Friday, February 15, 2008

Feb. 15 -- Daily update from the president

On the 10th day after the storm we are turning our attention toward the next phase of the recovery, which will focus on the new beginning of the spring semester. On Monday, Feb. 18, for the first time since Feb. 5, all faculty and staff will be back on campus. Even now, we are praying for our students as they prepare to return and for all of the "new start" opportunities planned for next week.

But before next week, and even before our time together next Monday, I wanted to write to say thank you and to share a bit of encouragement with you. I would run out of space if I attempted to name everyone across campus for their incredible effort and their hours and hours of service in behalf of Union since Feb. 5. But I do want to offer a few highlights, among many others that also deserve to be mentioned.

First, I want to thank everyone who joined us in the emergency efforts on that Tuesday evening, Feb. 5. For those who have opened their homes to our students and who have provided pastoral care for our injured students, I want to say a huge word of gratitude. I especially appreciate the coordinating efforts of Sam and Dottie Myatt, and the work of George Guthrie and Randy Phillips in this regard. I want to thank Gary Carter, David McBride and the skillful and tireless work of the facilities team. I applaud the "around the clock" care provided by the ladies of Union Station. To Kimberly Thornbury, Kathy Southall and the entire Student Life and Residence Life team, we owe you a debt of thanks that we can never properly communicate. The Residence Life directors are the true heroes of this entire event.

The efforts of more than 200 faculty and staff who retraced their steps over and over again attempting to retrieve the belongings of students from all of the residence life rooms have been heroic and commendable in every way. For the leadership of Carla Sanderson, Cindy Jayne and so many others I am most grateful. I deeply appreciate those who staffed the command center around the clock. That group, which has affectionately become known as the Junior Leadership Team, demonstrated sensitivity, care and compassion for our students and their parents in a way that has been a joy to behold.

For others who took the efforts of this group in order to follow up with the phone banks and call centers and who organized the "belongings pick up" in the gymnasium, I offer ongoing thanksgiving. I have been amazed at the careful organization and coordination of all of those involved in these labors of love. The safety and security team deserves recognition for the way in which they served alongside all of the various groups across campus.

For Rich Grimm and others who initially provided oversight for the automobile recovery work and then the Jett Inn transition, I am thankful. All of this work was supplemented by the careful coordination of more than 2,500 volunteers by Jerry Tidwell and Larry Vaughan. I thank God for each and every person who has served, prayed and supported the multi-faceted and multi-layered work of recent days. All of these efforts were supported by the talented and tireless efforts of our technology teams and communication teams. These groups have worked an untold amount of hours in order to allow us to communicate with each other and to communicate beyond this campus. The opportunity to tell the Union story in the midst of the past 240 hours has been a blessing for which we will forever be grateful.

As the Union story has been told across this region, throughout the country and around the world, God has touched the hearts of people who are beginning to respond to our massive needs. Our advancement team has worked hard to help people understand our needs at this time. We pray for ongoing long-term responses. I will share more of this information on Monday, but a bit of news to encourage you. To date, dozens and dozens of people and groups have responded with big gifts and small. We trust God to bless them all, each and every one. Just a few of these which I thought you would want to know include:
LifeWay Christian Resources -- $350,000
First Bank -- $110,000
Belmont University -- $100,000
Criswell College/KCBI -- $53,000
Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Board -- $50,000
TBC Children's Home -- $50,000
Six SBC seminaries -- Nearly $50,000
... and a group of individuals who are all praying about how they can help us in a significant way at this time -- and the list goes on and on. Our needs will total several million dollars, so this is just a start. I believe, however, that just as God providentially protected the lives of our students in the storm on Feb. 5, He will providentially preserve and provide for this university in days to come.

It is a time for us all to take hope, to not lose heart, to not grow weary in doing good, and to refocus on the distinctive mission of Union University. Please know of my heartfelt gratitude for each of you. May God bless the Union University community. Please try to get some rest this weekend as we enter a new phase in our work on Monday, Feb. 18. Finally, let me ask you to pray for our Board of Trustees as they gather on Saturday for a called meeting to help us address the needs, challenges and opportunities that we now face. We are grateful for our trustees, so many of whom have walked closely with us over the past 10 days. May the Lord be with you and give you peace.

-- David S. Dockery, President, Union University