With 581 graduates, Southwest Baptist University’s May 2014 graduating class was the largest in the University’s 136-year history. The commencement ceremony also included the annual presentation of three prestigious awards: two Life Beautiful Awards and the Orien B. Hendrex Distinguished Teacher Award.
Life Beautiful Award
The 2014 recipients of the Life Beautiful Award are Kara Phipps of Bolivar and Alex Huff of Da Nang, Vietnam.
Phipps graduated with a bachelor of science in biology. She has received multiple honors while at SBU, is a member of the Gordon & Judy Dutile Honors Program Leadership Council and has been a biology research team leader since 2012. She is a member of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Bolivar, where she is part of the worship team and leads a Bible study. She participated in three mission trips while at SBU. One faculty member wrote, “Kara has a quiet, sweet spirit. She is patient and kind, always considerate of others. She is a true servant leader.”
She is the daughter of Michael and Tammy Phipps, both SBU graduates. Her brother Josiah was the male 2013 Life Beautiful recipient.
Huff graduated with a bachelor of science degree in economics/finance. He was selected as the Outstanding Business Administration graduate and is in the Dutile Honors program. He attends Alliance Christian Fellowship in Bolivar and served on two mission trips through SBU. One faculty member wrote, “He greets everybody with a smile and a can-do attitude. He takes the time to listen and get to know others. Alex has a heart for missions and sharing the gospel around the world.”
He is the son of Bob and Kathleen Huff.
The Life Beautiful Award was established in 1937 by Rosalee Mills Appleby, a career missionary to Brazil. This award is given annually to an outstanding man and woman in the Southwest Baptist University spring graduating class. These individuals have demonstrated by their scholarship and character that they are living a “life beautiful.” The faculty selects the recipients, whose identities remain confidential until commencement.
Orien B. Hendrex Award
Joe Wooderson, chair of the Department of Kinesiology and instructor of physical education, received the Orien B. Hendrex Distinguished Teacher Award.
The award is presented annually to a faculty member who has been judged by the previous three years’ graduating classes to be outstanding in both teaching ability and personal guidance. The SBU Board of Trustees designated this award in memory of Hendrex, a former academic dean.
Shannon L. Gray of Schell City, Mo., delivered the Bob R. Derryberry Senior Address, reminding her classmates that though they have encountered difficult times during college, God sees the potential and beauty of each graduate.
“While in college we are looking at our lives from the underside of a tapestry, but our Creator has a bigger, better plan,” she said. “He sees the whole tapestry and rejoices in its picture with all of its beauty and its imperfections, because that is what makes us all unique. He sees us in our final form, full of success, lessons learned and growth shown. He sees his children, the men and women who breathed life into doing his work through mission trips, daily tasks and even being a listening ear.
“This part of the tapestry is now done and it is time for us to move on to this more exciting time of our future. We have bright futures, full of hope and ready for the world ahead of us, and we have been trained and held accountable by some of the finest people we ever have had the privilege of knowing, our teachers.”
Senior music was provided by Katelyn Hicks and Shelby Johnson accompanied by Tammie Pennington.
Faculty and staff recognitions
Dr. Taylor also recognized four retiring faculty members and one retiring staff member.
Retiring faculty members are J.D. Lynch, instructor of recreation and leisure and director of the Meyer Wellness and Sports Center; Susan Lynch, chair of the Department of Business Administration and professor of business administration; Robert Perry, professor of graduate studies in educational administration; and Libby Sanders, instructor of education at the SBU Salem campus. Retiring staff member is Larry Price, director of the SBU Mountain View campus.
Charles Graham, founder of Charles Graham Ministries, and a 2007 recipient of an honorary doctorate from SBU, told the graduates that God has a purpose for everything that has and will happen in their lives.
“I want you to realize God does have a plan for you,” he said.
“Number two, don’t allow a world of circumstances to rob you of your purpose. You may get your position, you may get your pay raises, but I want you to understand that the purpose is not the position nor your pay. The purpose will always be people. God will always use us in the lives of those around us.
“My third point, don’t let moments define the purpose. Don’t let them rob you of your purpose. When you enter your workforce, let your life be shaped by the Word that is within and not the world you are in.”