Makoto Fujimura to be Commencement Speaker

I am thrilled to announce that one of the world’s most significant visual artists and influential leaders in the Arts, Makoto Fujimura, will be our Jackson Campus commencement speaker April 30.

Mako is an artist, writer, and speaker who is recognized worldwide as a cultural influencer by both faith-based and secular media.

makotofujimuraA Presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts (2003-2009), he has contributed internationally as an advocate for the arts, speaking with decision makers and advising governmental policies on the arts.

We will award Mako an honorary doctorate in recognition of his significant work and leadership in the Arts.  It is a joy for Belhaven to honor him, and for Mako to honor us by accepting, because Belhaven University is one of only 30 schools in America accredited in all four Arts – Music, Theatre, Dance, and Visual Art, and the only evangelical University working at the highest levels in the Arts.

Makoto Fujimura’s work is exhibited at galleries around the world, including Dillon Gallery (New York), Sen Gallery (Tokyo), The Contemporary Museum of Tokyo, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts Museum and Oxford House, Taiku Place (Hong Kong). He has painted live on stage at New York’s legendary Carnegie Hall as part of an ongoing collaboration with composer and percussionist Susie Ibarra.

A popular speaker, he has lectured at numerous conferences and universities, including the Aspen Institute, Yale, Princeton, the Q Conference, and IAM’s Encounter 10. Fujimura’s second book, Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art and Culture, is a collection of essays bringing people of all backgrounds together in conversation and meditation on culture, art, and humanity. Fujimura founded the International Arts Movement in 1992.

He is currently exhibiting “the Four Holy Gospels” works he created in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

The Christian Life Done Right – Michael Barranco

Today we had the funeral for our University architect, and my friend Michael Barranco.  I never could have imagined his would be a funeral I would attend.

We turned away hundreds of people today when the Center for the Arts filled to capacity with 800 people and dozens stood in the isles for two hours.  For the visitation last night, over 1,800 people came to pay their respects.


Michael Barranco did it right …

… he did architecture right

… he did marriage right

… he did father right

… he did music right

… he did community leadership right

… he did creativity right

… he did grace right

… he did justice right

… he did service right

… he did caring right

… he did friend right

… he did hope right

… he did the Christian life right


I admired Michael so much that I wrote about him in my book, The Longview, because I’d seen him respond to a challenge that might have ruined any other friendship.  But he was filled with such Godly grace that we came through it stronger than ever.

The situation I describe in the book was the capstone story for the chapter titled, “The Joy of Minimizing Conflicts of Interest” because Michael was such an example of how Christians should do business.

Potential conflicts of interest do not need to become so.

Not long ago, I faced the prospect of selling property to my architect, who is the son-in-law of my former vice president for development, who lives down the street, who sings with in my church choir, and who is a major donor to the school. Definitely playing with fire in the conflict of interest arena.

But we worked together through the process, which was filled with more tough challenges than we ever anticipated – and there was a lot of money at stake. We had frank, upfront discussions, applying the principles of Stool, Whip, and Chair, and came through it as closer friends who had benefited tremendously from the transaction.

In truth, dealing with potential conflicts candidly and transparently will honor God’s working in our organizations. And when done right, these situations will become some of the greatest joys of longview leadership.


Michael BarrancoMichael Anthony Barranco, 48, died Tuesday February 22, 2011 from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in Tunica, MS.

Michael Barranco was first and foremost a man of God. Michael’s faith in Jesus Christ was the cornerstone of his character, his marriage, his family and his work. He was a man who lived a life that may have seemed brief but it was by no means “unfishished.” He squeezed every moment of life out of every day. He never wasted any of his life. And he lived without regrets.

In Jackson and beyond, Michael will be remembered for many and varied passions and involvements. He was a 1980 graduate of St. Joseph Catholic High School ? where many of his best loved memories were on the football field. He was a man committed to Scouting from his earliest days as a boy with his father, John S. Barranco of Jackson. Michael achieved his Eagle Scout Award and was a member of the Order of the Arrow and was currently serving on the advisory Board of the Andrew Jackson Council of the Boy Scouts of America. In recent years Michael continued his love for scouting by founding the Boy Scout troup at Redeemer Church in North Jackson, where he and his family also worshipped.

Michael was perhaps most remembered in Mississippi for his skills as an artist which manifested themselves in his work as an architect and as a musician. Michael graduated from Mississippi State University in 1985 with a BA in Architecture and has been one of the most influential architects in the state of Mississippi in recent years. He was the past president of the Mississippi chapter of the American Institute of Architects and was currently serving as the president of the Mississippi State Board of Architecture. Michael was the formulator of the idea of a Mississippi Charrette which, with the help of many colleagures, resulted in the Mississippi Renewal Forum which led to a remarkable collaborative endeavor in response to the devastating hurricane Katrina of 2005.

Additionally, Michael loved music. In fact he and his wife of 24 years, Jene Ray Barranco met at Poet’s in 1986 where Michael performed regularly with the Andy Hardwick Trio. Though he is probably more well known for his work with the Bluz Boys and more recently with the Barranco Brothers.

Michael, a native of Jackson, is survived by his wife, Jene Ray Barranco and their three children, Mia (18), Julia (14) and Michael Anthony, Jr. (12). He is also survived by his parents, John S. Barranco, Sr. and Camille Griffith Barranco of Jackson; brother, John S. Barranco, Jr. of Nashville; sister, Pam Barranco Jew and Sam Jew of Jackson; brother, Vincent Barranco of Nashville; and sister, Lesa Barranco Nuzzo and Al Nuzzo of Jackson. He is also survived by 15 nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be 5-8 pm, Friday February 25, 2011 and 1pm Saturday at the Belhaven Center for the Arts on Riverside Drive in Jackson. Funeral services will be 2:00 pm Saturday February 26 2011, at the Belhaven Center for the Arts. A private burial service will follow for family. Wright and Ferguson Funeral Home in Ridgeland is assisting with the arrangements.

Donations, in lieu of flowers, will be used to set up the Michael Barranco Boy Scout Fund and Redeemer Church where Michael established a troop as a ministry outreach to the underprivileged boys in the local community. To donate contact Scott Marshall at 601-714-1668

Tim Keller at Belhaven Tonight – Audio

It was a joy to have Tim Keller speak at Belhaven this evening.  This event was hosted along with Lemuria Bookstore and Belhaven RUF.

We had a totally packed house . . . and marvelous hour hearing from Tim.

The audio of the evening can be found HERE

The whole evening was wonderful, but just the first half of his message – the 8 reasons why the Gospel account is true – was well worth the time of those who were waiting in line early this afternoon for the 7:00 p.m. event.

With the Concert Hall filled nearly 45 minutes before it started, our guests were treated with marvelous music and dance from our students.  As always it was top quality.

Belhaven Science Students Win Research Competition Among All Mississippi Universities

Belhaven University Biology students received first and second place in the Health Sciences Poster presentations at the Mississippi Academy of Sciences annual meetings.

On February 17, and 18th the Biology and Chemistry faculty together with six students attended the Mississippi Academy of Sciences Meetings in Hattiesburg. The Academy includes students and faculty from all junior and senior colleges; professional schools and science research centers in the State of Mississippi.

Jonathan Kalehoff, Isaiah Tolo, James Presgraves and Jarrett Morgan received first place for their presentation of ”The effects of Green tea, White tea , EGCG and Caffeine on Trypanosoma lewisi infections in rats.”

Grace Martin and Essa Wiseman received second place for their presentation of “The Effects of Moringa olifera on Trypanosoma lewisi infections in rats.”

Belhaven University has been working with this parasite, a non-pathogenic relative of the causative agent of sleeping sickness  for the last 16 years.

Egyptian Christian Leader’s Perspective During the Demonstrations

My long time friend, Ramez Attalah, is General Secretary of the Bible Society of Egypt.  He was the program chair for the Lausanne Congress in Cape Town in October.

While the demonstrations were still going on and two days before the president resigned, Ramez held a briefing for the Lausanne board and a few others.  Here is a portion of his report –  Ramez said this report could be shared publicly.

  • Christians and Muslims have been united as never before defending their homes on overnight shifts (due to the lack of police security) this is resulting for many to make friends with neighbors they never knew and there is a real sense of camaraderie which we never had before.
  • Food, medical and other supplies are dwindling since most factories and businesses are closed after last week’s wave of vandalism and the daily 3 p.m. curfew. Pray for the poor and destitute who suffer most at this time.
  • I’ve lived through many of these kind of dramatic events (1952 revolution which deposed the King, the burning of much of downtown Cairo, the tri-partite attack on Egypt in 1956 by the Israelis, French and British following the nationalization of the Suez canal (a bomb fell in our garden), the nationalization of all capitalists when my family lost all their properties and were terribly humiliated, my pediatrician was tortured to death in jail during that time, the brutal assassination in 1981 of President Sadat after he made peace with Israel, the security forces rampage which caused much damage around the city and a strong earthquake in 1992 etc.. So though this situation is volatile and unstable we’ve lived through similar crises and it’s not time to panic or leave the country.

Women’s Basketball Is Off To The Big Dance!!

Tonight Head Coach Billy Evans, and the Belhaven University Women’s Basketball team, made history by earning an invitation to the NAIA Division I National Tournament.

This will be the first time Belhaven has ever participated in the national women’s basketball championship.

We still have some regular season games remaining in the season, and the play in conference tournament in Rome, GA, March 1 – 5.

The national tournament will be held in Jackson, Tennessee, with the first game March 16th.  BU will go to the national tournament no matter how we come out in the final regular season games and the conference tournament.

Go Blazers!!

Baseball Plays Last Year’s Champion on Saturday at 4pm

This weekend, our #12 ranked Baseball team hosts McKendree University on Friday at 4:00 pm.  We play McKendree again on  Saturday at 1:00 pm.

Then at 4:00 pm on Saturday we play the #1 ranked and defending national champions, Cumberland University at 4:00 pm on Saturday.

Last year at the World Series, Belhaven eliminated the 2009 defending champs – Lubbock Christian.

And last weekend Belhaven beat #7 Oklahoma City 8-7 in 12 innings, so this game Saturday will be critical in setting the stage for the playoffs.

All three games are played at Smith Wills Stadium on Lakeland Drive.

Medal of Freedom to Christian Martyr

Our nation’s highest award given to a civilian, The Medal of Freedom, was awarded today to Dr. Tom Little, posthumously.  Tom was martyred in Afghanistan in August.  His widow, Libby Little, accepted the honor on Tom’s behalf today in a ceremony at the White House.
Libby spoke to the Lausanne Congress in Cape Town this past October, just three months after Tom was killed – it was her first time to speak publicly after Tom’s death.

She used Tom’s blood stained notes from his final sermon as the substance of her remarks, urging Christians to “go spread the aroma of Christ in hard places.”

We praise God for the impact of Tom’s remarkable life and for the way it has been honored today by President Obama.

Here is the story from the New York Daily News following Tom’s death

New York optometrist, Tom Little, 62, one of six American aid workers killed in Afghanistan

Tom Little, a 62-year-old optometrist from Delmar, NY was one of six Americans shot to death in Afghanistan this week.

In the remote rural villages of Afghanistan, the big-hearted New Yorker was known simply as Mr. Tom.

For more than three decades, opthamologist Tom Little made his home and did his work in the war-torn nation, raising three daughters while treating thousands of needy patients each year.

Little, who survived the 1979 war with the Russians and exile by the Taliban in 2001, was shot to death while heading home after a humanitarian mission in northern Afghanistan.

Little, 62, typically traveled with his wife, Libby, who was likely spared by her decision to stay at their upstate residence in Delmar, N.Y. Friends and supporters of the couple’s efforts were devastated.

“He was well-known and deeply loved,” said Lawrence Roff, senior pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Schenectady.

The second-generation eye doctor had long moved easily through his adopted nation, learning the local language and customs while developing a needed knack for tact and diplomacy.

“I never saw Tom lose his cool,” said David Evans of the Loudonville Community Church. “He was a remarkable man.”

Evans joined Little on a 5,231-mile trip to bring Land Rovers from England to Kabul six years ago – typical of the late doctor’s determination.

Little was familiar with the dangers of Afghanistan. In a 2004 interview, he recounted family picnics that ended with attempted Taliban kidnappings.

The threats never deterred Little from his work with the National Organization for Ophthalmic Rehabilitation, bringing eye care to millions of Afghans.

He oversaw three 40-bed hospitals in three large cities, and three 10-bed facilities in smaller outposts.

In 2003, NOOR operations treated 234,570 patients and performed more than 14,000 surgeries.

BIG win…BIG game…Women’s Basketball

The Belhaven women’s basketball team reached their 20th win of the season defeating William Carey University Saturday afternoon in Rugg Arena 69-54.

It is the first time since 1982 that the program has posted at least 20 wins in a season. The Blazers are now one win away from clinching the Southern States Athletic Conference West Division title and their first ever trip to the NAIA National Tournament – March 16 – 22 in Jackson, Tennessee.

Head Coach Billy Evans and the team will play for their 21st win on Thursday and the SSAC West Division championship. We will play host to Loyola University who trails the Blazers by 2.5 games with three conference games to play.

Thursday’s game will be at 5:30 PM on campus, or you can follow game through live stats by clicking here.