In 1922, Bluefield College was founded on the principle that it be a “lighthouse” or a “beacon” for students of central Appalachia, and now nearly a century later that principle remains firm as evidenced in the remarks of BC president Dr. David Olive who encouraged students to be “the salt and light of their communities” during a President’s Convocation and Founders’ Day Celebration to kick off the school’s 2017-2018 academic year, August 23.
Dr. Olive welcomed new and returning students, who filled BC’s Harman Chapel, to the traditional commencement event. In addition to students, faculty and staff, he acknowledged special guests in attendance, including members of the Board of Trustees, BC First Lady Kathryn Olive, and professor emeriti Dr. David Armbrister and Dr. Will Gordon.
The president spoke about the school’s origin and how the Founders’ Day Celebration provided the BC family the opportunity to reflect on those who have sacrificially given of themselves to make the college what it is today. He shared details of recent accomplishments, including the construction of new, modern residence facilities, the growth of the school’s Academic Center for Excellence, and the introduction of the college’s first master’s degree program in education in 2013, a second master’s degree in nursing in 2015, and plans for two new master’s degrees in business administration in January of 2018 and biomedical sciences in the fall of 2018.
But, the president’s primary message for the day focused on scripture from the Gospel of Matthew and how Jesus calls us to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.”
“How do salt and light relate to the mission of Bluefield College?” asked Dr. Olive. “Light is associated with knowledge, and as a Christian college we have that at the core of what we do. It’s all about teaching you and helping you grow in your knowledge. But as a Christian college, we also reflect the type of light Jesus refers to in the scripture of Matthew. Jesus calls us to do something different from the darkened world. As Christ followers, we have something we can shine into this darkened world so that the world can see Christ through us.”
Dr. Olive noted the significance of the title of the school’s published history, A Lighthouse on the Hill, written by Dr. Armbrister. Bluefield College, he said, “was founded with a purpose to not only educate and broaden minds, but also to deepen faith and spiritual journeys.” The BC mission “to develop transformational servant leaders,” he said, “comes from this notion of being salt and light.”
Dr. Olive used his message to speak to students about playing a loving, peaceful, reconciliatory role in the current turmoil and division in America, most recently shown in the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. Christ followers — people spreading salt and light — he said, cannot be white supremacists, anti-Semitics or anarchists, which we see in our society today. In between the extremists, he added, is where Christians have the opportunity to transform.
“There is a void between the two extremes,” said Dr. Olive, “and that’s where we as Christ followers can fill that void with love and peace. We should be reflecting the love of God in our communities.”
Other special guests offered similar greetings to students as part of the President’s Convocation, including trustee William Winfrey, faculty president Rebecca McCoy Reese, and Student Government Association president Rebekah Ivester, who encouraged her fellow classmates to get involved and to be mindful of the school’s mission to graduate servant leaders.
“We help make this community; we help shape it,” said Ivester. “By getting involved and by doing something to serve others each day, you are developing yourself as a servant leader. I don’t want us to see servant leadership as something we become. Servant leaders are something we should be while we’re here. By doing so we will better ourselves, the community of Bluefield College, the community of Bluefield, and the community of the world.”
The President’s Convocation and Founders’ Day Celebration also included readings from the school’s history by Dr. Marshall Flowers, vice president for academic affairs; special music from the select student voice ensemble Dona Voce, directed by Dr. John Moir, assistant professor of music; a congregational hymn and the singing of the alma mater, led by Dr. Charles Priest, associate professor of music; and scripture readings by Dr. Henry Clary, campus pastor, and Shellie Brown, assistant professor of education.
New faculty and staff were also introduced, including Bailey Angle, assistant sports information director; Kevin Bowers, head tennis coach; Shellie Brown, assistant professor of education; Hayden Chandley, assistant football coach; Jordan Dillon, administrative assistant for admissions and finance; Dr. Richard Farmer, assistant professor of psychology; Sara Goodson, head cheerleading coach; Lee Harris-Brown, sports medicine executive assistant; Kendall Haynes, cross country coach; Roderick Howard, assistant football coach; Thomas Huddleston, assistant baseball coach; Patricia Jacobs, director of the New Opportunity School for Women; Dino Kaklis, assistant football coach; Hal Keene, director of planned giving; Shelby Key, assistant women’s basketball coach; Markus Lawrence, assistant football coach; Dewey Lusk, head football coach; Gil Lusk, assistant football coach; Chelsie Meadows, BC Central advocate; Joshua Miller, head women’s soccer coach; Justin Morton, assistant men’s soccer coach; Carrie Mullins, Campus Store assistant; Landry Mullins, director of residence life; Dr. Patricia Neely, dean of online and distance education; Wayne Pelts, assistant director of the Academic Center for Excellence; Meagan Stroud, director of student activities and career services; Dr. Jeff Teo, professor of cybersecurity; Jason Waelti, head wrestling coach; Gerard White, Jr., assistant football coach; Rev. Michael White, vice president for enrollment management and student development; Wardell Wilborn, campus safety officer; and Ashley Williams, assistant athletic trainer.
PRESIDENT’S CONVOCATION 2017
President David Olive urges students to be “salt and light” during President’s Convocation and Founders’ Day to kick off the 2017-‘18 academic year.