Ceremony celebrates “A New Day, A New Journey”
In his inaugural address, Smith said the purpose of Christian higher education is to equip men and women in preparation for the Great Commission, the biblical charge in Matthew 28:19 to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”
“This is a calling for us inside the walls of this 800-acre campus of University of Mobile, and in every Christian university throughout this country. We are called to mentor students within their discipline in equipping the student intellectually and spiritually in fulfilling the Great Commission calling in becoming a disciple of Christ in the home, church and workplace in leading others to seek Him,” Smith said.
Smith related the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, found in Acts 8:26-35, in which Philip explained Scripture and told of Jesus Christ, a conversation that led to the eunuch’s conversion to Christianity.
“This is exactly the mission of University of Mobile – we are here to teach and preach about Jesus 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,” Smith said.
He said the vision he will strive to bring forward as the fourth president of University of Mobile is that that Jesus Christ continues to be the strengthened as the theological core of a university that is built on biblical premises, where academic rigor is integrated with intellectual development and intentional spiritual enrichment, so that the university becomes a premier Christ-centered academic community providing comprehensive liberal arts and professional programs to distinctively transform the world.
“How is this achieved? It begins with the establishment of a biblical worldview that we as administrators, faculty, staff and students attest to in the classrooms, offices, dining halls and on the athletic fields,” Smith said.
He cited Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” which describes our calling to Him; Genesis 1:26, “Then God said Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” which describes who we are in Him; and Romans 12:20, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may provide what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” which describes our transformation by Him.
“As students undergo this transformational process that is theologically focused on Christ while theoretically balanced with a rich intellectual and spiritual educational process; a caring, mentoring and expansive co-curricular environment that enhances the student’s walk in Christ; and a partnership with the churches and community that continue to shape the minds and hearts of the students, the goal that God has called us to will be achieved,” Smith said.
“Yes, the core values of University of Mobile in being Christ-centered, academically-focused, student-devoted and, because of these, distinctively-driven, will have been fulfilled at University of Mobile just as Philip fulfilled the calling on his life of teaching the eunuch. Yes, we will have preached Jesus Christ,” Smith concluded.
The UM Board of Trustees unanimously selected Smith as president on April 11, 2016. Under his leadership, the university is focusing on its mission of “Higher Education for a Higher Purpose.”
Innovative programs have been launched, such as the College of Health Professions that includes the School of Nursing, the newly developed School of Health and Sports Science, and the newly created School of Allied Health. The Center of Excellence for Healthcare Practice has opened, providing augmented reality technology, high tech simulation labs for obstetrics and adult health, health assessment and sports science, and skills development. A new organizational structure established the framework for further growth and increased visibility for academic areas such as the new Alabama School of the Arts and Alabama College for Online Studies. New degree programs are being added in healthcare, education, music and the arts. Unique programs such as the new four-day academic week with Focus Fridays have already begun, and many more are being developed as University of Mobile enters a new era of growth.
The inauguration ceremony began with a formal procession of delegates, dignitaries, faculty and trustees, including university presidents Dr. Andy Westmoreland of Samford University, Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver of Union University, Dr. David Potts of Judson College, Dr. Tony Waldrop of University of South Alabama, Dr. Barbara McMillin of Blue Mountain College, and Dr. Rick Brewer of Louisiana College.
Dignitaries bringing greetings included: Dr. Frank Page, president and CEO, Executive Committee, Southern Baptist Convention; Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson; Saraland Mayor Dr. Harold Rubenstein; Dr. Bobby Dubois, Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions associate executive director; and Dr. Patrick Jacobs, president of the Faculty Council. Greetings from U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne and Prichard Mayor Jimmie Gardner were read.
Trustees Chair Deborah Nelson was assisted by past chair Fred Wilson in the formal investiture of the new president. Smith was presented with the university’s new ceremonial mace and the presidential chain of office.
Inaugural speaker Dr. Michael Wilder said the inauguration is a celebration of God and His providence.
“In our gathering, we publicly pronounce our confidence that the selection and installation of President Smith is not by accident or by luck, but it is the result of the very hand of God. We have confidence that our Lord has raised up a leader for University of Mobile who will not only guide the institution well, but will lead it with passion and determination, with vision and wisdom, with beauty and excellence,” said Wilder.
Wilder is associate vice president for doctoral studies and the J.M. Frost Associate Professor of Leadership and Discipleship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and also serves as senior pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Floyds Knobs, Indiana.
The ceremony was the highlight of four days of inaugural celebration festivities, including a prayer and worship service, faculty and staff picnic, dinner under the stars for dignitaries, and inaugural gala.