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“The shrill and harsh tones that so often encumber Christian speech need to be tempered with a humility that listens deeply to and a grace that sympathizes profoundly with the diversity of people, ideas and experiences one encounters. Unless we can see and feel the ambiguity and complexity of our world’s experience within our own selves and within our own experience, we will have nothing to say to them. And it is in this context of authentic engagement with an uncertain and often perplexing world, riddled with suffering, conflict, confusion, and strife, that we reaffirm the singularity of our devotion to the world’s true Lord, who alone will lead the entire cosmos to the time when all wrongs will be made right, and all hurts will be healed.”

–Richard Liantonio, On The Road To Emmaus

The wonders of Belhaven professors are spoken of over and over again in my department.  We hear it from alumni, friends of the University, residents in the Belhaven neighborhood and current students.  I can speak to the truth of that from my own experience as well.

Liantonio uses the words “shrill and harsh” to describe some Christian speech.  I appreciate his articulation of this type of communication because once upon a time that was my voice.  It is sad, but true.  And, it hurt.  The fool in me believed that I could argue someone into the faith…if I could just deliver to them the truth, if I could give irrefutable evidence of God, then they would have no option but to come on over to my corner of the ring.  Let me tell you, that was a sad and lonely corner.  And, yet, my professors at Belhaven showed nothing but grace and humility in exposing my folly.   My own salvation came not from the voice of ridicule and sternness, but through the love that came from patient and sincere speech.

The Key to Success

“If you believe the new Gallup-Purdue Index Report, a survey of 30,000 American college graduates on issues of employment, job engagement, and well-being, it all comes down to old-fashioned values and human connectedness.”

–Scott Carlson, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Every week my desk sees the delivery of a large paper entitled, The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Last week there was an article that caught my eye:  ”A Caring Professor:  the Key, All Too Rare, in How Graduates Thrive.”  The article indicates that in job placement, engagement, and success, relationships with professors makes the difference.  University students with significant relationships with professors, advisors, and college staff had a greater sense of purpose and relational skills useful in their occupational outcomes.

Every graduating class receives a “New Alumni Participation Survey” from our office.  In one question, the new graduate is asked, “What do you remember most about your time at Belhaven?”  It never fails that the answer is relationships–faculty that care, students that engage with one another, and an environment that fosters the sharing of ideas.

So I say, “Congrats, Belhaven!”  You are ahead of the curve, and the Gallup-Purdue Index Report is just now asking the right questions!

Take Me To Church

I listen to a good deal of music.  More work gets done that way, so I am busy bopping along to OK GO as I write this.

In the past few weeks, a song entitled “Take Me To Church” has come across my shuffling playlist.  There is one poignant line that sticks out to me:  ”I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife.”  Often, this is how people feel about church–it was an experience of judgment and pain rather than hope and safety.  We are comfortably situated right smack-dab in the middle of the Bible belt,  and we tend to overlook the idea that there are those around us who are unchurched.  And at Belhaven, we are privy to see this truth as it is fleshed out in the lives of some students.  Many lost and hurting souls who feel abandoned by the church find themselves at Belhaven in class with peers and professors who care about them, who ask about them, and, more importantly, who pray for them.

I have had two interactions in the last few weeks wherein a student or graduate was commending Belhaven for her magnificent Faculty.  To quote one, “I had lost my hope in the church until coming to Belhaven.  One particular professor demonstrated to me that hope does still lie in the people that make up the church.  I have returned.”

Our identifier is “Our Standard is Christ.”  Dr. Roger Parrott, President of Belhaven, said, “Jesus prayed, taught, mentored, and loved in ways that connected eternal life with earthly life.”   At the end of the day, what it boils down to is that we are created to be in relationship–with God and others.  The personal investment of Belhaven Faculty in their students bridges that gap for many students.  Praise the Lord for such faithfulness!

In a recent conversation about the last blog, someone asked me, “What  makes Belhaven any different from any other small Christian college?”  The question pulled me up short of a sufficient answer.  Would not they say the same things…”the Faculty care about me” or “the people are like a second family”?  So, I fell asleep wrestling with those questions.

What I finally came to was this:  Belhaven is greater than the sum of all her parts.  Belhaven is made up of caring Staff and Faculty.  Her people perpetuate her good name and significant history.  Her quality and standards reflect a sincere love for Christ.  The Belhaven family, flawed and all, is an extension of our lives (home, church, etc.).  I asked myself (probably aloud as I tend to often talk to myself), “What made Belhaven unique for me?”

Simple.  Her people:  Dr. Wynn Kenyon.  Dr. and Mrs. Martin.  Angela Willoughby.  Dr. Al Chestnut.  Monica Thomas.  John Mark Whitney (insert smiley face).

The campus has always been pretty.  The food has always been sufficient (now, it’s a down-right smorgasbord).  And every class will define their time differently, “Oh, remember when we …fed the ducks down at the lake…danced in the fountain…walked through the gardens on campus…created a fine rendition of Fiddler on the Roof…wore hats and hose…studied/worked/lived in the Pub…competed in Green and Gold day…held May Day festivities…”

My point is made.  What made Belhaven unique for you?

 

French Camp Academy was my home for five years before coming to Belhaven as a student.  Chamberlain-Hunt Academy was my home for seven years after being a student at Belhaven.  It is very easy to sell someone on why they should support these causes.  French Camp is a loving home-school for children from dysfunctional families.  Chamberlain-Hunt provides a structure for boys who are desperately crying out for routine.  But, when I came back to work for Belhaven’s Office of Development, I had a hard time articulating what we were trying to do.  Why should I ask people to support Belhaven?  What reason do they have to invest in us…especially if they paid tuition?  Five years later, I have found an answer.

Twenty or so years ago, there was an appeal crafted with the testimonies of several Belhaven students.  Accolades that boasted of “genuine care of Faculty for students,” and “the relationships made while at Belhaven” were most prominent.  Last week, I tried to recreate that same type of appeal in video format.  It was great fun getting to talk with current students.  But, what I found most interesting (and my “aha” moment) was the amount of overlap between the two groups.  Students were asked, “What are the top three things you love about Belhaven?”  And the answers were the same:  ”The Faculty care about me as a person, not just a number” and “The relationships with people here–this is like my family” and “The community allows me to grow spiritually and emotionally.”

Tuition covers classes, room and board, meal plans, and the like.  But, as alumni and friends of Belhaven, that’s not what we are “buying.”  We are buying an experience unique to each student whereby they are a member of a living, growing community.  We are buying opportunities for current and future students to say that their University Faculty knew them by name.  I am buying into the same environment that fostered me as a person/student and that I want others to experience.  I am buying, without reservation, the chance for students to make real relationships that last a lifetime and change that life within.

 

 

As I go through old yearbooks, catalogues and obscure archives (thanks to Charlie Gaudin), I find interesting things.  Some things are interesting only to me.  Some things are interesting to a few people.  Through this blog post, I want to find out who is interested in my find this week:

“The first edition of Belhaven College’s alumni cookbook BENEATH THE COLUMNS is rolling off the presses …”

The hard work of Becky Wilson, Laura Husband, and Weezie Polk produced BENEATH THE COLUMNS replete with drawings and stories.  This cookbook took 3 months to pull together, includes 900 recipes from alumni, friends, faculty and staff, and was ready in time for Christmas!

I am not a great cook.  In fact, I’ve only JUST discovered that there is a pan dedicated solely to omelets.  However, I LOVE the idea of old recipes, pen and ink drawings, and Belhaven stories.

So, whether you are the cook in your kitchen or not, would you be interested in a reprint?

E-mail me at bwhitney@belhaven.edu and share your thoughts.

 

old black and white machine

This is what my grandmother’s first sewing machine looked like–in all of it’s antiquated beauty.  It was, however, difficult to use.  Don’t get me wrong, it was simpler than hand sewing items, but…

Twenty years ago, theatre at Belhaven consisted of a group of volunteer students (aptly named the Highland Players).  We produced, rehearsed, and performed in a building that no longer exists.  We prepared in classrooms with gross carpet, few windows, and sometimes alongside an actual acadmic class meeting.  And, yet, that team, in love with the art of acting, cranked out sets, costumes, songs and performances that could hang with the best of them.   And Belhaven has only gotten better.  Watch this clip of past productions:

Theatre-screen-shot2

Past presentations of Belhaven’s Theatre Department can only impress upon one the delicate and sophisticated art of costume-making.  Belhaven’s Theatre blog has a post about this very subject (which you can read here) stating:  ”…a story and concept can be told and supported by the design elements of a production.”

Now, what would one need to create such costumes?  SEWING MACHINES!  Not the pedal operated beasts of antiquity, but machines of grand operational effectiveness that allow for the ease of creativity for the seamstress (or seamster).  Like all things, sewing machines need repair and replacement...especially, if a group wants to continue to put together such quality performances as Belhaven’s Theatre Department!

Productions worth watching are the ones where the members backstage are seen as just as important as those onstage.  As BU’s Theatre Department has grown and expanded, it’s time now to update the necessary accouterments so they may continue to put forth that which is worth watching!  So, run on over to e-news that will have hit your inboxes and click on a sewing machine to give to this effort.

 

Spurred by Grace…

…Bound by Love  compiled by Kathleen Page Clark and Clarice Townes Miller

“People ask ‘How can a group of twenty women stay together for thirty-five years?’  It is all the more amazing when people learn that these women come from a background of ten different denominations, attend twelve different churches, live in ten different cities and are from different cultural and educational backgrounds.

These women, who call themselves the SPURS, chose their name from Hebrews 10:24:  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together.  They have met and spurred each other on for thirty-five years.

Many people have asked the SPURS to share how their lives have been dramatically and positively affected by being a part of a loving, caring, supportive, prayerful and Christ-centered group of women.  Many of these stories have never been told or written.  Their joys and sorrows are the threads that make the beautiful SPUR tapestry.  There are stories with tragic situations that end with a redemptive quality that will encourage any reader.  Some stories will make you laugh and remind you how much fun it is to be a Christian.  There is hardly a life circumstance that the SPURS have not experienced.  Their stories confirm the fact that being a Christian does not guarantee a smooth journey through life.  They are proof that God is faithful, prayer works, joy comes in the morning and His Word is Truth.

Be encouraged.  Life is hard but God is good.”

 

 

Clarice Townes Miller is a Belhaven grad from 1962.  Her words are encouraging and wonderful!  During the homecoming weekend, we will have copies of this book on campus.  Come take a look!

 

White Columns

What I have found to be true is the comfort that come with that which is familiar.  I was watching the white columns between Preston and Fitzhugh come down last week.  Not knowing what was happening, I felt a sense of betrayal.  I know the history of the columns;  they were the only remaining part of the original building that burned in 1927.    ”We can’t possibly be removing them,” I said aloud, “they are part of 100 years of history at Belhaven!”

Seeing them come down (including the baby bats inside) had me wondering about our current title for the annual–White Columns.  The reference was obvious, but I wanted to know what prompted the student body to alter the title of the “official Belhaven organ” from Kinetoscope to White Columns.  I found the answer in the 1941 annual, renamed White Columns:

 

“As the chaste columns of the Parthenon fittingly symbolized the dignity of truth and the beauty of simplicity, imperishable ideals of Greek culture, so the gleaming columns of Belhaven seem somehow to embody and express that indefinable thing which we feel is distinctive of the institution, and which we call the ‘Spirit of Belhaven’.  Emerging unscathed from the ravages of the flames the twin columns stand today as memorials of a splendid past, as pillars in the temple of wisdom, and as beacons lighting the pathway to the Greater Belhaven.  Here, under their beneficent shadows dwell in happy harmony the stalwart virtues and the gentle graces of life.  Here, beauty and truth, science and art, reason and faith, walk hand in hand; and here, as of old, the humble heart finds a shining ladder of light whose top reaches to heaven, binding heaven and earth in a bond of perpetual peace.  Born of such a spirit, nurtured in such traditions, and inspired by such ideals, the new yearbook “White Columns” rises into the foreground and lifts its torch on the Belhaven scene.”

This description was contained in President Gillespie’s message at the start of the 1941 academic session.  The Belhaven Miss was still published that year containing all the news and chatter of the campus.  But it would soon find an end in consistent publication.

It brings me great comfort to know that we are putting the columns back into place soon(without the bats).  Perhaps, with revitalized columns, that familiar symbol of the “Spirit of Belhaven” will last another 100 years.  

We were all saddened yesterday by news of the death of one of our own. Robert G. Johnson (Bob), class of 1973, and member of Belhaven’s all-time recording setting basketball team, passed away in Memphis on Sunday, August 11, 2013.  In celebration of his life, there will be a memorial service on Belhaven’s campus on Thursday, August 15 at 11:00 AM*.

Robert G. Johnson, Jr.

Jonesboro, Ark.

 

Bob died on August 11, 2013 at The Regional Medical Center in Memphis,Tenn., after injuries sustained from an automobile accident in Jonesboro, Ark. Bob was born on March 14, 1951 in Tylertown, MS to Eleanor and Robert Johnson. Bob attended high school in Tylertown. He attended Belhaven College in Jackson on a four year basketball scholarship, where he studied to become a certified public accountant. Bob is survived by his wife Diann and her son Jon Moore; his son, Trey; daughter, Heather; brother, Jimmy; sister, Kathy Stringer and five grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his brother Johnny Joe Johnson. A memorial service will be held Thursday, August 15 at 11 a.m. in The Barber Auditorium on the Belhaven University campus.  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Belhaven University, 1500 Peachtree St., Jackson, MS 39202.

*If anyone would like to speak at the memorial service, please email Luly Johnson or Beth Whitney.

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