Building Relationships in Departmental Giving Everyday (BRIDGE)
by Derling Pizarro, student BRIDGE coordinator 


BRIDGE contacts in each school or department at Southern meet quarterly for a luncheon to hear about the innovative things happening on campus. Usually three academic areas are picked to spotlight the goals they have met, as well as those that they’re working toward. The information that is presented at the luncheon brings awareness to the different things happening on campus.

BRIDGE is a way to connect all of the schools and departments; take the School of Visual Art and Design and Chemistry Department, for example. Even though these two groups are on completely different ends of campus, BRIDGE helps them be inspired by one another because they know the amazing impact each other is making.

The information that BRIDGE imparts also encourages employee giving. Faculty and staff at Southern are so involved that in addition to their gifts of time and energy spent serving the students, most of them also choose to share a monetary gift with the university. Last year, 78 percent of employees—more than double the national average—contributed financially to Southern. This year, the different schools and departments are working hard toward exceeding that amount. 

Southern Begins Charitable Gift Annuity Drive
by Carolyn Liers, Planned Giving director


Over the next year, Southern’s Planned Giving office will try something for the first time, a comprehensive charitable gift annuity drive to help provide future financial support for students who are seeking a Christian education at Southern.

If you are tired of watching your assets fluctuate with the market and you are age 65 or above, a charitable gift annuity may provide some peace of mind. Knowing that you will receive a fixed income stream for life, while also helping students at Southern, is a win-win opportunity.

For more information about charitable gift annuities, contact Carolyn Liers at 423.236.2818 or visit the Planned Giving website.

Alumni Highlights Title

Nursing to Food Truck
by Melissa Guth, Alumni Relations assistant


One day, Marla Kurtz Sundean, '93,'07 was sitting in her office in the corporate world and it hit her: Life is short, too short to not be doing something you love! She was bored with her office job and knew what made her excited the most—cooking. So she opened a food truck and called it Fat Boy’s Roadside Eats, named after her first motorcycle (a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy) that took her and her family on many trips looking for fun food.

Marla has a history of being adventurous with her career choices. After getting a degree in business administration in ’93 and working in the food service industry, she decided to get a nursing degree at Southern and graduated in ’07 before taking a job alongside her husband, Jon, ’97, a traveling nurse. After working at Blue Cross Blue Shield for eight years, she discovered that her heart was still in the food service industry.

Her son, Ryan, who is a chef and has a degree in culinary arts from Le Cordon Bleu, was bored with his job as well. He was cooking other people’s recipes and wanted to use his culinary skills in a creative way. So they joined efforts. With tireless help, love, and support from their family, they created a food truck. After researching the market in their community, they realized that both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options were desired. Marla is a vegetarian and has never tried the majority of the items on her menu, so one of her biggest challenges has been learning how to cook with meat. She’s had to rely on her son’s knowledge of food and the feedback from customers, which has been positive.

She describes the transition from working as a nurse in an office to building her own business as challenging, but Marla loves every moment of it. For her, the best parts are working with her son and being her own boss. Marla is inspired by the motto “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life,” and continues to dream of new and exciting paths her career might take her.

If you are interested in more information about Fat Boy’s Roadside Eats, check out their Facebook page.

Alum Starts One-Teacher School on Indian Reservation
by Myron Madden, senior


Southern encourages students to embrace its mission of service and provide assistance to those in need. For an educator, that means offering students a warm smile and a safe space—and that’s exactly what one alum intends to do on a reservation where suicide attempts have become the norm.  

Jamie Howell, ’14, has been working with the Dakota Conference to start a one-teacher elementary school on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The conference approached Howell with the project after she spent a year working at Dakota Adventist Academy.

“We’ve never had someone like Jamie,” said Bill Glassford, director of Dakota Conference’s Native Ministries. “I think the Lord chose her. She was the one we were looking for.”

Payabya Adventist Mission School will be held in the converted two-car garage under Howell’s apartment. Though the accommodations may be small, Howell believes the school could be a beacon of light to its students.

Since December 2014, the number of suicides among young people ages 12 to 24 on the reservation have spiked. Between December and May, nine young people took their lives, and at least another 103 people of the same age attempted to do the same, the New York Times reported. Many of these deaths have been attributed to the oppression, abuse, and high drug usage that surround children on the reservation, but as the number of suicide attempts has increased, more causes have been considered. One such cause is bullying—a problem Howell is ready to tackle by creating a comfortable environment.

“My goal is to give the kids a safe place to come to every day if they don’t have it at home,” Howell said. “Most of our students seem to have a good home situation, but you never know here.”

Though Howell does not believe her students will be tempted to take their lives because of their stable backgrounds, she knows they might be affected by family or friends who have already committed suicide—another suspected trigger for the numerous attempts.

“They tell the kids that life is a lot better on the ‘other side,’ and many kids want that better life so they commit suicide,” Howell said. “As a Christian, I can help them understand that you aren’t going to find out what’s on the other side until Jesus comes.”

As she prepares to embark on this challenging and exciting journey, Howell has realized the value of her time as an elementary education major at Southern. Student teaching gave her the opportunity to teach in a multi-grade classroom while exposing her to people who didn’t know about God. Her experience serving as a missionary in Bolivia prepared her to adapt to a different culture and readied her to be thrust out of her comfort zone. Most importantly, her professors taught her how to create a safe environment where students will be excited to learn through words and example, and these same professors still help her today.

“The professors in the education department are great,” Howell said. “They are always willing to answer any question that I have. If I need help with something, I can call them or email them or text, and they’ll help me if they can.”

Community Connections Title

Southern Receives $1.6 Million Gift, Largest Corporate Gift in University’s History
by Lucas Patterson, editorial manager


On July 30, Southern Adventist University received a $1.6 million gift from a Chattanooga-area business that wishes to remain anonymous. The funds will make a significant difference for students attending Southern; $1 million of the contribution is designated for bolstering Southern’s endowment, which supports scholarships, and remaining monies will be used for improvements to the university’s library and campus green spaces.

This desire for growing the endowment is a critical component of Southern’s Vision 20/20 Strategic Plan. According to Tom Verrill, senior vice president for Financial Administration, $1 million generates $45,000 annually for scholarships in perpetuity.

“This level of support makes a big difference in Southern’s capacity to provide assistance for students seeking a high-quality, Christian education,” Verrill said. “Anything we can do in this area of scholarships—and anything a business does via philanthropy—means our students are likely to spend more time focusing on academics and less on the money issues that can sometimes overshadow their learning opportunities and the joy of college.”

While the magnitude of this gift is unique, investments by local businesses in the university are not uncommon. Along with Southern’s sizable economic impact on Hamilton County, nearly $200 million annually, Chattanooga leaders enjoy the availability and caliber both of recent graduates and current students. One case in point is the Southern Promise program, a recent partnership where area businesses fund a work-study program. Southern students work with local nonprofits but receive money toward their tuition from Southern in return. This allows companies to invest in themselves—a healthy city is always good for the bottom line—and to be compassionate corporate stewards. Contributions go toward Southern scholarships that give freshmen and sophomores the opportunity to earn $10,000 a year while gaining practical skills related to career interests. More than 20 students are participating this year, further widening Southern’s downtown footprint.

“When I’m in Chattanooga for meetings I often hear from business leaders how much they appreciate our students,” said Gordon Bietz, president of Southern. “Whether executives met those students as interns with their company, saw them working at a local nonprofit, or partnered with them in a community service project, there is consensus that they are a credit to the university and the city. This gift certainly illustrates that Southern is making meaningful contributions to Chattanooga.”

Alumni and Students Serve More than 1,700 at Chattanooga Health Clinic
by Sheann Brandon, sophomore; Cassie Matchim, senior; and John Shoemaker, corporate and foundation relations officer  


More than 200 Southern alumni and students volunteered October 3-4 at Impact Your Health Chattanooga, a free medical and dental clinic at the Chattanooga Convention Center. The students joined approximately 400 medical and non-medical volunteers to provide service to more than 1,700 people. Services included skin cancer and melanoma screenings, minor surgeries and general medical care, eye exams, cataract screenings, and dental care from routine cleanings to root canals.

Alumni and student volunteers helped with medical work, registration, dental work, hospitality and other jobs. On Saturday, Southern’s Symphony Orchestra shared music with those waiting for care. Several other groups of Southern students also shared music on both days. Husband and wife team Will, ’10, and Sarah Otis, ’11, both volunteered at Impact Your Health Chattanooga, but after listening to the stories shared by guests during the event, they believe they received more than they gave. Will Otis is the senior executive director at Morning Pointe Assisted Living and Sarah Otis is a doctoral student at Fielding University.

“We are called as Christians to serve others,” Otis said. “This event was a wonderful opportunity to be the ‘healing hands’ here in our great city. Having the ability to assist others in need provides you with a sense of satisfaction unlike anything else.”  

Volunteers such as Brandon Peters, ’08, nursing graduate and nurse anesthetist, served to use his God-given talents to further the Lord’s work.

“It’s not every day that you get an opportunity to help the community on a scale that large,” Peters said. “I knew it would be a great experience, and it was!”

Impact Your Health Chattanooga was held in conjunction with the Adventist Medical Evangelism Network (AMEN) and served as a forerunner for It Is Written’s evangelistic campaign, which continues through the end of October.

Campus Life Title

LifeGroups Enriching Southern
Video provided by LifeGroups


This Campus Ministries LifeGroup initiative provides students at Southern the opportunity to join together as friends and family for prayer, Bible Study, and dynamic discipleship. Over seventy LifeGroups are available to students to join and also receive Residence Hall worship attendance credits for doing so. For more information about LifeGroups, check out their website

LAC Hosts Beauty Pageant
Photos by Chevon Petgrave, senior 

Latin American Club (LAC) hosted its annual LAC Night on Saturday evening, Sept. 26, in the Iles P.E. Center. This year’s program took a different approach: a beauty pageant themed “Talento, Pasión y Belleza” (“Talent, Passion and Beauty”). LAC night is another example of how Southern celebrating diversity on campus. 


Recent Events Title

WSMC Brings Hosts of Syndicated Classical Music Programs to Chattanooga
by Rob Raney, WSMC relationship manager


Fred Child, host of “Performance Today,” and Suzanne Bona, host of “Sunday Baroque,” visited the Chattanooga area October 21-22 as a thank you to supporters of WSMC 90.5 FM, Southern’s classical music station.

“Performance Today” had been a staple on WSMC before a series of syndicated shows were cut due to costs. After fielding calls from numerous classical music lovers concerned about the programming change, WSMC decided to hold a fund drive with the goal of raising enough money to bring “Performance Today” and “Pipedreams,” another popular radio show, back on air.

The financial response was their largest to date, with listeners committing enough funds to put the show back in WSMC’s broadcast schedule for another year. Bringing Child to Chattanooga for a series of events was the station’s way of showing appreciation to its listening audience.

“This is just one way we can thank the community for their support,” said Scott Kornblum, WSMC general manager.

While in town, Child presented at a series of events, some public and some private. On October 21, Child spoke about the impact of arts on the economy at the Chamber of Commerce meeting in Collegedale. Later that day, he and Suzanne Bona, host of “Sunday Baroque,” were part of a chartered cruise with the Tennessee Aquarium’s River Gorge Explorer. This meet-and-greet event was a great opportunity to talk one-on-one with Child and Bona and ask them a question. On October 22, Child spoke about why businesses should invest in the arts at the Chattanooga Rotary Club luncheon. About 350 Rotarians and their guests attended.

At a private dinner hosted by the Chattanooga Symphony in WSMC’s honor, Suzanne Bona played a short flute concert accompanied by Genaida Benson, Southern nursing student and WSMC student worker, at the piano. While in town, Bona expressed excitement that she will be hosting a European tour May 9-19, 2016, for friends of WSMC. 

Child concluded his two-day visit to Chattanooga Thursday night by attending the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra's performance of Brahms’ Requiem at the Tivoli Theater, where both he and Molly Sasse-French, executive director of the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, thanked WSMC for their vital role in providing classical music to the community. Sasse-French encouraged the audience to become supporting members of WSMC if they had not yet done so.

Kornblum believes Child’s visit was a valuable opportunity for classical music enthusiasts to join together and nurture the culture of this genre.

“Our goal is always to increase exposure for classical music,” Kornblum said. “We can show people why music written hundreds of years ago remains relevant!”

For more information about the European tour with Bona, other upcoming events, or to make a gift, visit WSMC.org.

Calhoun Alumni Event
by Ashley Fox, annual giving officer


On September 13, alumni and their families in the Calhoun area enjoyed a relaxing canoe trip down the Coosawattee River. David, '84 and Cheryl (Bullis) Brannon, '82 hosted a picnic-style meal at their home where alumni were able to connect and engage with each other while hearing about the many exciting things happening on Southern’s campus. University president Gordon Bietz was unable to attend the event, but gave an update about Southern using video chat technology. 

If you are interested in hosting an alumni event in your area, contact an advancement regional manager at 423.236.2829 or email advancement@southern.edu.

Upcoming Events

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 December 1, 2015. 

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