Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Feb. 12 -- Daily update from the president

Today, I want to pause to say a word of thanksgiving, particularly to those throughout our Madison County community. I know you will join me in expressing thanks to them and for them.

One week ago, Union University experienced the greatest challenging hour it has ever faced in its storied 185-year history. The EF-4 tornado that ripped through our campus destroyed buildings, residences and offices, resulting in more than $40 million in damage.

But thanks be to God, it could not destroy the courageous spirit of the Jackson-Madison County community, nor did it take a single life.

On this day, the Union University family is a community overwhelmed with gratefulness. To this end, together we:

-- Thank God for His providential care and sustaining grace for Union University in the eye of the storm. We praise our Creator for preserving and protecting each precious human life.

-- Recognize that this providential care was carried out by His human agents: the hands of God upon this earth.

In addition, we want to pause in the midst of our recovery to express our deep heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals:

-- Our two mayors, Jerry Gist and Jimmy Harris, who have visited this campus every day and have been incredibly supportive in the aftermath of the storm.

-- Chief Rick Staples, Commander Dennis Mays and Sherrif David Woolfork, whose brilliant response to the emergency showed a police force equal to the challenges of even the greatest crisis.

-- Fire Department Chief James Pearson, who carefully oversaw one of the greatest rescue and disaster management efforts in the history of emergency services.

-- All of the incredible individuals, such as Marty Clements, from the emergency management systems, the Tennessee State Guard and other critical care personnel who saw to it that each Union University student stayed safe.

-- West Tennessee Healthcare CEO Richard Parks, who mobilized the resources of the Jackson-Madison County General Hospital to help us respond effectively to the disaster.

-- The ER critical care unit at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital, including doctors, nurses and other wonderful hospital personnel who treated injured students and saw to it that the ones in greatest need were attended to at the highest level of care.

-- To our elected and government officials who visited our campus and demonstrated their concern: Governor Bredesen, Senators Alexander and Corker, Representatives Tanner and Blackburn, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff and FEMA Director Paulson.

To the following churches and organizations, our hearts overflow with thankfulness:

-- Pastor Ben Mandrell and Englewood Baptist church for the amazing gift of the Phil and Marilyn Jett Inn (formerly the Old English Inn) to be the residence to which many of our students will return next week.

-- West Jackson Baptist Church for offering their facilities to our Music Department, along with providing space to house items from faculty offices evacuated from Jennings Hall.

-- The many faithful God-honoring churches across this region that have selflessly provided support in these initial days of the recovery effort. You have both walked with us and prayed us through this crisis.

-- Nancy Zambito and the Jackson-Madison County School District.

-- University School of Jackson and Trinity Christian Academy for their gracious offers to provide resources from their campuses to help us keep our programs in Jackson running.

-- Jackson Christian School for allowing Union’s Athletic Department to continue with its basketball schedule.

-- To all of the area colleges for their thoughtful offers of assistance and volunteer teams to help with the cleanup effort, including: Freed-Hardeman, Lane College, UT Martin, Jackson State, Bethel, Lambuth and other institutions across the state.

Further, we wish express our great appreciation to:

-- Our Union University alumni and friends who have encouraged us at every step along the way, and continue to do so with fresh supplies of encouragement and tangible support.

-- To the media who have aided us in communicating the remarkable stories of the Union University family, including WBBJ, area TV and radio stations, and most especially The Jackson Sun.

-- All of the construction and cleanup companies and organizations who have, and are, doing us the service of getting our campus operational again, including: Dement Construction, Ricky and Pam Harrison of Hutcherson Metals, Inc.

-- Verizon Wireless and Motorola who gave us the ability to communicate while the power was out and our network was down.

-- Black and Decker for the use of their facilities for our MBA classes.

-- All of the food vendors who provided meals to our relief workers, students and volunteers. Among the many folks involved were: Chik-Fil-A, Logan’s Roadhouse, Jason’s Deli, The Old Country Store, Regions Bank, First South Bank, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Little Caesar’s Pizza, Zaxby’s, Popeye’s, Cracker Barrel, Aramark and many others.

In particular, as the president of this great university, I want very personally to thank our marvelous board of trustees, faculty, staff and remarkable students who have shown a strength of will and courage that displays the heart and mission of Union University. With all of these I am deeply humbled and privileged to work every day. The nation has the opportunity that I am privileged to see each day, which is the amazing quality of people who make up the Union University family.

And, finally, for our ongoing gratefulness to a long list of groups and individuals too lengthy to innumerate in this space, those who encourage us and continue to send help and financial support our way. To all of you, we can never give enough thanks.

For those of us on the campus of Union University, the past week has already felt like an entire year, we know that a long journey still stretches out before us. But we take heart in our great God, about whom Moses sang:

Who is like unto thee, O LORD?
Who is like unto thee—majestic in holiness,
Awesome in glory, working wonders?
Who is like unto Thee?


-- David S. Dockery, president, Union University