JACKSON, Tenn. – May 24, 2004 – Nearly 370 students from 25 states and 12 countries received degrees during Union University’s 179th annual commencement service Saturday. The ceremony was the second in the academic year: the university granted degrees in December and also will graduate students in August. The number of students graduating across the three services will total about 790, according to President David S. Dockery, a record number for the institution and the third consecutive year to graduate more than 700 students.
Edmund C. Moy, special assistant to the President of the United States and associate director of presidential personnel at the White House, delivered the commencement address titled “All for Christ.”
“All Christians without exception are called to full-time Christian ministry,” Moy said.
He told graduates he believed it was the responsibility of pastors to equip people to do their own full-time Christian ministry, telling them “it is a pastor’s full-time Christian ministry to help you do your own full-time Christian ministry.
“Right now you may sense a calling to be a teacher, or a nurse or a designer or someone in business or a pastor, a professor or a mother,” he said. “That calling becomes ministry at the point that you become obedient and do it to the glory of God. Is the quality of your work product to the glory of God? Are you a beacon of light, hope and peace in your work place? If so, then you are in full-time Christian ministry.”
Moy also challenged graduates to strive for obedience, telling them that Christians are in the obedience business and not the success business.
“I am more interested in living a life that is good than living the good life,” he said. “I have now come to the conclusion that God is not impressed with what my resume looks like, he is not impressed with how big my bank account is, that success is not a measure of my faith. Character is a measure of one’s faith. What kind of person do you want to be? I challenge you today to make your ‘to be’ list before you make your ‘to do’ list.”
He also said graduates should be a thermostat and not a thermometer in today’s culture. A thermometer, he explained, reflects the temperature of the room, while a thermostat changes the temperature of the room. In the pressure to conform to the world, he said young people should be thoughtful in the job they choose, in how they live, in where they live and in what they buy so they could serve God in the best way possible.
“One way to change the temperature of the culture around you is to be a change agent,” Moy said. “As I read the news, I wonder if a vocal Christian working as an accountant at Enron might have prevented the loss of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of pension fund losses. I wonder what entertainment might look like if Christians by their professional excellence became Hollywood executives with the authority to green light movie ideas. I wonder if politics could serve the public good instead of partisan self interest if more Christians were involved. I have the privilege of serving President Bush—himself a believer—and I’m in a White House that is open to faith. Together with many of my Christian brothers and sisters throughout this administration we are working each day, getting together on a regular basis and struggling with what it means to be a Christian in public service.”
Prior to his speech, Moy was inducted as the first fellow for Union’s Carl F. H. Henry Center for Christian Leadership.
“Mr. Moy is responsible for recommending to President Bush candidates for political appointments,” Dockery said. “He served on the Homeland Security transition and helped the staff with a new department. He also is one of the most widely-recognized lay leaders in the Christian world in North American. His service on the board of Christianity Today ties him to the founder of that magazine, Carl F. H. Henry. It is my privilege tonight to recognize Mr. Moy as the first inductee, the first fellow of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Christian Leadership.”
Others honored during the service included Laura Lee Moore of Covington, Tenn., who was awarded the Elizabeth Tigrett Medal. The medal, created by Tigrett’s son to honor his mother, has been awarded since 1912 by vote of the entire Union faculty to an outstanding member of the senior class.
“Laura Lee Moore truly exemplifies the heart of this university,” Dockery said. “She has characteristically demonstrated Christ-centered excellence over the last four years in the classroom, in the student leadership opportunities and in all aspects of her daily life. The Tigrett award is very special at Union University and the tradition of this award is carried on with honor with the selection of Laura Lee Moore.”
Moore, who received a bachelor of arts degree in public relations/advertising, will be working with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention as a journeyman in Tanzania.
Two parents and two grandparents of 2004 graduates participated in the graduation service from the platform. T. W. Hunt, a professor emeritus at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, gave the invocation. Hunt’s grandson Paul Monroe graduated with a major in marketing. Brent Lay and Jerry Drace, who read scripture during the service, both had daughters who received degrees Saturday: Caroline Lay, who received a bachelor of science degree in learning foundations, and Rebecca Drace, who graduated with a bachelor of science degree in physical education and health. Union Chancellor Emeritus Hyran E. Barefoot also saw his granddaughter Anna Thomas receive a degree in economics and finance. Barefoot, who served the university for more than 40 years, prayed the benediction.
Senior class president Laurie Skinkle presented the class gift to President Dockery—blueprints and funding for a new university sign and landscaping for the north end of the campus. Skinkle told classmates that “we should pierce the darkness with the light within us. Let us keep Him at the center of our lives.”
The Union University alma mater was lead by Joseph Blass, university professor of music, who is retiring this year after 45 years of service. Blass has been named professor emeritus of music.
by Kathie Chute