Campus Life Title

Largest December Graduation


Southern Adventist University celebrated the accomplishments of 296 graduates who marched during the winter commencement held in Iles P.E. Center on Thursday evening, December 17.  We welcome all of our new alumni into the larger Southern community of 34,500+ graduates and attendees serving around the world. 


New Trails to Honor Bietz’s Fenton Forest Legacy
by Melissa Guth, Alumni Relations assistant 


Southern’s leadership is recommending to the Board of Trustees that the university honor President Gordon Bietz, who retires at the end of May, by naming campus hiking trails after characters and locations in his inspirational Fenton Forest parables.

Southern has used land donated by alumni to develop 10 new miles of trails on Bauxite Ridge. That area will be called Fenton Forest on Bauxite Ridge. The paths on White Oak Mountain, previously known as the Biology Trail, contain 20 miles of hiking and biking trails and will be called Fenton Forest on White Oak Mountain. Trails to the west of campus are being named after characters, while those to the east are named after places from Fenton Forest.

Bauxite Ridge trails include a 1.5-mile loop that traces the history of Sabbath from creation to the New Earth. Rusty McKee, ’87, was inspired to initiate the project after a trip to the Sabbath Trail in Washington, New Hampshire. The project is estimated to cost around $330,000 for signs, parking lot, lighting, bathrooms, and an access road. It is scheduled to be operational in January 2016. A grand opening will occur in conjunction with Bietz’s retirement later in the spring.

For a free copy of Bietz's Fenton Forest book, email Advancement or call 423.236.2829.



The End of the Year is Coming Quickly…   


Your year-end gift can provide peace of mind for many students who, without your help, would not be able to continue their studies at Southern. Learn more about how you can share the joys of the holiday season and enjoy tax benefits at the same time.

To make your gift count toward 2015 taxes, give online by 11:59 p.m. EST on December 31, 2015 (the transaction must be completed by this time).

Checks must be postmarked on or before December 31, 2015. Please mail to:

Southern Adventist University
P.O. Box 370
Collegedale, TN 37315        


Alumni Highlights Title

Planting Seeds in Southern’s Call Center
by Ashley Fox, Annual Giving Officer


Southern’s 1,300-acre campus is nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and includes countless trees that are more than 100 years old. But before those trees stood tall in Fenton Forest, they first began as something much smaller. In Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus compares the kingdom of Heaven to a planted mustard seed: “It is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree.”

In application to our daily lives, sometimes that seed can be a conversation.

Marcella Mountain Archilla, a call center student worker for Southern, reached out to Claudia Payne, ’69. During their conversation, Archilla asked the alum if she would make a contribution to the university.

“I told her very frankly that I did not want to give,” Payne explained. “I had just gone through some extremely difficult times: I had moved, was out of work, and my health was struggling.”

But instead of quickly ending the phone call, Archilla was impressed to pray with Payne that God would give her courage and strength during these trials. After the two hung up, Archilla’s request for funds tugged on Payne’s heart and she was flooded with an unceasing thought: “You absolutely must give to Southern!” Payne believed it was God speaking those words and felt compelled to invest in students because she had been blessed by her own experience at Southern.

The next day, Payne made a financial pledge but she didn’t know how she would be able to fulfill it. Her nursing degree from Southern served her well for many years, but during the past few years Payne explored other careers and this break in continuity led to some money issues. She was ready to reenter the nursing field but prospects were slim. Even through these trials, Payne knew she had to trust God; he would provide for all of her needs—and Southern’s needs, too!

She continued praying to God and less than a month after her phone call with Archilla, Payne was working as a nurse again. She has continued investing in Southern and reached the President’s Circle 100 giving level, a designation for supporters who make annual leadership contributions of $2,500 or more.

Payne and Regional Relationship Manager Kenny Turpen formed a friendship during the past two years, and he recently shared news about the Campaign for Excellence in Faith and Learning with her. They are now prayer partners, lifting up the project’s goals to God in pursuit of His guidance and blessing. As a result, Payne was once again impressed to give a gift to Southern—this time toward the campaign.

Payne believes that through prayer, the seeds being planted for the new student life center will blossom into a beautiful building that will transform and impact students’ lives.

Payne claims the promise of the mustard seed, saying “I’m going to plant the best seed I can!”


Southern Alumna Among Injured in San Bernardino Shooting
by Southern Accent staff


Amanda Gaspard, ’06, was among 21 injured in the San Bernardino, California, shooting at the Inland Regional Center (IRC) where two shooters opened fire at 11:40 a.m. on Wednesday, December 2. Officials report 14 people were killed.

Gaspard, 31, is an environmental health specialist for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. According to a statement released by her parents, Ken and Diane Gaspard, she was shot in her lower arm, upper thigh, and knee, and has over 20 shrapnel wounds on the rest of her body.

When the shooters entered the room, Gaspard hid under a table with her eyes closed. After firing multiple rounds throughout the room, the shooter came and shot her, according to the statement.

“They stood over her and could have easily shot her in the head,” said Ken and Diane Gaspard. “But we are so grateful to God that they shot her in the leg and arm instead.”

The parents were called by one of her coworkers immediately after the shootings to let them know what happened to Gaspard. The coworker told them that their daughter, even while lying on the floor bleeding, held her hand and prayed to God.

It was hours after speaking with the coworker before Gaspard’s parents learned of her condition. They didn’t know exactly where she had been shot at the time, but were praying constantly that she would survive. They were finally able to speak to her before she was taken into surgery.

“Amanda is a very strong, spiritual person and one of her first comments to us when we talked to her was that she hoped that this tragic event could be used somehow to draw people closer to God and let them know that Jesus is coming soon,” the parents said.

After learning what hospital Gaspard was in, her entire family flew there immediately to be by her side. She is recovering slowly and is in a lot of pain. Her parents said she is so thankful for the outpouring of love and support that everyone has shown and she specifically wants to thank the first responders, paramedics, SWAT team, and police officers who helped her and the other victims.


Community Connections Title

Community Gathers At New Collegedale Commons 
by Melissa Guth, Alumni Relations assistant 


Community residents gathered near Four Corners at the future site of Collegedale Commons for a tree lighting ceremony on December 3 as food trucks, a live band, and Santa’s arrival in a fire truck added to the festivities. This event was the first held at the Commons, being built on land previously owned by Southern Adventist University and launched the public phase of this fundraising campaign. To date, $3.5 million of the $13 million needed has been raised through private donations.

The Commons will fill many needs in the fast growing community, including an art and culture center, a venue for the East Tennessee Orchestra to perform and practice, a large area for meetings and weddings, and a local farmer’s market. It will be supported by a five-acre parking lot. David Barto, director for the Collegedale Tomorrow Foundation, said the yearlong project consists of four phases. The first stage is site work and building the market, which will begin in February 2016 and end in July or August. Southern Adventist University anticipates that future opportunities will be available for co-hosting group events at The Commons in partnership with the City of Collegedale and the Collegedale Tomorrow Foundation.


Recent Events Title

Library Adds Fall Campus Research Day
by Kimberly Crooks, junior public relations major    


McKee Library recently expanded Campus Research Day to include a fall semester installment on Friday, December 4. In another first, faculty were also invited to participate.

“This was the result of overwhelming demand,” said Dan Maxwell, McKee Library director. “The spring event filled up so quickly we decided to host a fall one, too.”

Most student presenters signed up with encouragement from their professors and research focused on the topics of humanities and art. The day started at 8 a.m. with a keynote address in Lynn Wood Hall by archivist and Southern alum Rick Blondo, ’79. Afterward, several breakout sessions were held across campus.

There were four oral presentation sessions running simultaneously throughout the day where presenters had 12 minutes to share their research followed by a three-minute question and answer session.

“I was really looking forward to seeing the research my fellow students and faculty have done so far this school year,” said Sammantha Francois, a junior liberal arts education major.


Kirsten Wolcott 6th Annual 5k Memorial 


The School of P.E., Health, and Wellness organizes a 5k run each year in honor of Kirsten Wolcott, the student missionary whose life was taken while serving in Yap, Micronesia during the 2009-10 school year. On December 4 students and community members took to the sidewalks, streets, and paths around campus that were familiar to her. The event was free and open to the public.


Upcoming Events

Southern to Host MLK Community Service Day 


On January 18, Southern will participate in the 23rd annual MLK Community Service Day. Every year, the university works with multiple nonprofit organizations around the Collegedale and Chattanooga area as more than 1,000 students and staff volunteer their time and talents in service to others. Although there are no classes that day, many Southern students don’t take the day off. The university encourages them to serve, and we’re asking you to do the same.

“Giving back is twofold,” said Dora Desamour, Christian Service Program director. “One, we give back to our community. Two, we benefit from giving back. Students tell me that giving back to the community reaffirms what they want to do with their lives!”

If you want to give back to your community, there are many organization you can be involved with including the Salvation Army, schools, churches and civic organizations. Tag Southern in your social media pictures and posts to let us know you’re serving alongside us!  


SOUTHERN Adventure in Europe Tour 2016


From May 29 to June 10, 2016, we will be visiting Belgium, France, Germany, and Switzerland. The cost is $4,600/person which includes air fare, lodging, ground transportation, sightseeing activities (20 estimated), and breakfasts/suppers.

A $700 deposit is due by the end of December 2015. 

For more information and to reserve spaces, contact Alumni Relations by emailing alumni or by calling 423.236.2830. 


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