campus life
Gift from Adventist Health System Fully Funds Chairship
Interest accrued from a $2 million contribution to Southern by Adventist Health System (AHS) in 2015 has been used since 2016 to help defray, in perpetuity, the cost of a faculty position in the School of Business. An additional $1 million gift from AHS in 2018 completes the funding for this new Adventist Health System Endowed Chair of Business Administration and makes allowances for other departmental uses within the School of Business.

“Gifts from businesses show a high level of commitment and support for Southern,” said Mark Hyder, JD, School of Business professor. “I appreciate their vote of confidence!”

Some of the endowed chair’s responsibilities include becoming knowledgeable about AHS’ mission, purpose, and reach; functioning in an advocacy role for AHS; and fostering a good professional relationship between AHS and the university. Much of this work is supplemental, as a healthy partnership already exists between the two institutions.

OberholsterA plaque recognizing AHS hangs in the School of Business hallway with brass nameplates to list professors who have held its chairship.

Braam Oberholster, DBA, is the current Adventist Health System Endowed Chair of Business Administration. Oberholster is a professor in management studies and has special interest in international business and finance. A faculty member at Southern since 2004, his professional experience is divided nearly evenly between administration of medical and educational Seventh-day Adventist institutions in Africa and Southeast Asia, as well as in the classroom as a professor for multiple colleges and universities.

Oberholster’s love of teaching is evidenced outside the classroom, as well. His presentation for Adventist-laymen’s Services & Industries (“Using Business as Mission”), Outpost Centers International (“Leadership Adjustments to Serve People”), and other organizations can be found online.

These gifts from AHS were applied toward the endowment impact area of Southern’s $50 million Campaign for Excellence in Faith and Learning. For more information about this campaign, visit

-Staff Report

Contributions Help McKee Library Continue Facility Upgrades
Although the internet and other advances in technology have changed how students learn—often reducing the amount of physical materials referenced in the course of their studies—circulation of books and media items at McKee Library increased by 13 percent during the last academic year. Given the industry shift from print resources to digital formats, this is a significant increase.

The value of a learning support hub on campus has never been more important. McKee Library’s mission statement remains intact and as relevant as ever: equip students and community members through instruction, resources, and spaces for lifelong academic and professional growth.

McKee LibraryA recent $100,000 corporate gift for infrastructure enhancements will ensure the library functions at the highest levels in support of student development. Nine proposed renovations have been vetted and prioritized by both McKee Library leadership and Southern’s administrative team. The top two needs, an upgrade to the fire alarm system and interconnected second-floor projects (LED lighting, ductwork, and ceiling improvements), must be completed before the other work can be scheduled. The anonymous gift will be applied toward those two specific projects.

“McKee Library has benefited tremendously from the generosity of donors over the last several years, and without their patronage, we would not have been able to make necessary updates to our facility,” said Deyse Bravo, McKee Library director. “Most recently, these gifts have allowed for the creation of three different types of designated study spaces (collaborative, quiet, and silent), better lighting throughout the first floor and basement, and essential structural improvements.”

External funding is a critical component of Southern’s success, but ample evidence of support for McKee Library can be found in the university’s internal plans and budgets, as well. Southern has invested more than $2.6 million toward the building’s improvements during the past 12 years. The combination of community and campus support is vital for maintaining this educational beacon.

-Staff Report

Community Connections
Southern Responds to Devastation Caused by Hurricane Florence
In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, Southern students and employees jumped into action. As flooding receded in the Carolinas, teams of trained individuals deployed to help, with groups taking turns serving in New Bern, North Carolina.

This quick response was possible thanks to a partnership with 2Serve Disaster Training and Response that helped train and prepare students and employees for just such a natural disaster. 2Serve partners with Adventist academies, universities, and conferences to carry out the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church through Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. The first formal CERT training was offered at Southern in August, followed by a disaster response simulation in September and training in how to organize a shelter and ensure the safety of those affected.

“Being ready is very important because it is a matter of when another disaster is going to happen, not if it is going to happen,” said Jennifer Carter, director of Southern’s Christian Service program. 

HurricaneAs Hurricane Florence touched down, Southern’s team was able to mobilize and recruit students and staff for relief assistance. Three groups deployed over the span of two weeks. Those who participated came back to campus tired and sore but inspired.

“After we had ripped out soggy carpet and put furniture back in place on the swept concrete floor for an older couple, we prayed with them and then shared hugs,” said Elaine Hayden, an employee volunteer who works in the School of Education and Psychology. “The reward of seeing tearful people thanking us after seeing young people and others give so cheerfully to help them out of the ditch, so to speak, is something I will carry with me forever.”

Laura Racovita-Szilagyi, associate professor of social work, and other campus leaders in emergency preparedness are focused on growing the program at Southern and responding locally to needs within the Southern Union.

“However, we are not ruling out deploying to help wherever God calls us,” Racovita-Szilagyi said. “Ultimately, we model Jesus’ love for a hurting world; He took care of the needs of the people first, and then invited them to follow Him. These trainings and experiences will remain with students, staff, and faculty participants, and they will take their skills and knowledge wherever they go.”

-Staff Report

Grieving Family Benefits from God’s Timing, Donor Gift

Southern student Elliot Ranzinger died in May 2017 from injuries sustained during a motorcycle accident, just after he finished his freshman year. He was only 19 years old. But even in the midst of such a terrible tragedy, God gave Elliott’s family an amazing gift to comfort them.

RanzingerAbout a week before Elliott passed away in a motorcycle accident, the Planned Giving team at Southern was looking through some files and found a certificate from 1999 for three burial plots at Collegedale Cemetery that a donor had given to the university. They had been set aside, and years later Southern still had no immediate use for them.

How those plots were put to use, and details surrounding the donor’s family history of similar tragedy, testify to a loving God who is in control during life’s darkest moments. Adventist Review recently published an in-depth, first-person account of this story by Carolyn Hamilton, vice president for Advancement at Southern.

-Staff Report

alumni highlights

Sally McMillan, ’78, Named Alumna of the Year
Sally McMillan’s distinguished career has included time as an educator, editor, and executive—and all of those positions were before she earned her doctorate. For these and many other accomplishments, Southern is honoring her during Homecoming Weekend as Alumna of the Year.

Stepping back for a moment from her successful and ongoing career, McMillan remembers a time when the future seemed more uncertain.

“In college I was struggling to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up until I realized that I didn’t have to have all the answers right then; all I needed was to decide on a major,” McMillan said. “I loved English classes the most, so that part was easy. That major provided a great career foundation as I honed my writing and critical thinking skills while expanding my understanding of community.”

McMillan is currently a professor of advertising and public relations at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville (UT). She joined the UT faculty in 1999 after stints at Boston University, the University of Oregon, and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Her primary teaching areas are advertising management and media, public relations management and writing, social media, communication theory, and research.

McMillanFrom 2005-2015, McMillan served in a variety of administrative roles for UT, including vice provost for Academic Affairs. In 2015, she returned to her full-time faculty role for two primary reasons: to work more directly with students and to do in-depth research on student success, including the role of families in students’ education. The topic held both personal and professional interest for her.

“My parents were both the first in their families to earn a college degree—both were graduates of Southern Missionary College—and I saw how education changed all of our lives,” McMillan said. “Their values and their financial sacrifices later in life made it relatively easy for my siblings and me to pursue education. Not all families can provide that kind of support. But all students deserve to have educational opportunities.”

McMillan is married to James Fields, a retired journalism professor. They met at the University of Maryland where she took a communication law course from him; however, they didn’t get to know each other personally until she went to his office to ask for an alternative date for an exam that was scheduled on Sabbath. Fields accommodated her request and was interested in knowing more. They recently celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary.

Southern will honor McMillan for her outstanding professional contributions during Homecoming Weekend’s Kick-Off Banquet on October 25 at 6 p.m. in the Dining Hall (RSVP required). Other individual honorees that evening include Bill Wood, ’66 (Distinguished Service Award), Ruben Harris, ’10 (Young Alumnus of the Year), Luis Jimenez, ’04 and ’07 (Graduate Studies Alumnus of the Year), and Pam Dietrich (Honorary Alumna).

A complete Homecoming Weekend schedule can be found online. Registration remains open through October 19.

-Staff Report


IRA Rollover Provides Tax Break, Helps Students
Are you or someone you know 70 or older and looking for a tax-wise opportunity to help students at Southern? An IRA rollover gift is simple and easy.

IRA RolloverYou may make a rollover gift from your IRA to charity without any federal income tax on your gift, and it may qualify as your required minimum distribution. To make an IRA rollover gift to Southern, simply contact your IRA custodian and request that an amount of your choice be transferred directly to the university. Your gift could be $1,000, $10,000, or even as much as $100,000.

As always, consult with a qualified financial adviser before making a gift that may impact your tax status.  For more information, contact Southern’s Planned Giving office at 423.236.2818 or visit

-Staff Report

Upcoming Events
Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public.

GYC Southeast Convocation. October 18 at 11 a.m. in Iles P.E. Center. Wes Peppers became a Seventh-day Adventist after living as an atheist/agnostic for several years. He’s survived two types of cancer and has a powerful testimony of God’s goodness.

Star Watch. October 19 at 7:30 p.m. in Hickman Science Center parking lot. Explore the heavens through a telescope (weather permitting).

Tlen Huicani Concert. October 23 at 7 p.m. in Ackerman Auditorium. Dedicated to preserving and promoting the musical heritage of Veracruz, Mexico, Tlen Huicani means “the singers” in Nahuatl, an Aztec language. A distinguishing feature of the group is its work with the harp. A nominal fee is charged for those without a Southern ID card.

Homecoming Weekend: October 25-28. Honor classes: 1938, ’48, ’58, ’68, ’73, ’78, ’88, ’93, ’98, ’08. Special features include: Gym-Masters Reunion, Parade of Nations, Missions Expo, and Legacy Preview Southern (for alumni with prospective students). Worship services speaker is Pierre Monice, ’07. Registration and more information are available online at

E.O. Grundset Biology Lecture. October 25 at 8 p.m. in Lynn Wood Chapel (Lynn Wood Hall). Brian Dickinson, DVM, ’97, will discuss his personal journey from Southern graduate into his career as a small animal veterinarian and detail some of his obstacles, hardships, and successes.

Wind Symphony Concert. October 27 at 4 p.m. in the Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists (and live online). With Ken Parsons conducting, the theme for the evening will be “Lord, Teach Us to Pray,” with pieces such as David Maslanka’s “Give Us This Day” and Andrew Boysen, Jr.’s “All Creatures of Our God and King.”

Classic Car Show. October 28 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Mabel Wood Hall parking lot.

Percussion Ensemble Concert. November 5 at 7:30 p.m. in Ackerman Auditorium.

Adventist Heritage Convocation. November 8 at 11 a.m. in the Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists (and live online). Guest speaker Frank Hasel is an associate director for the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Harry Ahn Art Show Opening. November 8 at 6 p.m. in the John C. Williams Art Gallery on the second floor of Brock Hall. A renowned painter known for his use of meticulous realism, Harry Ahn’s work will be featured in a gallery titled “The Human Spirit.” He pulls inspiration from his past experience as a refugee from North Korea. The show will be available through December 13.

SooBeen Lee Violin Concert. November 8 at 7 p.m. in Ackerman Auditorium. Lee has already appeared as a soloist with every major Korean orchestra, in addition to performances in China and at the United Nations. A nominal fee is charged for those without a Southern ID card.

Symphony Orchestra Concert. November 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists (and live online).


gfh Like us on Facebook

gh Join us on LinkedIn

amazon smile
Support The Southern Fund through AmazonSmile—it's the same as Amazon, but for all eligible purchases, Amazon will make a donation to Southern Adventist University!