Southern Launches New Alumni and Donor Networking Hub

communitySouthern Community Online is a networking and information hub geared toward alumni and donor constituents. As an alum, you will have access to the online directory, allowing you to reconnect with classmates or get to know Southern alumni in your area. As a donor, you may update contact information and preferences from a single, safe location. You will also be able to view your giving history and RSVP for special invitations you receive.

Visit Southern Community Online to access your account.


LEAPing for Success

Gordon BietzThe mission of Southern’s Leadership Education through Alumni Partnerships (LEAP) program is to build positive relationships between alumni and current students. These alumni connect students to professionals within the Adventist network and advise them as they deal with life transitions, personal finance, and spiritual development.

Visit our website to learn more about how to become a mentor.


Alumni Highlights Title

  Biology Graduate Unveils New Exhibit at National Aquarium
~Myron Madden, senior mass communication major

What does Southern Adventist University and the nation’s first public aquarium have in common? The answer is Jennie Dee Janssen, ’99. On May 12, the National Aquarium, located in Baltimore, Maryland, unveiled its newest exhibit with Janssen at its forefront. Since opening the highly anticipated Living Seashore exhibit, Janssen, manager of changing exhibits, has appeared on several TV and radio stations and has been quoted in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, and Smithsonian.

Living Seashore is a hands-on exhibit that gives visitors a chance to uncover the mysteries of the Mid-janssenAtlantic shoreline. The exhibit’s main attraction is its two touchpools, which house more than 150 animals from 20 different species for visitors to explore, such as horseshoe crabs, stingrays, sea stars, and moon jellies. The exhibit also features several other attractions, such as boardwalk-style binoculars showing videos of animals that inhabit the beach and a live display that reveals animals hiding in the sand.

“We’re trying to show you that when you go to the beach, it’s actually a living habitat,” Janssen explained. “The dune is not just a place between your car and the water. I hope that by making exhibits like this available to the public, people become familiar with these animals and appreciate them and are astounded by how cool they are.”

When the decision was made to create the Living Seashore exhibit two years ago, Janssen was chosen to be the lead biologist on the project and to curate the gallery. She determined which species would be appropriate for each space within the exhibit and the infrastructure needed to support them. She then oversaw the installation of the life support systems, developed animal care and operational protocols for the gallery, and trained the exhibit’s hosts on animal-handling techniques for interacting with guests—all while managing and mentoring the team of aquarists that performs the day-to-day care of the animals. Janssen enjoys working in public aquariam because, to her, it is more than just a job; it’s an opportunity to serve God.

“Just as Adam and Eve were entrusted to take care of the garden, this planet is our garden,” Janssen said. “The Bible has told us that God loves every one of His creatures. They are here at the Aquarium, and they’re amazing. To care for them is to appreciate His creation. And displaying them and sharing them with the public is like witnessing, in a way.”

Though Janssen has worked hard to obtain her position at the National Aquarium, she attributes finding her focus to Bill Hayes, PhD, one of her many mentors while she was a student at Southern. Hayes, a biology professor, helped her realize that her dream of working with aquatic animals could become reality and used his connections to help her acquire a research internship at the Tennessee Aquarium while she was a freshman. Because of Hayes and other influential faculty, Janssen was able to conduct research of her own and present her findings at various conferences alongside professionals and graduate students.

“The professors at Southern never held me back,” Janssen shared. “There was never a feeling that I couldn’t do something because I was an undergrad. Without the mentors I had, I absolutely would not be in the public aquarium industry. Period. Nor would I be the same person I am today.”

Learn how the Biology Department continues to support current students and alumni. 


Recent Events Title

'50s and '60s Alumni Brunch
~Lamar Phillips, '63

It was my dream, long before I retired, to reconnect with as many of my former classmates as possible in some meaningful way. After retiring in 2010 and relocating just three miles from Southern’s campus, my wife, Felicia LeVere Phillips, ’65, and I conceived the idea of organizing an annual ’50s and ’60s class reunion, since I enrolled in the fall of ’57 and graduated in ’63. And so it was.

'50s_60s_brunchThe first meeting was hosted at our house in July of 2012. It was a great time together with about 35 former classmates present. We had a devotional, reminisced about those good old days at SMC, and Ben Wygal, assistant to the president, brought us up to date on Southern’s current and future plans. Everyone agreed to get together again in a larger setting and at an earlier, cooler date.

Since then, we have met three more times at Garden Plaza of Greenbriar Cove. Our last meeting was on May 31, and our attendance has been around 45 classmates at each get-together. Some have come from as far away as North Carolina. Delicious food is always in abundance, and the Alumni Association has provided drinks, desserts, and tableware. I have been blessed with the support of my two fellow alumni in this endeavor: Bill Woods, ’66, and Damaris Crittenden Robinson, ’63.

At our meetings, we shared many humorous incidents about our time on campus resulting in much 50s60sbrunchlaughter. These have been warm and endearing gatherings. We have been especially honored to have Gordon Bietz, Southern’s president, attend. Next year we hope to have even more classmates present.

Visit Southern Community Online for a calendar to RSVP for alumni gatherings and other upcoming events.


Alumni Reconnect to Southern On European Tour
~Myron Madden, senior mass communication major

The Alumni Association gave 17 former students and friends of Southern a chance to strengthen their relationships with the university and each other during the inaugural alumni tour from April 21 to May 3.

The group journeyed through the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic europe_tripunder the guidance of Bill Wohlers, experienced group trip leader and vice president emeritus for Student Services. Participants visited castles and flower gardens, hiked up scenic mountains, and even had a snowball fight on the highest peak in Germany.

“I’ve never been [to Europe] before, so I didn’t know what to expect, but Dr. Wohlers was like a shepherd over sheep,” said James Peel, ’58. “We didn’t have to be concerned about anything because he took care of everything ahead of time. We really enjoyed it. There were so many beautiful things to see.”

Even more stunning than the scenery was the company. The tour brought together—and, in many cases, reunited—alumni ages 45 to 86 who had been scattered throughout Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, California, Washington, as well as Collegedale. Despite their differences in age and location, the group quickly bonded over their shared Southern experiences. They reminisced about their fondest college memories and talked about what tied them back to Southern.

“We’ve gone on tours where we didn’t know a soul,” said Dolly Fillman, ’53, who traveled with her husband, Don. “This was way more fun—to come into a tour and you already knew half the people all your life!”

alumni_europeWhile the trip gave alumni a chance to reconnect with their alma mater, they also became ambassadors for Southern. They shared their memories and faith with the bus driver and other travelers they met who had never heard of Seventh-day Adventists or the university.

“We need to do that everywhere we go all the time,” Fillman said, “whether we’re in this country or in another country.”

Although this was a test year for the alumni tour, Evonne Crook, director of Alumni Relations and co-host of the trip, believes it was an immense success and hopes it will become an annual excursion—especially since many from this year’s tour expressed interest in reserving a spot for the tour again next year.

“This is a life-long relationship,” Crook said. “We’re interested in our students not just while they’re here, but also after they get their degree. We want to find services and activities that help them stay engaged with the university.”

Anyone interested in learning more about future trips is welcome to email alumni@southern.edu, call 423.236.2830, or visit southern.edu/alumni.


Community Connections Title

Kiwanis Scholarship Awarded in Honor of Robert Benge
~Cheryl Torres, Annual Giving officer

kiwanis_scholarshipOn June 10 the Collegedale-Ooltewah Kiwanis Club presented a $1,000 check to Nathan Nimeskern, who graduated in May 2015. This gift was inspired by 10 years of cooperation with Robert Benge, PhD, dean for the School of Physical Education, Health, and Wellness.

Back in 2005, the Kiwanis Club reached out to Benge for help with its annual 5K fundraiser for the Speech and Hearing Center. Benge, an avid runner who had been participating in the race, was happy to help organize the event.

Glad to support the cause and help the club, Benge declined payment offered by the Kiwanis Club. However, the members still wanted to find a way to show their appreciation.

In 2011, club members settled on the perfect way to say thank you: by financially supporting a student from the School of Physical Education, Health, and Wellness. This was the fourth year the Kiwanis Club awarded the $1,000 gift to a Southern student in Benge’s honor. Benge has chosen each of the four students based on his or her need, effort, and work ethic.

Chattanooga's First International Job Fair Attracts Students
~John Shoemaker, Corporate and Foundation Relations officer

Students from Southern Adventist University recently attended the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s first-ever International Business Council job fair. Local and internationally-based companies represented include:

-  AIM Career Link -  BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee -  Chattanooga Police Department
-  Cintas -  HTI Employment Solutions -  Modis
-  LegalShield -  Regions Bank -  Sovee
-  Tennessee Career Center -  ViaTek Consumer Products -  Volkswagen Chattanooga
  -  Wacker Polysilicon North America  


“The purpose of this is to bridge the international business and education communities, supporting workforce development and retention of local talent,” said Anjelika Riano, ’00, International Business Council president. Anton Demenchuk, ’11, will step in as president beginning July 1. 

The International Business Council plans to make the job fair an annual, free event for students. For information about upcoming meetings and membership, “Like” the council’s Facebook page and follow it on Twitter.


Campus Life Title

Brotherhood and Sisterhood Strengthens Spiritual Growth 
~Steven Collins, junior business administration and public relations major

brotherhood_worshipAs the warm glow of vespers fades away on another Friday evening, a group of men keep the spiritual fire alive by gathering to discuss important issues relevant to their lives.

Brotherhood is a Bible study group that consists of men looking for a place to be real about their daily battle with sin. The leaders of the group hope to build an atmosphere of trust and offer encouragement from both personal experience and Scripture.

“We try to make it a place where guys are really open,” said Steven Sigamani, senior theology major and primary leader of Brotherhood. “We also try to interact with the younger guys, specifically taking them in as big brothers.” 

A counterpart group, Sisterhood, was created because of the success and impact of Brotherhood. Sisterhood offers women a place to share the struggles and temptations that assault them every day. Having an accountability partner to depend on provides the ladies with someone who will always have her door open.  

“Sisterhood isn’t just a regular Bible study that seeks to encourage personal devotion and mentorship,” said Valerie Hernandez, senior theology major and one of the leaders of the group. “We seek to be an open place for vulnerability, accountability, and friendships.”

Sisterhood and Brotherhood are different from other Bible study groups because each confronts issues unique to its specific gender.

“Because we are all women, we can reach each other on a more personal level,” said Maria Reyes, junior religious studies major. “This is a private, safe place where we can share the power God has with younger women.”

Both groups bring students closer to Christ and prepare them to take on leadership roles in the ministry down the road.

“We do Brotherhood because it’s what Jesus did,” said Marc-Anthony Pierre, a junior theology major. “Jesus spent time with his disciples because he cared more about showing them his relationship with the Father than telling them about it.”

The Campus Ministries department addresses the spiritual needs of the student body by offering opportunities, such as Brotherhood and Sisterhood, for students to grow closer to God. Click here to learn more about the many different programs available for Southern students’ spiritual development.


Upcoming Events



A long-standing tradition on campus, We-Haul is an event where employees, alumni, community members, and friends of the university come together to help new students move into the residence halls. It’s a chance to welcome students to their home away from home with a friendly smile and a helping hand.

Volunteer greeters and haulers are needed on Sunday, July 26 and Tuesday, August 18 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. T-shirts and refreshments will be provided to volunteers.

View the schedule to sign up and join the fun!


Homecoming Weekend 2015: October 29-November 1

homecomingHomecoming Weekend brings alumni back to campus for reminiscence and reconnection. It is also an opportunity to get caught up with the great things happening at your alma mater. All graduates, attendees, faculty, staff, and students are invited and encouraged to participate in the various activities planned.

Honor Classes: 1935, ’45, ’55, ’65, ’70, ’75, ’85, ’90, ’05

For updated homecoming information and to RSVP, visit Alumni Relations online.