David S. Dockery was elected the 15th president of Union University on December 8, 1995. During his tenure (1996-2014), the university saw an increase in student enrollment from 1,975 in the Fall of 1996 to 4,288, which included 16 straight years of increased enrollments. Non-duplicating annual enrollment increased from 2,183 to 5,301 during that time, and the number of donors to the university more than tripled.
The significant increase in giving to the university included more than twenty-five of the largest gifts in Union's long history. Dockery provided leadership for five major five-year strategic plans: Vision and Values 2001; Vision and Values 2005; Union 2010: A Vision for Excellence; Renewing Minds: Union 2012; and Illuminating Minds: Union 2015. Prior to coming to Union, Dockery served as Chief Academic Officer at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
During his tenure, the university saw a strong increase in commitment to excellence in teaching and scholarship. Beginning in 1997, Union was listed among the top tier institutions in the South each year by U.S. News and World Report. Union was also been recognized during that time by Peterson's Competitive College Guide, the Princeton Review, and Templeton's Colleges that Encourage Character Development. On six occasions, Union received the President's Higher Education Community Service Award. Union was listed among America's Colleges of Distinction and also as one of America's Top 100 College Buys. Union was listed repeatedly among USNWR "Up and Coming universities" in the country to watch. Union was ranked third in the South "where the faculty has an unusual commitment to undergraduate teaching." Union was listed as an A+ institution for B students. First Things magazine named Union as one of the Top Twelve Protestant Universities in the entire country. In 2011, the Chronicle of Higher Education named Union to the Honor Roll of Great Colleges to Work For (placing it among the top 30 universities nationally).
The university added several new degree programs including undergraduate majors in digital media studies, engineering, physics, sports medicine, political science, theology, and ethics, among others, and several graduate programs in intercultural studies, Christian studies, nursing, social work, education, and pharmacy. Five doctoral programs were started. Faculty development programs were greatly enhanced and the breadth of student services were visibly expanded.