He promises to lead the university along a God-centered path.
, Adventist Review, and , Southern Adventist University
David C. Smith, new president of Southern Adventist University in the U.S. state of Tennessee, pledged during his inauguration ceremony Thursday that the university would cling to God’s promises and celebrate His power as it enters a new chapter of its history.
Smith was inaugurated at a pomp-filled ceremony attended by North American Division president Daniel Jackson, Southwestern Adventist University president Ken Shaw, Union College president Vinita Sauder, and others in the Collegedale Church.
“As God has guided us in the past, He will guide us into the future,” Smith said in his inauguration speech. “We will celebrate Him, and we will celebrate His power. This school, no matter what it faces, will move into the future grounded on the certain promises of God and the faith and dedication of those who serve Him.”
The Collegedale-based university chose Smith to succeed long-serving president Gordon Bietz on Feb. 10. Smith, the university’s 26th president, worked as professor and chair at Southern’s English department for 17 years in the 1980s and 1990s, leaving in 1998 to serve as president of Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, for 13 years. Smith served as senior pastor of the Collegedale Church since 2011, and his wife, Cherie, remains a pastor there.
Smith holds a doctorate in English from the University of Tennessee and received both his master’s degree in English and bachelor’s degree in History from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.
Larry Blackmer, vice president for education at the North American Division, said Smith’s background in both education and pastoral ministry makes him an ideal leader for Southern Adventist University, which was founded in 1892 and currently has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students.
“I personally believe there is great value in having both academic and pastoral experience in the president of the university,” Blackmer said in introducing Smith at the ceremony. “Dr. Smith brings to this university a demonstrated quality leadership, a pastor’s heart, and a desire for academic excellence.”
He described Smith as caring, engaged, student-focused, funny, and a servant leader.
“I believe he will serve this university, its students, faculty, staff, and community with the Christ-centered message of hope and holiness,” Blackmer said. “He is the person that God has appointed to lead this institution.”
Smith hopes to use his tenure to strengthen students’ campus spiritual experience by helping each one discover God’s plans for his or her life, according to a 12-page program booklet distributed at the inauguration ceremony.
“Additionally, his goals include promoting the strength of the university’s academic programs and further building Southern’s presence in the community,” the booklet said.
A step toward fulfilling those goals took place at a Wednesday evening inauguration gala attended by 250 people, including presidents from other Adventist colleges and universities, elected government officials, alumni, employees, and select scholarship students.
“We … raised more than $350,000 for student scholarships — a passion of Smith’s,” said Lucas Patterson,assistant director for advancement at the university.