49-bell Carillon Dedicated at Union Night

Union dedicated the new 49-bell Miller Tower carillon as part of Union Night Oct. 1 during Family Weekend. The bronze bells replaced the speaker system in the tower last summer and chime every quarter hour. They can also be played using a keyboard in the base of the tower. A professional carillonneur played a concert of hymns after the dedication.

Kaylee Gibson, president of Union’s student government association, said Miller Tower serves as a symbol for the campus, and the bells are an important part of that.

“The ringing is a gentle reminder that time will pass, things will change, but God is always good,” she said. “I hope that we can all see these bells as an inspiration to inscribe God’s word on our own hearts and to never be silent when we should be singing his praise.”

Read more about the carillon on our website.

Story by Nathan Handley

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Photos: Christmas at Union

December at Union University is always filled with Christmas festivities for both students and employees. We’ve gathered some photos of events from the first week of December as well as photos of decorations around campus.

The week started off with the annual Storytime with the Olivers event in the McAfee Commons. The tradition of our president reading The Night Before Christmas has long been a favorite.

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On Tuesday night, employees enjoyed their annual Faculty & Staff Christmas Dinner followed by the Union Christmas concert. Prior to dinner, there were activities for the kids and a setup for family portraits.

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The School of Pharmacy held its 3rd annual Trimming of the Tree with Dr. Dub.

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Throughout the week, various areas on campus were decorated for the season including the Bowld Student Commons and the Brewer Dining Hall. On Thursday, Residence Life hosted Deck the Halls for students to decorate their individual buildings.

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Photo submitted by: Jordan Chism

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Blank Slate Improv group hosts “The Dub Show” Friday Night

Blank Slate Improv is a team of students that puts on improv shows throughout each year. The shows often have guests, and when tickets for Friday night’s “The Dub Show” went on sale, they sold out within two days. You can probably guess who was featured in “The Dub Show,” and it was a smashing success! On Friday night the W.D. Powell Theatre was packed full of students, employees and guests excited to see the president try his hand at improv. Of course, he did a great job, and the cast had the audience laughing all night! The next show will be May 2nd, and will feature Jared Dauenhauer, assistant director of student leadership and engagement, as guest host.

Follow Blank Slate Improv on Facebook and Twitter

Click on any photo to see larger version

Christmas with the Olivers

Each generation of students seems to create its own traditions, most likely brought on by changes in what’s considered “cool.” However, there are some traditions that rise above the cultural shifts and remain solid from year to year. One of those generation-spanning traditions is the reading of the Christmas story by the president. This year was the 18th time this event has occurred, but the first time it was called Christmas with the Olivers.

Christmas with the Olivers took place in the McAfee Commons, which was decorated with lights and stocked with plenty of cookies and hot cocoa. Students piled onto the couches, chairs and even the floor as Dr. Dub and Susie made their way in. To start off Dr. Dub asked students to share a few of their favorite Christmas traditions, which ranged from cooking special dishes to adding a new ornament to the tree with family. Next the entire group joined in singing a few carols such as Deck the Halls and The First Noel. Dr. Dub then took a minute to document the crowd (he tweeted the photo later). To wrap up the evening Dr. Dub read both The Night Before Christmas and Luke 2, followed by another carol, Silent Night, during which everyone gathered closely together and locked arms. It was a truly special evening, where students were able to celebrate Christmas with the president and first lady.

Dr. Dub speaking to residence life employees before the event

Students gathered in the commons to fellowship with the president and first lady

Dr. Dub chatting with students before the Christmas Story.

Dr. Dub leads in some Christmas Carols.

Dr. Dub and Susie singing carols with students.

Susie Oliver, first lady of Union, singing carols with students.

Dr. Dub leaning back to get a photo of the crowd of students in the commons.

Dr. Dub reading A Night Before Christmas.

Dr. Dub reading A Night Before Christmas

Hot chocolate mugs resting on the table by the president.

Dr. Dub reading Night Before Christmas.

Dr. Dub reading a passage from Luke 2.

Dr. Dub and Susie singing one final carol with students.

Dr. Dub and Susie standing in a circle with students singing a Christmas song.

Bulldog Madness – Athletics Season Kickoff

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Post by Katie Woodruff, associate director of athletics and senior woman administrator

If you weren’t at Bulldog Madness last night, you missed out BIG TIME! It was the biggest pep rally and spirit-building opportunity we’ve had in my 12 years at UU. This is going to sound weird, but it was somewhat of an emotional moment for me. To see so many different groups on campus come together as one to support our student-athletes was great!

In addition, to see the culmination of our hard work being enjoyed by all and supported by so many students, in that moment, was so gratifying.

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“It was great to see so many students come together in support of our athletic teams,” senior psychology major Kevin Morgan said. “Last night there weren’t Greeks and indies or athletes and students, we were all Bulldogs.”

Alec Beard, a junior international business major who filled in as dancing Buster, said he enjoyed seeing the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd.

The evening involved black lights, glow sticks, hyped up music, selfies and more energy than I’ve ever felt before in The Fred. We were intentionally building school spirt through a remix of the flash mob from a performance earlier in the day, introduction of a student-led cheer support team called the Fred Fanatics, a performance from the cheerleaders, some minute-to-win-it games, 10-minute scrimmages by both the men’s and women’s basketball teams and a scrimmage between faculty/staff and students.

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Dr. Oliver then led a “Never Forget” cheer on the court, surrounded by all the students.

“It was really neat to see the student body come together for a fun event supporting our basketball teams,” said Jesse Dahms, a junior business management and psychology major. “The blackout was really awesome and a great way to build hype. I think we are excited and ready for this upcoming basketball season.”

What a night! Our hope and desire in athletics is to continue to build school spirit. Bulldog Madness brought different campus groups together — the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, cheerleaders, the student group Fred Fanatics, volunteers from campus organizations and classes as well as student-athletes. It takes synergy to build energy and enthusiasm. I think we are heading in the right direction, and I’m excited.

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Scott Lancaster, multimedia producer, put together this short video of the events from last night:

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Convocation Service

It is a tradition that we open the academic year with Convocation, a more formal chapel service to mark the beginning of the semester. Faculty process in wearing their regalia, and the service is more ceremonial than an average chapel. We enjoy coming together as a university to commemorate the start of the year, and we were especially excited to hear from Dr. Dub Oliver at his first Convocation as president.

Please enjoy the photos from this event as well as the Convocation address delivered by Dr. Oliver.

Dr. Richard Addo waiting for the faculty processional. Dr. Van Neste waits for the faculty processional at Convocation Dr. Poe, faculty member of the year, prays during Convocation. Dr. Mathews leads the congregation in singing "How Great Thou Art" Dr. Jeanette Russ reads scripture. Faculty members sing Dr. Ben Mitchell introduces new staff and faculty Dr. Addo leads in the reading of the Apostle's Creed. Faculty and Staff members on the stage at convocation. Steven Aldridge reads scripture. Student body president, Jenaye White, addresses students at Convocation Chris Mathews leads the University Singers Musicians play at Convocation Dr. Dub Oliver delivers the convocation address

Convocation – August 22, 2014

“Liberty and Integrity”

Our convocation is a formal gathering. It is a time for reflection, for resolution. We are at the beginning of the academic year. This is a good moment to think about where we are, what we intend to do, and why we intend to do it.

Allow me to say a little about where we find ourselves as a Christian university (and as a community) in this 21st century that races along.

What is the purpose of a university education? At one time institutions would speak of their graduates as a Harvard man or a Vassar woman. To say that would mean that the experience of education at those places must impart some qualities to the students. In our context, what does it mean to be a Union man or woman? A Unionite? Some things we have said to you up front in bold letters. Excellence-Driven, Christ-Centered, People-Focused, Future-Directed. At Union, we have an overriding desire for you to be a Christian, to have an active, vibrant, ever growing and ever deepening relationship with Jesus.

We hope that you have professional goals, family goals, and other kinds of things you want to do, but more than that we hope you will see yourself as someone who is actively engaged in the work of the Kingdom of God. What else might we say? Two themes occur to me as I think about what it means to be educated here. They are liberty and integrity.

I think of liberty because learning has to do with freedom. We are citizens, not subjects of a throne. We participate in our own government because we are free. A free man or a free woman should also strive to be knowledgeable and articulate. I think about integrity because liberty does not simply stand alone. Liberty can mean just being free from restraints. And that is important. But liberty can also mean being free to pursue certain goals.

Liberty can walk hand in hand with integrity. We don’t choose the times in which we live. It happens that this is an especially important time for Christians when it comes to matters such as liberty and integrity. The social arena has shifted in ways that put conviction on a collision course with political passion. For example, the nature of marriage was long taken for granted, but now is hotly disputed. Our society thinks differently than it did even when President Obama himself declared in 2008 that marriage is between a man and a woman. It may now be the case that a majority disagrees with that point of view, including that same president. Those of us who uphold the authority of Scripture find ourselves increasingly in the minority.

Marriage is not the only ground of controversy. By issuing the HHS mandate regarding employer-provided contraceptives, the U.S. government extended its reach in ways that seemed to many to be more intrusive and commanding than had previously been the norm. One of the consequences of these developments is that Christians have had to become much more aware of the issue of religious liberty. Generally speaking, we haven’t worried too much about our constitutional freedom because we could take it for granted. The big court cases tended to involve religious minorities such as the Amish, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and practitioners of Native American religions. But with the HHS mandate and other issues percolating through the courts, we have seen government action impinging directly upon matters of Christian concern.

Specifically, we see citizens compelled to participate in activities they do not wish to endorse and organizations required to pay for products and services they view as contrary to their faith and conscience. Religious liberty has suddenly become the kind of thing to which serious Christians must address themselves. I had the opportunity to participate in a small way in one of the controversies I have mentioned. In my role as the president of East Texas Baptist University, I fought against the HHS mandate because it threatened our exercise of conscience and religious liberty. Dr. Ben Mitchell, now serving as Union’s provost, went to Washington, D.C. to testify against the mandate for similar reasons.

I am glad to tell you that Baptists have not just recently developed an interest in religious liberty. Putting an emphasis upon liberty of faith and conscience is part of what Baptists have always done. Baptists have championed religious freedom for centuries. Baptists have fought for the right of individuals to participate or not participate in the church because of our belief that the body should be regenerate in nature.

What does it mean to be regenerate? To be regenerate is to be spiritually reborn. Baptists wanted people to freely decide to join the church and to become part of the community of faith. It is a choice that must not be coerced. And just as Baptists have emphasized the liberty of the individual with regard to religion, we have also argued for the independence of the church from the state and vice versa. The pastors of the church shouldn’t be civil servants. Nor should they be paid with taxes. And the state should not tell the church what to believe or try to marginalize the church’s voice or keep it from participating in the life of the community. There was a time when this view of things was pretty radical.

Our history gives a lot of credit to people like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison for emphasizing religious freedom. As we sit here in the chapel of a Baptist university, I am happy to make the case that we should be thanking generations of Baptists before Jefferson and Madison whose same opinion sometimes brought persecution. I know that professors Ben Mitchell and Jim Patterson could tell us more about that. And there are others, too, I am sure.

The interesting thing about religious freedom is that it works in a counterintuitive fashion. Many thought the church needed to be supported by tax money and granted a monopoly over the allegiances of citizens. The Europeans persisted in the state church model well after we largely gave it up. But all you have to do is to look at the state of the Christian churches in Europe relative to those in America to see which model helps the Gospel flourish. While we certainly face our challenges here, the church is far more vital where it has been a free church.

While Baptists pursued religious liberty for the believer and the unbeliever alike, they weren’t motivated by a desire just to be left alone. The freedom they wanted (and that we want) is a freedom “for” rather than a freedom “from.” This freedom “for” is a freedom for faithfulness. It is a freedom to believe and a freedom to live out those beliefs as long as they don’t threaten the basic peace and safety of the community.

As the debate over religious liberty has developed in the past few years, there have been those who would whittle down freedom of faith and conscience to a more modest freedom of worship. With this smaller freedom the church would be able to count on the government not monitoring church services or trying to mandate the rituals, the music, and the content of the sermon. That is not a small thing, but it is simply not enough. The freedom to live out one’s beliefs has to do with integrity.

To have integrity means to be honest and to be true to one’s principles. Another definition of the word really drives the point home. To have integrity is to be undivided. It is to be a whole rather than a collection of parts. “Freedom of worship” doesn’t take adequate account of the requirements of integrity.

If you want to know why various Christian organizations and businesses have drawn unwelcome attention to themselves by resisting government regulations, the answer goes back to integrity. Nobody really wants a big hassle with the federal government, especially with an enormous and powerful agency like the Department of Health and Human Services. We aren’t looking for a fight. If we have integrity, we don’t choose our conflicts in an opportunistic or calculating way. We resist when we think we have to do so. We resist out of the courage of our convictions, not on the convenience of our complaints. These moments are Acts 5:29 moments when we declare, like Peter and the other apostles, that we must obey God rather than men.

People who are involved with Christian higher education as faculty, as staff, as students, as parents of students…Almost all of these people over the years have heard a lot of discussion about integration. You could hardly have spent any time at a serious Christian college during the past two decades without hearing people talk about “the integration of faith and learning.” As you hear the word “integration” you might notice the similarity of it to the word we have been talking about. To have integrity is to be an undivided whole. To have integrity is to be integrated. This conversation about integration is very familiar to me.

During my years at Baylor, there was a lot of soul searching about the integration of faith and learning. There were some professors who resisted the idea, but there were many others who welcomed it. Some very fine academics, world class in their fields, came to Baylor because they were Christians and they liked the idea of fulfilling their vocations as teachers and scholars in a way that is undivided. They wanted to be whole instead of two halves. Our professors here at Union feel the same way.

But integration is not just for college professors. Nor is it just for faith and learning. I believe that every Christian is called to have an undivided life. While you are here at Union, I hope that you will have an experience that is undivided in nature. I want you to experience integration of faith and learning as you move across campus, as you sit with your professors, as you participate in student life activities, as you eat together in Cobo, as you study together in Barefoots or in the library. At no point should you feel that the things you do are disconnected from your faith and your core convictions. Your mind, your will, your body and the different uses to which you put them…they should all be submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ in an undivided way.

This process of living in an undivided way is something that works best within a community. The Christian church is a community. Union University is a community. In strong and committed Christian communities, iron sharpens iron. People hold one another accountable. The stakes are high for us. We can no longer just rest easy in a nation that largely defers to Christian sensibilities. We cannot just live on autopilot. We have to choose our words and actions carefully. That has always been true, but it is much more obvious now.

We are looking at life and after life. We live among people with eternal destinies. We submit to the discipline of the Christian faith in the way we study and in the way we treat each other. We urge one another forward to press on to the prize. We support each other in trials. We pursue holiness together, both so we can be sanctified and so that we can spread the blessing of faith in Jesus Christ.

My hope for you as you embark upon the journey of this year is that your life becomes ever more integrated as a faithful follower of Christ. As you develop in this way, as we all develop in this way, you will find that it becomes difficult to be a cultural chameleon. There is a real cost to that. You may have to resist social tides and sometimes draw unwelcome attention even as you try to follow Christ in humility and love. But perhaps we can learn together to be the kind of witness who helps people to think about instead of just rejecting and dismissing what we have to say. Perhaps we can learn together how to avoid the easy “cheap grace” that Dietrich Bonhoeffer so earnestly rejected.

It is a good freedom that we seek for ourselves and for others. Let us defend it and make use of it while there is still day and we have the benefit of the light.

But in all cases, whether we have the blessings of freedom in partnership with our earthly citizenship or not, let us always be found faithful. Let us always be found undivided.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us.

– Dub Oliver

Dr. Dub Oliver delivers the Convocation address. Convocation audience sings Convocation audience sings Convocation audience sings Dr. Dub Oliver leaving Convocation

Video from Fall 2014 Convocation

University news release

Photos from Union University Summer Graduation

The 2013-14 academic year came to an official close July 26, as 186 students received degrees at summer commencement. We were privileged to hear from Provost Emeritus Carla D. Sanderson, who retired May 31. Please enjoy these photos taken throughout that morning, and read more about the service in our news release.

Dr. Dub Oliver chats with colleagues prior to Summer Commencement.
Graduates celebrate prior to Summer Commencement.
Dr. Dub Oliver files into Summer Commencement.
Ben Williams files in with fellow graduates at Summer Commencement. As graduates file in, Justin Barnard, faculty member of the year, stands next to his colleagues and speakers at Summer commencement.
Dr. Dub Oliver greets graduates and their guests at Summer Commencement.
Carla Sanderson delivers the commencement address. Dr. Dub Oliver gives his very first Union diploma at Summer commencement.
A graduate proudly displays her diploma for nearby family members. A doctoral graduate receives her hood at Summer graduation. Friends and Family of graduates gather in West Jackson Baptist Church for Summer Commencement.

Dr. Dub’s First Day as President of Union University

On June 2, 2014, the 16th president of Union University celebrated his first official day.

The life of a university president is a very busy one, so we wanted to give Dr. Oliver and Mrs. Susie a chance to properly meet everyone before getting into the swing of things. The morning began with a wonderful breakfast reception in Barefoots Joe, and guests enjoyed delicious coffee, scones, fruit and chicken biscuits. After praying over the Olivers, employees were able to mingle with the president and first lady for most of the morning.

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During the evening, Union University and Jackson community leaders gathered at Providence House in Jackson for another welcoming reception called Bowties & Bulldogs. Dr. Dub and Susie, along with their daughter Callie, had the opportunity to meet key leaders of the city, and Mayor Gist officially welcomed them with a joint proclamation from the city and county mayors. The proclamation declared June 2, 2014, as “Samuel W. Oliver Day.” It was a joyful celebration of the Olivers and a perfect way to welcome them to their new home. We are looking forward to seeing God’s plan for the Olivers here!

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Special thanks to the Office of University Relations for making Bowties and Bulldogs such a successful event, and to Casey Jones Village for providing such a perfect setting.