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MY Southern story              Share YOUR Southern story

Vanessa Patiño, Class of '10, '11


My Southern helped me reach my career goals and, in the process, taught me the circle of giving.

The year I was supposed to finish my associate degree in nursing, my father became unemployed, leaving me struggling to stay at Southern. With the help of increased financial aid, my family and I got by that year. I graduated, passed my boards, and continued school, completing a bachelor's degree the following year.

I now work at Gordon Hospital in Calhoun, Georgia, where I am able to minister to others in their most vulnerable state--giving them hope and working to help them have a healthy future.

I love My Southern. When I recently had an opportunity to give back, I did, knowing that my small investment would make a big difference in a student's future. Please join me in giving back in many ways to show how much you love YOUR Southern, too!


Will Carroll, Class of '01

Will Carroll visited Southern with his family after receiving a letter inviting them to stop by for a weekend. Although he had been offered full-ride scholarships to other universities, he decided to attend Southern because, as he puts it, “You could really feel the spirit of God on Southern’s campus. You could practically breathe it and that is what I needed and really wanted at that time.”

Will stays connected in many ways to give back to Southern because of his Southern experience. While studying chemistry and pre-med between1999-2001, Will was involved in many opportunities through community service, the Black Christian Union, and he was one of the first students to work at Southern’s Call Center. Now he enjoys coordinating BCU reunions and mentoring current students through campus seminars and lecture opportunities.

The service atmosphere that he felt while at Southern continues to play out in Will’s life and can be seen in his attitude about work. “I love interacting with the patients and watching them heal.” Currently, Carroll works as the Clinical Programs Director for Pharmaceutical Care at Marion General Hospital and also interprets Spanish there when needed.

“I’ve learned to trust God and never settle for less,” says Will. “I’m not surprised when He does awesome things, because I know that’s what He’s capable of.” With this faith, Carroll encourages others to join him in giving back to Southern.


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Bill Wilson, Volunteer

Bill Wilson volunteers in a variety of ways at Southern, but mostly, he really just loves to serve students. For most of his life, Bill worked hard for a modest return. Yet somehow, he always managed to support his wife and three kids. After retirement, he settled in Collegedale and became a Southern Lights Volunteer.

Some days you can find him up at 4:00 a.m. driving a student to the airport. On most other days, he is giving his time and resources to Southern by working with some of the 80 other volunteers that he has personally recruited.

Bill also says he learned about the blessings of giving financially at a fundraising event for the School of Nursing. “It was the first time in my life that I really gave, and so I waited for the earthquake to come and the lighting to strike,” says Bill.

“But nothing happened and I realized, oh, this is good, I like it. I should do more of this. I realized that this is God’s money,” says Bill. “I need to be liberal in giving because He helped me accumulate it. It seems the more I give, the more I have.”

Bill believes that amounts don’t matter, and that it’s the principle for each individual that matters. “When you get up in the morning, you need a reason to get up,” says Bill. “My reason is to volunteer and help students. My motto for life is, ‘Make it matter that you live this day." Bill encourages you to make today matter by touching a student’s life through giving your time, talent, and treasure.

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Greg Vital, Attendee of 1978

Greg Vital believes in making a difference through service. After growing up in the Chattanooga area, attending Southern and building his own business, he is now challenging others to join him to make an impact at Southern.

"I have seen Southern continue to provide the physical, spiritual and emotional support that is so essential to students today,” says Vital. For this reason, he has partnered with Southern to create matching funds for new donors to the service initiative.

The service initiative, led by Director Melissa Tortal, class of ‘09, promotes, expands, and provides service opportunities in every academic area. "It's important for all students to realize that they can use their gifts, skills and careers in service. God hasn't just called pastors and teachers to serve, but all the professions," says Tortal.

Through incorporation of service opportunities into the curriculum, Southern is preparing students to go into the community equipped with skills and a passion to address and meet specific needs. Vital strongly believes that the balance of education and service is what makes a Southern education unique and he encourages others to join him in increasing opportunities for students to learn to serve.


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The Farrow Family, Franklin and Tamatha Farrow, Class of 1993

“We know that many precious things in our life are the result of a solid Christian education. From a wonderful marriage and family to our own rewarding business, God’s blessings are endless. Our years at Southern played a big part in shaping our family’s life foundation and we would never trade away that experience.

God has blessed us so much. Why should we keep these blessings to ourselves? Even though, like many others, we sometimes worry about the economy and a paycheck, we remember that God is in control. For two years in a row we celebrated one of our birthdays by giving a matching challenge through Southern's Call Center, encouraging others to make a difference. The future is elusive, but as long as God provides, we are blessed to give back and make a difference now and for the future.

Thank you for reading our story and considering what you can do to help, too. Please don’t miss your chance to have a part in giving priceless opportunities to more Southern students. “

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Ken DeFoor, Class of 1971

Ken DeFoor didn’t let growing up in an economically depressed area and attending a substandard public school keep him from dreaming of a better life. As it turns out, even his dreams weren’t as big as the reality that would one day be his. In 1967, DeFoor stepped foot on Southern’s campus unprepared for the academic and financial obligations he would soon face.

“I could have never gotten through college if it hadn’t been for Laurel Wells,” DeFoor says of Southern’s former director of Student Finance. “This lady went to the max extending credit and doing anything within her power to help me.” While Wells continued to find sources of financial aid for DeFoor, the young man progressed in his studies, learning lessons that would benefit him for a lifetime.

Despite his success in office space development, he hasn’t forgotten the financial burdens he carried while a student at Southern. That is why he continues to give to the university that changed his life, both financially, and of his time serving on Southern's Board of Trustees.Today, as the owner of Ken DeFoor Developments, DeFoor has become the primary developer of Class A office space in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

“I know there is a student at this very minute who is worried sick that he or she cannot pay tuition,” he says. “After all that was done for me, it’s hard not to make an effort to help. The success I’ve enjoyed in life is due to my experience at Southern. I invite you to join me in making a life-changing gift to the Southern Fund today.”


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 Mark '90 and Christine '92 (Jenkins) Waldrop

"When you are finished at Southern, remember to give back for someone else in the future."

These words, spoken by then-President Don Sahly when my husband and I were students at Southern, changed our lives. Mark, '90, and I haven't forgotten that we would never have had the opportunity to experience Southern without those who gave their time and money to invest in us.

We are passionate about the opportunity to give to the next generation. We believe that God has blessed us so that we can be a blessing to others. This is why we encourage others to join us in giving back to Southern.

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Jimmy Rhodes '59, Music Man

When you talk to Jimmy about his years at Southern, be prepared to be entertained. Back then, as it is now, Jimmy’s life was full of fun, and much of the fun centered on music. One day in the cafeteria, Jimmy got into a little trouble for entertaining his friends by playing his “glasses and spoons version” of “In the Mood.” He must have been forgiven for Jimmy was successful in graduating from Southern in 1959 with his degree in music education. “I appreciated my band director, Norman Krogstad, so much for allowing me to play so many instruments. It gave me a great foundation to later teach all of those instruments and direct academy bands.”

Jimmy and his wife, Pam, continue to teach and entertain through their many musical talents. Currently Jimmy takes his music all over the country for Life Care Centers of America, and he loves seeing the joy it brings to the lives of the senior residents. Jimmy and Pam have given their support to a variety of projects at Southern and have sponsored many students over the years. They encourage their Southern friends to share their joy in giving from whatever talents they’ve been given.


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Hugo Christiansen, Retired, Library of Congress Administration

“I’ve always been very thankful to Southern for making a way for us to come to America,” says Hugo. “Dean Richard Hammill worked it out that Chic Fleming would sponsor me.” He and wife, Muriel, crossed the Atlantic in 10 days from his native Denmark, and were met in New York City by his future history professor, Leif Tobiassen. Hugo describes Professor Tobiassen as “a perfectionist of the highest order. He stuck his neck out for our class.” At a time when it was unheard of to deviate from the grading curve, Hugo appreciated that Professor Tobiassen gave an A to over half of the class because they were deserving.

Hugo majored in History and Religion and completed his masters in Biblical Archaeology. Having spent significant time on digs in the Middle East, he maintains a strong interest in Biblical Archaeology. You can meet Hugo at the Lynn H. Wood Archaeology Museum in Southern’s School of Religion where he currently volunteers. He is most proud to support the Religion and Archaeology program at Southern, and is impressed that current professors like Phillip Samaan and Michael Hasel are continuing the same tradition of outstanding leadership and teaching that he experienced as a student at Southern.


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Sarah Cushing, Retired Nurse

“Southern is really home to me,” says Sarah, whose successful nursing career began at Southern Junior College. She graduated from the pre-nursing program in 1944, one year before the college became Southern Missionary College. She went on from Southern to receive her RN and BSNE degrees, and among other nursing work, she taught and supervised obstetrical nursing. She stayed home for ten years to raise five children, and then returned to nursing for another 36 years before retiring in 2003.

Sarah gives to the Southern Fund and Student Scholarship Fund. Although she only spent one year studying at Southern, Sarah is a proud SoJuConian. She says, “I am glad to be able to give so other students can receive the blessings of a Christian education.”


Share YOUR Southern story