During New Student Orientation at Southern, a day was set aside for incoming students to serve the local community. The volunteers partnered with 15 organizations in a variety of ways. All activities took place on campus, with half of the 675 students volunteering in the morning and the other half in the afternoon, which reduced group sizes and encouraged physical distancing.

Service DayActivities included creating flashcards for local elementary schools; decorating and filling paper bags with snacks for community members experiencing homelessness; building children’s bunk beds for a nonprofit; assembling “Treats for Heroes,” which were later delivered to local police officers, firefighters, and medical personnel; and more.

“The foundation of service here at Southern is preparing me to keep it going later in life,” said Nikki Nadler, freshman music major. “I think it’s good to foster service when you’re younger so that it’ll be routine when you’re older.”

-by Trisney Bocala, junior mass communication major

The Center for Innovation and Research in Computing (CIRC) at Southern recently developed its first public commercial software product, DotPurple. Run by the School of Computing, CIRC provides opportunities for computing students to gain valuable job experience by working on real-world software development projects.

CIRCCIRC serves primarily in a collaborative capacity alongside businesses, ministries, and church organizations to create a variety of projects such as web, desktop, and mobile applications. DotPurple is the first software that it has developed and released on its own. This desktop software tool, available through Windows, macOS, and Linux, makes workflow simpler and more efficient for software developers who are building cross platform applications.

The DotPurple Twitter account and website have received attention from the broader industry, including Scott Hanselman, Microsoft’s technology evangelist and tech author. As this software continues to grow, Michael Babienco, ’15, CIRC programmer and the main developer of DotPurple, hopes to provide additional features and improvements.

“We want to make people’s lives easier with this software,” Babienco said. “There is potential for computing professors to use it in their classrooms or for students to use it to help manage their programming projects within their School of Computing classes. Additionally, DotPurple will directly help us employ and work with students to give them practical experience in the industry.”

-by Madison Reinschmidt, sophomore mass communication major

Growth is a good problem for a campus to have, and since its inception in 1892, Southern has needed to address several such transitional moments. McKee Library, which first opened its doors in September 1970, has been both the result of that expansion and witness to further expansion during half a century of service to the university. Southern’s virtual Homecoming Weekend this fall celebrates that history and milestone anniversary.

Several of Southern’s alumni and former employees distinctly remember the opening of McKee Library, having invested both physically and financially in the building. Getting more than 66,000 books from Daniells Hall—the library’s former location and current home to the School of Social Work—down the promenade to the new structure required an abundance of steps and sweat, taking close to a week to complete. Faculty were so excited about the project that they pledged $25,000 toward the new facility, equivalent to approximately $170,000 in today’s dollars.

McKee Library ConstructionMelissa (Faifer) Hortemiller, ’10, a public services librarian in McKee Library, is anxious to celebrate the anniversary alongside alumni.

“In addition to highlighting our history, we are excited to share with them the library’s ongoing importance and relevance, even in a time when the more traditional model of libraries is being called into question,” Hortemiller said.

Specific homecoming events and other acknowledgments of the milestone include:

• A live, online presentation by Zane Yi, ’00, PhD, on October 30. Yi will reflect on how all knowledge comes from God. Yi, an associate professor in Loma Linda University’s School of Religion, is a founding member of the Society of Adventist Philosophers and has pastored churches in Tennessee, Southern California, New York, and Georgia.

• A new video showcasing the library’s history, renovation plans, and vision for the future will be released online immediately prior to Yi’s presentation. Building renovations in honor of McKee Library’s milestone anniversary include new windows that were installed over the summer, as well as a new, enclosed front entrance (summer 2021) that will add much-needed square footage to the facility.

• Eight timeline banners celebrating McKee Library’s 50th anniversary are currently on display and online. Each banner on the main floor features a theme highlighting McKee Library’s growth over the last 50 years, such as construction, technology, remodeling, and more.

More details about Homecoming Weekend are available online or by calling 423.236.2830.

-Staff Report

This summer, a group of Southern alumni, students, and faculty came together virtually for a special musical project. Gennevieve Brown-Kibble, DMA, professor and conductor for Southern’s School of Music, had the idea to form a virtual choir following an online meeting with extended members of her own family.

“It occurred to me that there was a singing family separated by years and miles that could also be assembled,” Brown-Kibble said. “I had been in touch with a few of our alumni who were experiencing personal setbacks, and I felt singing could provide a kind of therapy like no other.”

ICantoriBrown-Kibble recruited alumni Curtis Prevo, ’13, as audio technician and Jeffrey Dean, ’18, as assistant conductor, and together they assembled nearly 50 alumni of I Cantori, Southern’s select chamber choir. The group prepared multiple recordings on the theme “How Can I Keep From Singing?” One of the songs is an original work by Chattanooga composer and music teacher Sarah Tullock. Dean and Brown-Kibble originally commissioned the piece for a spring festival in Indiana where they were scheduled to serve as guest clinicians. The event was canceled due to COVID-19, providing Dean and Brown-Kibble with the opportunity to premiere the song with their virtual I Cantori choir.

Over the summer, the choir gathered several times via video conference for fellowship and preparation. Between meetings, musicians practiced and recorded their individual tracks, uploading them for Prevo to bring together into a cohesive blend. Through careful planning, he was able to produce a sound similar to what an audience would hear from a choir spread across a stage. Prevo gained much of his skill with recording equipment and software during the two years he worked for Southern’s public radio station, Classical 90.5 WSMC, and was excited to use his expertise on this project.

“While there is no real substitute for the musical energy and unity of singing shoulder-to-shoulder, I saw the value of the virtual community,” Prevo said.

Other participants realized tremendous benefit from the experience, as well.

“Singing with members of my musical family from over the years, although virtually, was such a blessing during this difficult time,” said music education graduate Joel Westberg, ’16. “It brought a smile to my face to see people I hadn’t seen in years, and to do what we do best again: sing the Lord’s praises.”

Brown-Kibble plans to premiere one the choir’s songs during Southern’s virtual Alumni Weekend and then hold a full online concert around Thanksgiving.

-by Trisney Bocala, junior mass communication major


Southern employees are as generous with their money as they are with their time and talents. Last year, 77% of faculty and staff made a gift back to the university for a variety of projects. This included construction on the Bietz Center for Student Life (opening Spring 2021), which received nearly $70,000 in employee support during the Campaign for Excellence in Faith and Learning.

Tyson Hall, ’97, PhD, has worked at Southern for 15 years as a professor and, currently, as the dean for Graduate Studies. He also served as an employee giving liaison for Advancement within the School of Computing, periodically reminding his peers that even the smallest gifts have eternal value. Hall (pictured below) recently shared how he came to work at the university and what motivates him to continue systematically investing in his employer and alma mater.

Tyson HallAfter completing your education, what brought you back to Southern? When I attended Southern, I was inspired by talented professors who traded impressive résumés and comfortable salaries to become Adventist educators. I received not only a first-class education, but also witnessed their love for God expressed as a deep caring for students. As I neared the end of graduate school and started my job search process, I could clearly see different areas of service to which God might call me, such as teaching at a public university, working in the industry, or returning to Southern. After many interviews, multiple job offers, and much prayer, I accepted Southern’s invitation to teach in the School of Computing.

Are there specific factors that drive your giving habits and patterns? I decided early on in my career that instead of giving a small amount to every organization that asks, I would select a few worthy causes to support through my time and active involvement—as well as regular financial support.

Do you favor specific projects, or are your gifts typically unrestricted? My wife and I have historically given to departmental affinity funds. Whether renovating a lab space to be more inviting for students or purchasing specialized equipment, affinity funds allow departments to go the extra mile beyond their normal budgetary spending. These projects directly support students and improve their campus experience. 

Why is Southern a smart investment? What’s your philanthropic elevator pitch to other alumni or friends of the university? The value of an Adventist education at Southern is in the people. Students can go many places to receive good academic programming. At Southern, however, students receive an excellent learning experience, and more importantly, they have the opportunity to build meaningful, mentoring relationships with faculty, staff, and administrators who love God and daily strive to share His love with them.

-Staff Report

alumni highlights

It was a beautiful Colorado morning and Eric Aakko, a graduate from Southern’s School of Physical Education, Health, and Wellness, was slightly past the midway point of his 350-mile bikepacking trip. He had just completed the multi-day summit of a 10,000-foot peak and began descending the mountain at 25 miles per hour on a gravel road when his water bottle came loose and lodged between one of his wheels and the bicycle frame.

Eric AakkoAakko launched violently forward, destroying his helmet and—unbeknownst to him at the time—snapping his T9 spinal vertebrae. But God was with him, even in midst of such a frightening and painful experience. In hindsight, he is humbled by an awareness of multiple miracles that day, ranging from the kindness of strangers to timely care from top medical professionals. According to the surgeon, he should have been paralyzed by the accident; instead, he’s on the path to a quick and full recovery.

Aakko recently wrote an article about his accident, and God’s hedge of protection, for Spectrum Magazine. The full article is available online.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10, NKJV

-Staff Report

Sheryl Kambuni won the Student Association’s presidential election in March, becoming only the third female to hold that position for Southern. Quick comparisons were drawn between the junior psychology major from Kenya and another pioneering student dating back more than 40 years ago: Gale (Jones) Murphy, ’76.

Murphy, an Orlando-area music educator, concert pianist, and composer of more than 700 songs, broke both gender and racial barriers in 1974-1975 as the first female and first Black president of the Student Association. Murphy (pictured below) agreed to take a quick walk down memory lane to answer questions for QuickNotes about that campaign and the ensuing leadership experience, as well as what advice she might offer Kambuni at the start of her administration.

Why did you choose to attend Southern? My plan was to go to Oakwood College, where my mother had once attended. Circumstances interrupted her education there, but she remained determined to earn a college degree. Unfortunately, she died as a young mother and never realized this dream. So, at age 17, I decided to leave academy after my junior year to attend and graduate from her college in her honor. I eagerly applied to Oakwood but was heartbroken when they said there wasn’t sufficient space or scholarship money for me—and that I was too young.

Gayle (Jones) MurphyIt seemed like every door was closed, but clearly God had a plan. Dr. Frank Knittel, the president of Southern Missionary College, heard me play the piano while I was in academy. He contacted my father, sent a member of Southern’s music faculty to my home to audition me, and offered me a scholarship. He even bought the ticket for my first-ever plane ride that brought me to campus. I had a plan, but God’s was so much better. Attending Southern resulted in so many life-changing experiences, ministry opportunities, and lasting friendships!

What made you decide to run for Student Association president in 1974? The thought occurred to me that I could help impact the culture of our college. Some of the primary issues I ran on were increased gender and racial representation in Southern’s faculty and staff, as well as the need to create a larger surplus in our Student Association budget. I also promised I could provide a better school song—which I still need to compose!

How did being Student Association president prepare you for life after Southern? It was never my intention to be a trend setter, but the experience of being elected president stayed with me, and I’ve gone on to break other racial and gender barriers with boldness because I had accomplished this before in college.

Are there specific ways in which employees, students, and other alumni can offer support to the Student Association president each year? Pray for them and speak encouragement instead of criticism. Give them the opportunity to show the individual strengths of their leadership style without comparing them to previous presidents.

What wisdom do you have to share for Sheryl Kambuni regarding the tasks set before her this year? Sheryl, you have been chosen to lead for such a time as this. Never doubt that the same God who allowed you to be elected has equipped you for this position. If you make mistakes, learn from them. Be quick to ask for forgiveness and even more gracious to forgive. If you put God first in your personal life, in your academics, and in your administration, He will balance everything else for you.

-Staff Report

Virtual Homecoming Weekend 2020. October 29 to November 1. Many exciting activities are being planned for you to celebrate meaningful milestones and connections with former classmates and professors. The Alumni Golf Tournament is the only in-person event scheduled as part of the festivities. For more information, visit or call 423.236.2830.


We are excited to offer an experience for our alumni and friends called Southern Community Online. Create an account which will grant you access to our alumni directory, event calendar and registration, your giving history, and more.
Southern Community

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