Belhaven to Host Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts

From the Clarion Ledger

The Mississippi Arts Commission revamps its Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts ceremony this year, marking its 25th anniversary and streamlining it for radio and TV.

The hour-long ceremony, 1 p.m. Thursday at the Belhaven University Center for the Arts, is free and open to the public, as is a reception following at the neighboring Junior League of Jackson. The ceremony will be carried live on Mississippi Public Broadcasting Think Radio and taped to air at 8:30 that night on MPB.

Country music star, multiple Grammy winner and 1999 Governor’s Award recipient Marty Stuart will host the event and his Fabulous Superlatives will serve as its house band.

The five 2013 award recipients are: blues entertainer Bobby Rush, for lifetime achievement; Eddie “Chank” Willis, one of the main architects of the Motown sound, for excellence in music; playwright Beth Henley, for excellence in literature; Bay St. Louis Little Theatre for arts in community; and theater educator and Telling Trees Project founder Kathryn Lewis.

“Honestly, this show is really about the recipients, and that’s what we wanted to focus it more on,” said Susan Liles, Mississippi Arts Commission public relations director. Presenting the awards at a more performance-oriented venue, the 800-seat Belhaven University Center for the Arts, is also part of that move. In previous years, programs stretched from two to two-and-a-half hours long.

Liles said the Fabulous Superlatives will perform opening tributes to each recipient, and a couple of special performances are planned, too, including from Bobby Rush. Poetry Out Loud national champion and two-time state champ Kristen Dupard, now a freshman at the University of Southern Mississippi, will also be part of the ceremony.

Doors open at noon Thursday for the event.

Bob Pennebaker Serves National Art and Design Board

Professor Bob Pennebaker, chair of our Visual Art Department, has been appointed by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) to it’s board of ethics. The members include:


Mary Colleen Heil, Chair (2013)
Pennsylvania College of Art and Design

Bob Pennebaker (2015)
Belhaven University

Sally Struthers (2014)
Sinclair Community College

NASAD is the national organization that accredits the 322 universities who have met their standard of excellence.  Belhaven has held NASAD accreditation for many years.

This accrediting body works with Visual Arts, but here are mirror organizations in each of the other primary Arts:  Music, Theatre, and Dance.

Belhaven University is one of only 30 Universities in America whose four primary Arts programs are all independently accreddited.

Today’s Adult and Graduate Commencement

Today we held our fall term commencement for adult and graduate students.  Thalia Mara Hall was filled.

This is the 129th year Belhaven students have come together for commencement.

Our speaker this morning was Dr. Dolphus Weary, and he lifted the crowd with a wonderfully inspirational message.













Here is my introduction of Dolphus from this morning:

Christian leadership demands the ability to envision a God called future that most cannot see.

Such leadership requires steadfast determination, unshakable courage, gracious service, most importantly, the relentless call to gather a momentum of people who share the goal – so that eventually the leader’s voice does not stand out, but blends with the harmony of God’s people working together.

Dr. Dolphus Weary is that type of leader.

In my years of working with, cheering for, and admiring Dolphus, I have seen a leader who not only believes that genuine biblical reconciliation is possible, but created a wave of momentum of people who also have caught that vision and are multiplying it all across our state and around the nation.

His burden is never light taking on the tough challenge of creating a Godly understanding of racial reconciliation.  But, like Belhaven University, he is committed to the task because God calls us to it, not because it is easy.

Building racial harmony on our campus, across our state, in a church, or in a community is a continuous, conscious, every-day, every-activity, every-person, every-decision process that comes from our commitment to biblical unity.  And every day Dr. Dolphus Weary is teaching, preaching, and living out how to do just that.

He is a man with a marvelous educational background that capstoned with a Doctorate of Ministry from Reformed Theological Seminary.

After completing a remarkable run as Director of Mission Mississippi he took on the task of building the REAL Christian Foundation which is committed to Rural Education and Leadership connecting economic and technical assistance with rural ministries.

And for 20 years Dolphus lead Mendenhall Ministries, founded by our friend, Dr. John Perkins.

Dolphus serves on some of the most significant national boards in the evangelical world, including World Vision, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, and most importantly Belhaven University.

In 2005 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Belhaven University.

Join me in welcoming as our commencement speaker,

  • a leader who takes on the seemly impossible because he is convinced that God’s power transforms,
  • a nationally sought after speaker who inspires people to genuine reconciliation,
  • and a friend, who is a brother in Christ, Dr. Dolphus Weary.


Alum Victoria Jelstrom Swilley’s Film Project

If there is one issue that can bring my blood to a boiling point it is the horrible tragedy of student bullying throughout all levels of the educational system of America.

What students face today is NOT the “harmless boys-will-be-boys” play of years gone past. It is ruining lives, crushing self-esteem, and too often ending in suicide.

We don’t tolerate it at all on on Belhaven’s campus.  Nor do we tolerate ANY level of hazing, initiations, etc.  I tell our coaching staff every year, the single fastest way to get fired is to tolerate any level of hazing – you’ll be gone if you do.

(Told you it get’s my blood pressure up in a hurry.)

So….here is the real purpose of this blog post.  Read this message below from one of our most recent alums. And if God calls you to join with me in making a small gift to help her project, I think it will be an important investment.

Hello Dr. Parrott (and Alumni Office),

I’m a 2010 graduate of Belhaven, the first person to graduate from the Musical Theater track, actually. I’ve moved to Florida and begun being involved in the film industry, first as an actor, and now as a filmmaker. Right now my big project is a short film called “The Lesson”, a message film about bullying. We are trying to stay as far afield as possible from the stereotypical “jocks beating up the nerds” angle taken by most media, and instead portray bullying the way it really is, showing the potential consequences, and encouraging people to step in when they observe someone being victimized.

Here is a short video of me explaining about the film and why it’s important to me. Please take a moment to watch it; I feel it describes why we are doing this better than text alone can.

The best way to get a short film noticed and watched is to submit to film festivals, which is what we are aiming to do when production finishes. To do well in festivals, we need enough money to produce it in the most excellent way possible. We are fundraising right now via Kickstarter at the link HERE If you would like to share either link on any media (blogs, alumni blasts, whatever), I’d really appreciate it.

I do want to let you know that because of the nature of bullying (and because we are wanting to present it in a truthful, non-stereotypical way), the film isn’t going to be an easy one to watch. The script is clean (no sex or profanity), but there is some self-harm, implied violence from a parent, eating disorders, smoking, gay slurs (no openly gay characters), and racial issues are addressed as well.  At one point in the script the audience will assume that some teens commit suicide, although once the ending is reached it becomes obvious that someone has intervened, and it goes out on a positive, uplifting note. We are trying as much as possible to be truthful and tasteful in handling these issues, without being gratuitous. My aim is that God be glorified, though our company is not officially faith-based or religiously affiliated.

Our goal is to encourage people to step in, “Stand Alone” if need be, on behalf of victims; far too often people just turn a blind eye to bullying, or even blame the victims. Personally, through this film, I am trying to show that everyone is worthy of respect and love, because Jesus loved everyone, regardless of their sin or anything that made them different from the rest of society.

I hope you will feel led to help me bring awareness of this important issue more to the forefront of our societal consciousness and stop the victimization of children because they are different or don’t “fit the mold”.

God bless, and thank you for reading.

Victoria Jelstrom Swilley
Director, StandAlone Pictures



A Homecoming Highlight Not to Miss

Today was Homecoming and Family Weekend, and it was filled with lots of fun.

  • The football team won, 66-10 in front of a big crowd;  both  volleyball and men’s soccer won on the road.
  • We crowned two our our star students Homecoming Queen and King, Rachel Eason and Terrance Stringfellow.
  • Evelyn Tackett was inducted into our “Legacy of Learning” and Stewart Edwards received our alumnus of the year award.

While I loved it all, the highlight of the day was the acceptance speech of our Young Alumni of the Year recipient, Bonnie McDonald Grubbs ’08.

All of us at the alumni banquet were inspired by her passion to follow God’s calling to use her theatre education to change the nature of education in an urban New York City school where she teaches first grade.

She’s named her classroom “Belhaven,” and her students – “scholars” as she calls them – are all “Blazers.” We sent her a bunch of Belhaven things last year for her class and I received back wonderful letters from each of the kids.

Listen to Bonnie’s message about how she is living out the core of a Belhaven education – 1) faith, 2) worldview, 3) service, 4) gifting, 5) calling, and 6) quality.

Take 5 minutes to listen to Bonnie and you’ll be inspired.

Chapel Tomorrow – Don’t say I didn’t warn you . . .

Tomorrow’s chapel will be one of the most wonderful experiences of your life.

If you miss it . . .  and everyone else is talking about it . . . and you wish you had been there — don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • The Far East Broadcasting Korean Children’s choir will be singing. They are both inspirational and fun!
  • Dr. Billy Kim will be speaking, who is one of the most significant leaders of the Church in modern history.
  • And Dr. Jeong-Chan Ra, scientist and Noble Prize nominee for 2012 will be awarded an honorary doctorate.

This is a special DOUBLE session chapel.  We begin early — at 10:20 and conclude at 11:50.  (Students will receive two chapel credits.)

Because of limited seating tomorrow’s chapel is not open to the public, but the Children’s choir and Dr. Kim will be with us Tuesday evening at 7:30 in the Center for the Arts.  That concert is open to the public and we are especially encouraging the families of our faculty, staff, alumni, and neighbors to join us Tuesday night.

College Students Are Not Getting Enough Sleep

Students, and parents of students (and some of the rest of us too) need to read this article from the Clarion Ledger on the challenges of getting enough sleep during the college years.  Here are the take-aways for improving sleep:

• Exercise regularly, but not after the early evening. Avoid caffeine after 2 p.m. Try to avoid late-night eating and alcohol, but don’t go to bed hungry, either.

• Don’t use electronics – laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc. – late at night. Not only will the content stimulate your brain, the brightness of the screen is comparable to a morning walk in the sun when it comes to waking you up.

• Make your bed a place just for sleep. Don’t study, watch TV or do anything else there (or not much else.

• If you have early classes on some days, try not to sleep in on the others. Experts say a regular schedule is the most essential element of a healthy sleep routine.

• Try to avoid naps, and if you do nap, nap before 3 p.m. and for no more than 20 minutes. Otherwise you’ll keep yourself up at night.

• Set your alarm clock – but for the evening, at a reasonable bedtime. That way, you’re less likely need it in the morning (if you need an alarm clock to wake up feeling rested, you’re not sleeping enough).

Sticky Faith – God Can Handle Our Doubts and Questions

I’m thankful that Belhaven University provides a learning environment that allows students to probe the hardest questions of life, as well as test the easy answers.

Our faculty are gifted and committed to helping students work through the doubts of faith that come to every seeker, and every Christian.

The Fuller Youth Institute has just published research helping the church understand the importance of allowing questions of doubt and skepticism be asked and grappled with openly.  Belhaven seeks to build this type of learning community.

And here is story from Christianity Today about the research that backs it up:

Steve Jobs, Back to School, and Why Doubt Belongs in Your Youth Group Curriculum
Our research at the Fuller Youth Institute suggests unexpressed doubt leads young people to leave the faith.
Kara Powell

As a young boy, Steve Jobs attended a Lutheran church with his parents. At age 13, he asked the pastor, “If I raise my finger, will God know which one I’m going to raise even before I do it?”

The pastor answered, “Yes, God knows everything.”

Jobs then pulled out a Life magazine cover depicting starving children in Biafra and asked his pastor, “Does God know about this and what’s going to happen to those children?”

The well-intentioned pastor answered, “Steve, I know you don’t understand, but yes, God knows about that.”

Jobs declared that he didn’t want to worship such a God, walked out of the church, and never went back.

As we at the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) learned from studying 500 youth-group graduates during their first three years in college, Jobs’s story is far from unique. In our Sticky Faith research, geared to help young people develop a Christian faith that lasts, a common narrative emerged: When young people asked tough questions about God at church, often during elementary or middle school, they were told by well-meaning church leaders and teachers, “We don’t ask those sorts of questions about God here.” While they rarely storm out of the church like Jobs did, they end up believing that the church is not big enough to handle their tough questions, and thus neither is God.

Read the full article HERE.

Senior Art Show @ Art Center of MS – Fox 40 News – Runs through April 8