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BPC president’s Convocation Address encourages
positive thinking, actions in times of transition
MOUNT VERNON—Brewton-Parker College President Dr. David Smith shared several insights about life transitions with the college’s students, faculty and staff during his ninth Fall Convocation Address, entitled “Successful Transitions.” Convocation was held Sept. 5 in Saliba Chapel on the Mount Vernon campus.
The Brewton-Parker College Concert Choir, (standing behind seated faculty members) under the direction of Dr. Mark Bowdidge, performs “O Clap Your Hands” during the Fall 2006 Convocation.
The Brewton-Parker College Concert Choir performed a selection of special music, under the direction of its director, Dr. Mark Bowdidge, following the invocation by Dr. Mary Waalkes, associate professor of history. The choir, singing “O Clap Your Hands”, was accompanied by Dr. Pierce Dickens on the chapel’s custom-designed pipe organ. Dr. Dickens is the Quinelle McRae Sikes Professor of Piano.
Dr. Lee Cheek, chair of the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences leads the way in the Fall 2006 Convocation’s processional of BPC faculty. Photos by Kelley Arnold
“The pageantry of convocation initiates a 16-week period of intense learning, socializing and growing,” Dr. Smith said. “You will study this year with a world-class faculty. We believe in academic excellence at Brewton-Parker College. That is why these faculty members from the finest universities in the world have chosen to offer their scholarly insight here – in small classes where our gifted students can expand their intellectual understanding in ways that can be much more difficult in larger, metropolitan environments.”
Dr. Smith also emphasized the importance of the Christian faith in Brewton-Parker’s learning environment.
“We are also an institution dedicated to the Christian faith,” Dr. Smith said. “Most of us are here because we believe this is where God has called us to serve. We want to be around students because the Lord has placed within us a desire to see knowledge about God’s Creation illuminate others, and because we believe that the Christian life provides the best way to balance our intellectual, physical, social and spiritual dimensions of consciousness. Brewton-Parker’s mission statement asserts that this is a campus ‘informed’ by our faith. It means that God’s personal revelation of Himself to us provides information which illuminates every part of our lives.”
During his address, Dr. Smith outlined four points from a book he read on his summer reading list. The book, The First 90 Days, was written a couple years ago by Michael Watkins and was published by the Harvard Business School. In it, Watkins expounds his belief that most transitions in life can either be counted as successes or failures depending on the strategies people employ in the first 90 days of the transition.
“Whether we are starting a new job, just married, or we are beginning a new semester in college,” Dr. Smith said,” all of us stand at the crossroads of really significant changes in our lives. Interestingly, each of the strategies Mr. Watkins presents is also an established biblical principal to be employed by Christian people in the transitions we face.”
The first point Dr. Smith illustrated was Watkins’ first strategy, “Present Ourselves in the Best Ways Possible.”
“In a transition, we often want to just fade into the background and hope that no one notices us. But that simply prolongs the transition. Use the first weeks in a new environment to promote those things that bring you personal success,” Dr. Smith said. “And don’t worry if such ‘self-promotion’ doesn’t bring you immediate recognition and legitimacy.”
Dr. Smith reminded his listeners that Emily Dickenson wrote 1,700 poems, but only seven were published in her lifetime; Ernest Hemingway rewrote the final page of A Farewell to Arms 39 times; and, Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected by 23 publishers before he finally found someone who would print it.
“Real success hardly ever happens immediately,” Dr. Smith added. “During these times of transitions, put your best effort into succeeding in your new environment. A part of that effort ought to be your commitment to completing your college degree. Only 10 percent of Americans ever obtain a college degree. Whereas, 12 percent of the U.S. population claims to have seen a UFO! To coin a phrase, ‘Be one of the few, the proud’, the college graduates...”
Dr. David Smith talks to the students, faculty and staff about life transitions during his ninth Fall Convocation Address Sept. 5 in Saliba Chapel on the Mount Vernon campus.
The second point Dr. Smith emphasized declares Watkins’ second strategy: “Accelerate Our Learning” during life’s transitions.
“There are times in our lives that we may be able to coast mentally. Our time is precious. It is estimated that you will spend a year of your life looking for misplaced objects. If you are an average American, you’ll spend about six months of your life waiting at red lights and five years stuck in traffic. Let’s use time wisely; let’s make learning a priority,” Dr. Smith said.
Dr. Smith used Psalm 119:73 to strengthen this message: “Your hands, O God, have made me and fashioned me. Give me understanding that I may learn…”
The third point Dr. Smith proposed was “Match Strategy to the Situation”.
“Far too often we feel that the manner in which we respond to one circumstance should fit every scenario. But because folks reacted in a particular way once doesn’t mean they will do so repeatedly,” Dr. Smith said.
BPC’s president explained that a “failure to understand” is the reason why legislators have “accumulated some of the world’s most ridiculous laws on the books of our legal codes.” He used the Brooklyn, N.Y., law that says it is illegal to let a dog sleep in a bathtub, as an example. Another odd law is the Atlanta city statute that prohibits citizens from tying a giraffe to a streetlight or a telephone pole. Snoring is legal in Massachusetts only when all bedroom windows are closed – and locked.
“Don’t respond to your college career the way you reacted to high school or junior high transitions,” Dr. Smith encouraged. “Use your much larger set of experiences and your years of maturity to gain the most of these days.”
Dr. Smith continues, “Don’t react to individuals the same way either. Each of us is unique. We can be a blessing or a bane to you at any given time. Learn to discern the attributes of those around you and meet them where they are. You will be surprised how this one strategy will bring you social and professional success.
Solomon advised his son in Ecclesiastes 3, Dr. Smith reminded everyone, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” (3:1, NKJV)
The fourth and final point is to “Keep Your Balance.”
“Human society is a complex creation. We spend our waking hours trying to negotiate a complicated road map with lots of side streets and detours. And all of us will misinterpret some of life’s signposts. Sometimes things aren’t just the way they seem. Some of the characteristics of our world, which we take for granted today, have changed remarkably in the last century. The 1900 Olympic Games included croquet, fishing, billiard and checkers among their competitive events. And a tug-of-war was an Olympic sport between 1900 and 1920. Just 36 years ago, in 1970, only 127 runners participated in the New York Marathon. Last year, 36,562 did. Balance yourself,” Dr. Smith said. “If you happen to make a wrong turn, or lose your way, don’t be afraid to ask directions. One bad decision isn’t a killer. Just correct it and go on.”
“James 1:22 mandates that we ‘be doers of the word and not hearers only’ (NKJV),” Dr. Smith added. “Don’t just look inward. Per capita, more Americans volunteer their time to help others than people of any other nation on earth. Be among those who give away a part of themselves to others on a regular basis.”
In conclusion, Dr. Smith reminded each person in the audience, whether he or she is a student or a member of the faculty and staff, “we are all facing transitions.”
“Big changes are a way of life in the 21st century. I hope you will learn that tasteful self-achievement is a good thing, that transition creates the necessity of accelerated learning, and that our brains are up to that kind of intellectual challenge,” Dr. Smith said. “I hope that we will be able to match our strategies of adjustment to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. And I pray that we keep our balance as we work, study and live with each other for these next four months.”
Following Dr. Smith’s inspirational and well-received address, Dr. Glenn Eernisee, chair of the Division of Music, led the audience in singing the college’s Alma Mater. Mr. Roger Byrd, director of alumni relations, closed this year’s convocation with the benediction and announced the recessional of the faculty members and choir.