has dedicated her life to healing the sick, with nearly 30 years at the University of South Alabama Medical Center, now University Hospital. She served as a critical care dietitian in the intensive care unit, including 19 years working exclusively with burn patients. 

“It became my passion. I had found my niche, and I loved every minute of it,” she said. “You made a difference there and I like to make a difference, hence the scholarship here at the University of Mobile.”

 Sharon was selected Media Representative for the State of Alabama through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for several years during her career and made presentations locally and nationally. She also had her own consulting business with nursing homes and residential childcare centers in the Mobile Area.

 Now in retirement, “I have gone to the dogs,” she says, and raises and shows Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

Dr. Bruce Earnest, vice president for advancement, said gifts such as the Emmons’ are vital to the Christian university’s mission of “Higher Education for a Higher Purpose.” 

“In addition to providing scholarships that change lives and enable students to follow the Lord’s calling for their lives, donors play a transformative role in the future of the university,” Earnest said. A recent example is the J.L. Bedsole Sports Performance Center, a training facility that was funded through a major grant from the J.L. Bedsole Foundation and individual donors.

For more information on opportunities to support Christian higher education at the University of Mobile, call the Office for Advancement at 251.442.2406, email advancement@umobile.edu or visit umobile.edu/giving.

About the University of Mobile

The University of Mobile is a Christ-centered liberal arts and sciences institution with a vision of higher education for a higher purpose, founded to honor God by equipping students for their future professions through rigorous academic preparation and spiritual transformation. Core values are: Christ-Centered, Academically-Focused, Student-Devoted and Distinctively-Driven. The university offers on-campus and online bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in over 75 academic programs. Founded in 1961, the University of Mobile is affiliated with the Alabama Baptist State Convention and is located 10 miles north of Mobile, Alabama on a campus of over 880 acres.

For information about the University of Mobile, areas of study, admissions and more, visit umobile.edu, connect with UM on social media @univofmobile, or call Enrollment Services at 1.800.WIN.RAMS or 251.442.2222.

About the Author

Kathy Dean

Kathy Dean is assistant vice president for university communications and has helped tell the University of Mobile story since 1993. She is an award-winning public relations professional and former journalist. Her husband and daughter are UM graduates. She loves playing in the yard – planting flowers, picking blueberries, pulling weeds and petting her two mini-schnauzers.