Summerour Hall Reopens

~ By Ashley Noonan                                                                              

In 1971 Summerour Hall was dedicated and named after longtime Southern benefactors Benjamin and Gradye Summerour. Benjamin served as a board member for 30+ years, and Gradye graduated from and served as a teacher at Southern Training School (one of the former names of Southern) in the 1910s. Almost 40 years after the first dedication, surviving members of the Summerour family and nearly 100 people gathered for the opening ceremony of the recently renovated Summerour Hall on May 24, 2014.                                                           
The exterior, which has changed dramatically, now includes impressive two-story glass windows and columns as well as an expansion on both sides of the building. The interior now boasts seven spacious classrooms plus an updated education technology lab, new psychology lab, two conference rooms, and a kitchen.

Two unique features of the building include a digital touchscreen monitor and a sculpture of Jesus, both of which were made possible by generous donations from alumni and friends of the School of Education and Psychology. The touchscreen monitor will offer a directory, information about student missionaries, and a list of renovation donors. The sculpture will be located in a small garden near the main entrance to the building and will provide a visual reminder of the school’s Christ-centered mission.


Evadne’s Doll House: Connecting Southern's Past to the Future    

~ By Ashley Noonan                                                                                 


The little yellow Doll House, the oldest building on campus, is a constant and visible reminder of the pioneering spirit, dedication, and stewardship of Southern’s founders.

After being relocated this past year to a new green space between Lynn Wood and Daniells Halls, Chris Carey, vice president for Advancement, moved his office into the 7-by-14 foot Doll House until construction begins on the new student life center, which is an essential part of the university's strategic plans. During a recent open-house event, students and alumni were able to enjoy old-fashioned cookies and lemonade while learning about the building’s history.

The Doll House has served many purposes in the past 100 years including: President Lynn H. Wood’s office, music studio, beehive supply shed, storehouse for seed, sanitarium for students during a smallpox epidemic, shoe repair shop, barbershop, library, prayer room, and even an annex for the overcrowded girls’ dormitory.

In 1906 James Thatcher built the playhouse for his daughter Evadne, and the building served a wide variety of campus needs for the next 50 years. In 1958 the Doll House was sold to an alumnus living near the campus. Southern's administration soon realized the building's significance to the university’s heritage and bought it back in 1960 for the same price for which it was sold. In 1981 the Alumni Association restored the Doll House, and Evadne Thatcher Smith attended the official dedication, donating the curtains she had made for her little house.

Possibilities for the Doll House are endless and could include being used in many of the same ways as in the past. “We want it to be available for people to be creative, just as they were in the past,” Carey said. A local alum recently received permission to host her young daughter's birthday tea party at the Doll House.

The Doll House encapsulates the university’s incredible history. “It really puts challenges into perspective,” said Carey. “It gives us a sense of how God has blessed us through the years.”

Finish What You Start                                                         

~ excerpted and reprinted from May 5, 2014, article in Chattanooga Times Free Press

Local entrepreneur Greg Vital took 36 years to finish his college degree.

On Sunday, May 4, 2014, he graduated from Southern Adventist University and was the invited commencement speaker.

“Leave college with persistence, passion, and a plan," he told some 440 graduates and thousands of family members in attendance during the ceremony held at the Chattanooga Convention Center. "Define yourself by the things you’ve accomplished.”

Vital, age 58, said he was motivated to finish his degree by a sense of personal satisfaction.

“This is about inspiring young people whose life and education get interrupted and about showing them that we must go back and finish what we start,” he said.

Co-founder and president of Independent Healthcare Properties, Vital enrolled at Southern for his last semester of school in January – 36 years after he left in 1978. He took two accounting courses and a statistics class needed to earn a bachelor’s degree in business management.

Vital wants to inspire others to realize that learning is a lifelong journey and that they are never too old to learn.



Cottontail Trail Opens for Advanced Bikers

~ By Ashley Noonan                   

Cottontail Trail, a new addition to the Biology Trail system on campus, officially opened with a small ceremony on April 20. While the existing trails can be used in various ways, this is the first trail designed specifically for advanced mountain biking.

Friends of White Oak Mountain, a group that exists to create, improve, and maintain the trail system, played a large role in the development of Cottontail Trail. Countless volunteers dedicated their time, money, and resources.

“The volunteers that come out to help on this trail system exceed anything I have seen anywhere [else] by a long shot,” Jim Johnson, outgoing president of the Friends of White Oak Mountain, said during the ceremony. “A huge diversity of people helps make this possible.”

Gordon Bietz, university president, shared how the trail system has added great value to the university. Many other projects are also in the works to improve the trails, which could include a new entrance, water bottle stations, and a workstation where riders can repair or upgrade their bikes.

Chris Klinvex, '84, Southern alumnus and incoming president of the Friends of White Oak Mountain, talked about the possibility of offering mountain biking classes for adults as well as for children.

“There is no other sport in the world where you would just give a person the basic tools and say, ‘Go’. We need to teach our kids how to mountain bike,” Klinvex said during the ceremony.

Hundreds of people ranging in all ages use the trails each week and continue to be blessed by their experiences. The Friends of White Oak Mountain volunteers hope to create a community that connects the bikers. “We believe the best is yet to come,“ Klinvex said.


Big 70 Birthday Bash

~ By Cheryl Torres

Southern Adventist University President Gordon Bietz celebrated 70 years of life on May 1 with a 70-mile bike ride! More than 70 employees, alumni, and friends joined him for The Big 70, a there-and-back-again cycling journey to Graysville, Tennessee, the original site of Southern’s campus.

As the cyclists arrived back at the Collegedale campus, more than 200 people lined up along Taylor Circle to welcome the group “home” with a birthday celebration. Cake, ice cream, donuts, balloon animals, a zip line, and more were available for attendees to enjoy during the festive occasion. Bietz was surprised with a short program honoring his life thus far as well as his 17 years at Southern and 32 years in the local community.

Alumni and friends were invited in advance to make a birthday gift in Bietz's honor to his favorite organization: Southern, of course! In response, 416 people gave a total of $543,676 to help students succeed during their university experience.

Thank you to everyone who sent gifts and birthday greetings to Gordon. And thanks to all who joined him for The Big 70 ride and celebration!

Watch the Birthday Celebration Video.

uQuest Missions - Alumni/Student Mentoring Opportunities

~ By Karen Glassford                                           
uQuest Haiti
Rain poured down in torrents on the tin roof, roosters crowed from the safety of perches under the building eaves, and light seeped through palm fronds that raked the screen of the large, open window. In an hour or so, 20 short-term missionary students from Southern woke up to find themselves not in their comfortable climate-controlled dorm rooms, but in Pucallpa, Peru.

After a night spent sleeping on thin mattresses under mosquito nets in steamy weather, the students slipped and slid through mud to get to the cement showers. The day was soon in full swing, with hundreds of needy people standing in line waiting to be seen by the medical professionals, who were assisted by pre-medical, pre-dental, and nursing students. The air rang with the sounds of nearby construction. Children laughed and danced about while trying to entice anyone to play with them. Whimpering dogs were cared for and comforted by pre-veterinary students, who dispensed medicine and love like professional vets.

Days were spent giving shots, sewing up wounds, pulling teeth, counting and dispensing pills, and playing soccer on rain-soaked but sun-warmed grassy areas. Meals included delicious tropical fruits along with plenty of rice and beans. No one complained about the food being far simpler than at Southern's cafeteria or by the fact that no Taco Bell or Pizza Hut restaurants were available. Evenings were spent preaching evangelistic meetings or helping with Vacation Bible School while sharing the good news that Jesus is coming soon.

Tearful goodbyes came too quickly. The students wondered how they had bonded so quickly with people they couldn’t even understand. The pain of leaving was tempered by knowing that they had an appointment to meet their new friends in heaven someday soon. Life priorities had been rearranged, baptisms witnessed, last-minute hugs shared, and then the Southern students were on the plane headed home. Many considered becoming long-term student missionaries, and others considered the possibility of pursuing full-time mission service.

As they remembered the medical team with whom they had worked, a quiet determination filled many students' hearts. They wanted to be like those doctors/dentists/nurses/nurse practitioners and faculty sponsors. They wanted to practice medicine, preach the gospel, and serve people in the same way. The trip had changed their lives forever.

Five years from now, if you were to peek into these same clinics in Peru, it is likely you would see some of these same students. Alumni of Southern mission trips often return as the doctors, dentists, nurses, pastors, and teachers who mentor students on other mission trips and impact lives for eternity. Mission trips require investments of time and money, but the dividends are returned in lives changed for eternity.

Contact Karen Glassford to learn more about uQuest programs.

Help students experience life-changing mission trips.




Summer is just around the corner, and vacation travel plans will soon be reality for many. As part of your travel preparations, consider a review of your current estate plans or contact Planned Giving at Southern to begin this important process.

Few decisions are more important than planning for the future. According to a recent survey, nearly 65% of Americans do not have a will. Without a will or trust, the state will make a will for you that may not reflect your final wishes and will not include any charitable causes important to you. Additionally, the courts will determine who will raise your minor children. Don’t let this happen to you!

Creating your plan for the future is easier than you think. Planned Giving is here to help simplify and begin this important process. We will be happy to provide the information and tools you need to meet with an estate planning attorney who will tailor a plan that fits your individual needs. You will be happy to know that a voucher is available to assist with estate-planning attorney fees when partnering with Southern.

One’s legacy speaks volumes – it tells your story while also providing for others.

Contact Planned Giving staff.