Methodist University celebrated its 61st year today with its Fall Opening Convocation. President Ben Hancock gave a “State of the University Address” at the event, addressing MU community members who filled Huff Concert Hall this morning. As part of his address, Hancock also presented the University Medallion to Student Health Services Director Sandy Combs, who has served Methodist University with distinction for 50 years. Methodist University Provost Delmas Crisp announced four new endowed professorships, and Vice President and Director of Athletics Dave Eavenson gave four athletic awards.
State of the University Address
As he began his seventh annual opening address to campus, Hancock compared Methodist University to the recent solar eclipse.
“Our star is shining so bright that it might require protective lenses,” Hancock said. “That’s the Methodist University I see. If we are to aspire, and continue to aspire, to eclipse our competition, to strive for excellence, then join me on that journey,” Hancock said. “Furthermore, we all exist under the same sun, we share the same earth, the same country and the same values. Together, we will make the University the one we dream it can be.”
Hancock said the University is moving forward boldly with its five-year Strategic Plan, Master Plan, and pillars of the MU Journey that provide immersive opportunities for students. He stressed that we are all on board and committed to being successful and making it “our best year ever.” He also stressed the importance of literacy as a key theme this year, the ability to communicate effectively as well as cultural, religious, financial, and generational literacy.
Citing recent records in fund raising, Hancock also predicted continued success and additional resources to fund the bold goals for the future, including current operations, facilities, and endowment.
This week, Methodist University was named the No. 1 “Best College or University” in the Fayetteville Observer’s Reader’s Choice Awards. Methodist has record enrollment in graduate programs this fall, and new programs this year include the Master of Education with concentrations in Physical Education and Coaching and Athletic Administration. The Health Care Administration Graduate Certificate also begins this semester. The third cohort of Doctor of Physical Therapy students have now started as the program’s first students prepare to graduate in May 2018.
The new Thomas R. McLean Health Sciences Building was recently awarded Best New Non-Residential Property by the City-County Joint Appearance Commission. The new Gene Clayton Tennis Center is complete and will welcome students from the Professional Tennis Management Program as well as the men’s and women’s tennis teams. Construction continues on the Matthews Ministry Center and Union-Zukowski Lobby and Gallery, expected to be complete in spring 2018.
Hancock said he sees the University through “green and gold colored glasses,” and challenged everyone to do the same, whether this was their first or 50th year at the University. He then called Combs to the stage, where he presented her with the University Medallion.
“The University Medallion is presented to individuals on our campus and in our community who make this a great University,” he said, “and I can’t think of anyone more deserving than Sandy Combs who illustrates what it means to be a part of this University, to support this University and all of our students, faculty, and staff who have come through over the past 50 years.”
The new endowed professorships were awarded as follows: Dr. Richard Walsh, Samuel J. and Norma Womack Professorship in Religion and Philosophy; Dr. Andrew Ziegler, Lura S. Tally Endowment Professorship in Leadership; Dr. Stephanie Hooper Marosek, The John W. Wyatt, Jr. Endowed Professorship in the Sciences; and Dr. Larry Wells, the University’s second Union-Zukowski Endowed Professorship in the Arts.
“Methodist University recognizes outstanding faculty in several ways, and one of those is by naming faculty to endowed professorships,” Crisp said. “All of the nine professorships that Methodist currently has are discipline-specific, but the University anticipates developing some which will not carry any specific discipline.”
The four new professorships join five others already established, which include the Col. (Ret.) David R. Nimocks Professorship in Business, currently held by Dr. Josiah Baker; Col. (Ret.) David R. Nimocks International Professorship in Business, currently held by Dr. Mary Kirchner; Elizabeth E. McLean Endowed Professorship in English, currently held by Dr. Michael Colonnese; Thomas R. McLean Endowed Professorship in History, currently held by Dr. Peter Murray; and the first Union-Zukowski Endowed Professorship in the Arts, currently held by Dr. Michael Martin.
“The success of Methodist University – past, present, and future – depends on our ability to attract and retain outstanding faculty,” Hancock said. “Endowed professorships are but one way we recognize excellence in teaching, research, and community engagement. People are our most important resource and most distinctive trait, and these nine signature professors represent our very best.”
All of the endowed professorships are designed to be awarded for multiple years at a time before rotating to another faculty recipient.
“To be eligible, faculty have to be outstanding teachers, working with students in and out of the classroom, and active scholars/performers,” Crisp said. “They also have to offer exemplary service to the University and to Fayetteville/Cumberland County.”
The Scholar Athlete of the Year awards, which go to the female and male student athletes with the highest GPA, were awarded to Lindsey Pritchard and Nathan Billman. Pritchard, who is from Strongville, Ohio, is majoring in environmental management and competes on the women’s track and field team. This is the second year she has won this award. Billman, who is from Fayetteville, N.C., is majoring in kinesiology and is on the men’s cross country and the track and field teams.
The 2016-2017 Sykes Cup Award was presented to Jacob Smerka, who plays on the men’s lacrosse team. The award, named for former MU soccer coach Mason Sykes, is presented annually to the most outstanding athlete of the year as nominated and voted on by the head coaches.
Men’s Lacrosse Coach Zach Nedbalski was recognized as the McLean Coach of the Year. The award is given in recognition of a head coach’s service and performance during the past year.