Published September 14, 2006
ROME — Buoyed by fresh reports of the highest enrollment in the school’s history, supporters of Shorter College gathered on Aug. 29 for the inauguration of Harold E. Newman as the school’s 18th president.
The classic Welsh hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory” set the tone for the 90-minute event, which was as much a worship service as an academic coronation.
“This is not casual work that you do here; it is sacred work, it is holy work. You are in the life-shaping and life-changing business,” said keynote speaker and Virginia Wesleyan College President William T. Greer, Jr.
“Your students leave here to impact the world, working with the marginalized in all cultures. Students do not become involved at that level of service, that level of commitment, without being taught by faculty and encouraged by administrators with a vision,” he told those who gathered in the college’s Winthrop-King Centre.
More than 30 years ago Greer, as president of Andrews College in Cuthbert in Randolph County, hired Newman as the college’s chief academic officer. From the perspective of friend and mentor he spoke about Newman’s early potential for academic excellence – the potential that led to the day of his inauguration as Shorter president.
Newman joined the college faculty in 1985 and served as provost for 20 years. He assumed the presidency on Jan. 26 after having served a 12-month stint as interim president. The college had just emerged from a lengthy battle, launched by the former administration, that pitted itself against the Georgia Baptist Convention in a costly bid to sever its ties and become an independent college.
But Aug. 29 was a day of pomp and circumstance, a day of rejoicing and celebrating the beginning of a new academic year and a new era. In fact, students were sporting bright blue T-shirts with the upbeat unofficial theme “newyear, newshirt, newman” on the front and “Dr. Newman, that is!” on the back.
With his 94-year-old mother, Ruby Armstrong Newman, watching from the front row, Newman cast a fresh vision for the future of the college.
In his opening remarks, the new president reaffirmed the college’s longstanding relationship with the state convention and called GBC Executive Director J. Robert White, seated on the podium, “a true supporter of Shorter College.”
“We appreciate Georgia Baptists who have had a long history of support” for the college, he continued. “Baptists here in Rome were instrumental in the forming of the college and, while perhaps not readily known, the Georgia Baptist Convention was of assistance in 1923 in helping the college to obtain initial accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Moreover, the convention has provided more than $24 million in financial support for which the college is grateful.”
Then he directed his comments toward personal reflection and his five-year goals for the college.
“Many have asked why I want this responsibility when most of my contemporaries are choosing to retire. My answer is that I believe God has specially gifted me and prepared me for this position and for this time.”
He then outlined “five areas of excellence” which had been shaped by trustees, administration, and faculty to guide the school for the immediate future.
• Commitment to being competitive
“First,” he said, “we must commit ourselves to being an institution that is competitive in technology, focused on advancement, equipped for planned growth, and responsible in the use of resources.
• Curriculum reflects awareness
“Second, our curriculum must reflect an awareness of our global connectedness, and each academic department must take responsibility for developing opportunities for international study and cultural immersion.
• Encourage opportunities
“Third, we need to encourage events that foster Christian community and provide opportunities for worship, service, and missions.
• Strengthen academic programs
“Fourth, we will seek to strengthen and expand our academic programs that serve both the needs of traditional students and working adults. We must commit greater resources to our faculty and strive to provide the level of income and teaching resources that will allow us to maintain and attract the brightest scholars committed to our mission.
• Address vision of capital resources
“And fifth, we must address the vision of capital resources that includes new student housing, a new library, a new fine arts facility, a new science facility, and a new chapel and ministry education center.”
Newman said “significant, tangible progress” has been made in raising funds for the library and plans are underway to address the construction of new student living space. He then added that the college must look for ways to expand its professional studies program with new campuses, additional degrees, and online learning opportunities.
“This is our time and this is the place where God has brought us together as a community of learning and as a model of grace. When our era is past, may history judge us favorably as those who gave their best and as those who committed their utmost in order to provide a place of educational excellence to students in Georgia and throughout the world.”
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