JACKSON, Tenn. – April 9, 2002 – Union University’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to move forward with the university’s planned science building project at the spring trustee meeting held the first week of April. The Board also commended the administration for the timely progress that had occurred towards the completion of the university’s strategic plan, and gave approval to a $37 million budget proposal for 2002-2003, a record-breaking budget for the university.
With the board’s full consent to move forward with construction, plans for the new building include completing the design and bid process by November of 2002, holding a ceremonial ground breaking by Christmas of this year, and to begin the actual site work in the early Spring of 2003. The eighteen-month construction phase will result with classes beginning in the new Roy L. White Hall by 2005. The building is named after Roy White, a successful businessman in Memphis who as a member of Union’s board, has been a leader and major financial contributor to the university.
Gary Carter (center), Senior Vice President for Business Services, talks with trustee Ben Fesmire (left) and his father, trustee emeritus Benny Fesmire, Sr.
“In a time when most businesses and universities are in a state of retreat or reluctance to step forward toward new challenges because of national economic uncertainty, Dr. Dockery’s words were those of faith, vision and action,” said Tidwell. “I don’t think I have heard Dr. Dockery be more impassioned, inspired or direct than he was in this address. I am convinced that Union’s future has never been more certain or exciting.”
During his address, Dockery examined numerous goals and objectives that have been set forth for the school as part of a five-year long-term plan. Some of these included continuing to prize classroom teaching while encouraging public presentation of scholarship and research by at least 25% of the faculty in addition to implementing and developing a recently approved faculty research leave program.
“We must faithfully seek to carry out our mission of providing Christ-centered higher education while promoting excellence and character development in service to Church and society,” said Dockery, as he addressed the board. “In doing so we recognize that we are not a church, a business, a mission or social agency, but an academic institution.”
Dockery added that Union is a liberal arts based university – “where the life of the mind is fostered and where the hard work of ancient and modern academic disciplines are carried forth. It is in this sense that we recognize our unique role as a part of the academic arm in the Church’s larger task of seeking and advancing God’s kingdom,” said Dockery.
With approximately 15% of the undergraduate student body scoring 30 or more on their ACT or SAT equivalent, outstanding students from 42 states and thirty countries attend Union University, said Dockery, and for an unprecedented fifth year, administrators expect a freshman class of more than 400.
It is very important, Dockery emphasized, that Union find ways to serve its primary constituency – the churches of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention – effectively and relate to them constructively during a day of paradigmatic change.
“Union is gladly both Baptist by tradition and evangelical by conviction – that is, we believe in free, voluntary uncoerced faith and yet our faith is grounded in the infallible Word,” said Dockery. “We want to continue to emphasize Union’s commitment to be an embodying Christian university, exemplifying a strong relational and cultural tie with Tennessee Baptists and all Southern Baptists.”
In other business, approval was given for Union’s baseball and softball fields to be named in honor of longtime supporters Benny and Norma Fesmire – each to be called Fesmire Field. The Fesmires have been longtime supporters of Union and particularly its athletic program, giving more than $400,000 to help provide lighting for the fields and much needed equipment. Benny Fesmire, a banker and member of West Jackson Baptist Church, was also named trustee emeritus, along with John McRee, a developer who attends First Baptist Church in Memphis and has been a board member for more than three decades. Trustee Jack Holmes was appointed the new chair for the board, to replace Tidwell, who has recently moved to Calvary Baptist in Clearwater, Fla. to serve as pastor there.
“Higher education will continue to see tremendous increases in costs alongside diminishing resources from traditional sources, yet their constituencies will increase the call for better service,” said Dockery. “In order to move ahead during these challenging days, educational leadership will require wisdom, courage and vision.”
Sara B. Horn,