New School of Business Name
Today, July 20, officials from Southern Adventist University and McKee Foods Corporation gathered to announce the naming of Southern’s School of Business after Anna Ruth (King) McKee, ’26. The new campus building that will house the business program will also carry her name. McKee and her husband, O.D. McKee, ’28, co-founded McKee Foods, best known for its Little Debbie snacks.

School of Business“Our goal is that each student who graduates from the new Ruth McKee School of Business will embody the core of Ruth’s leadership of McKee Foods Corporation: integrity, wisdom, acumen, and beneficence,” said Stephanie Sheehan, dean of the business school. “These qualities which transcend the ever-changing landscape of business were foundational to the caliber of Ruth and O.D.’s legacy of business leadership, innovation, and success. We strive to encourage and equip Southern students to live and lead likewise.” 

Both students of then-Southern Junior College, the McKees knew the value of hard work and discipline in achieving success in life. Where O.D. excelled in salesmanship, Ruth remained the constant presence in the early days of the business, managing personnel, purchasing, transportation, and all other aspects of a growing business – all while raising a family that was growing as well.

Accomplishing all she did during the height of the Great Depression was further testament to Ruth’s character — a character she unfailingly demonstrated to everyone who knew her, from her family and friends to suppliers and employees.

McKee Foods Corporation“Ruth’s passion was always in teaching,” said Mike McKee, CEO of McKee Foods, and grandson of the founders. “It was this career she left behind to help launch the company, so I find it such a fitting tribute to give her name to Southern Adventist University’s School of Business where generations of business minds will be shaped by a top-notch educational institution that she loved so dearly.”

The 42,000 square foot building is the second building named for McKee family members, joining the McKee Library. The Prayer Garden on campus is also dedicated to Ruth McKee.

Four Degrees of Connection
When she graduated with her associate degree in nursing at Southern, Julie Vincent, ’94, ’08, and ’12, was eager to care for patients, and her education allowed her to do so effectively and joyfully. Then 14 years later, she decided it was time to go bigger, and her alma mater was her first thought.

“My experience as an undergraduate student was important to my development as a nurse, as a leader, and as a student of life,” says Vincent. “A whole-person approach to my education included experiences for cognitive, social, spiritual, and physical learning.”

VincentWanting to be able to do more for her patients and with her career, she turned to Southern again – first to complete a Bachelor of Science degree, and then to go on and earn a dual MSN/MBA that would enhance her impact as a passionate care provider.

“I wanted to be an advocate for the business of caring,” she says. “Collaboration between those who deliver care and those who ensure the financial viability of care is the key to improving both the value and outcomes for patients.”

The option of taking a master’s online while being a full-time nurse leader and busy mom was important for Vincent. The flexibility of Southern’s program allowed her to complete it effectively and on her schedule, and she felt supported by her teachers who were consistently available, personable, and easy to connect with.

“The faculty helped me to find solutions to stay on track and be successful,” she says. “Just the cheerleading alone was important to me.”

Vincent sees nursing as her calling, and earning her master’s has enabled her to have an even greater impact as the chief integration officer for AdventHealth University in Florida. “From the fundamentals of building a budget and proper accounting to management principles and the power of faith-based leadership to move a ministry through our daily work, these skills and knowledge have served me well,” she says.

Learn more about the online dual DNP/MBA program at Southern.

In Your Words: Southern’s Oral History Project
The college years are a time of forming lifelong friendships, deepening faith, and developing foundations for future careers, and they are filled with adventures, relationships, and meaningful moments.

Did you hear about the time Grant and the theology team won All-Night Softball, or when Sharon literally tripped over her future husband during the Christmas Tree Lighting? What about Lee helping film an on-campus Back to the Future parody for Strawberry Festival or Luke giving his heart to God during one of Professor Haluska’s lectures?

Oral HistoryTo help remember and share these moments, Southern is partnering with Publishing Concepts (PCI) to capture and preserve our history through the lens of our alumni’s experiences on campus. The Alumni Relations team is spearheading this project for the university in an effort to bring our heritage to life through stories and to give alumni the opportunity to share their own experiences in meaningful ways.  

PCI has worked with more than 300 colleges and universities to create Oral History Projects, and now Southern is looking forward to hearing your stories through their work. All graduates as well as attendees are welcome to participate! Story collection will begin in mid-August and span roughly six months. The stories will then be compiled into a coffee table book, and audio recordings will be kept on a secure website in order to preserve this history in perpetuity. In the near future, alumni will have the opportunity to purchase the book and/or website access.

Watch for communication about Southern’s Oral History Project over the next several months, and feel free to reach out to if you have any questions or wish to be excluded from any direct communication regarding the project.

Mission Experience Inspires Feature Film Now Streaming on Pure Flix
When Sydney Tooley began writing a short film based on her experience teaching English in Taiwan, she never dreamed it would become a 90-minute feature now streaming on Pure Flix.

“I aspired to test creative boundaries as a film production student, and even planned to direct a feature film before I turned 30,” Tooley said. But that path to success seemed to skew when, on a whim, she quit film shortly after graduating from Southern Adventist University in 2017, flew to Taiwan, and began serving as a teaching missionary at a Seventh-day Adventist school.

Four years later, the faith-based branch of Sony Pictures Entertainment picked up Tooley’s screenplay.

“When my producer pitched the film to Sony Affirm, I honestly didn’t expect anything,” Tooley said. “Then he told me we were making a movie with Sony! I went from being a little filmmaker who’d never created anything longer than eight minutes to a feature director with a $1.2 million budget and a studio.”

TooleyTooley’s motion picture, titled “Sun Moon,” explores the reality of mission work: the hardships, required vulnerability, and journey of falling in love with a place and people. Partly autobiographical, it follows a young woman left at the altar who runs away to start a new life  as a teacher in Taiwan. While Tooley was not a jilted bride, the protagonist’s interactions with her students in the film mirror Tooley’s experience. The struggles portrayed were inspired by real events, and most scenes were filmed at the Taiwanese school where Tooley worked.

“The idea for ‘Sun Moon’ began as a scene in a classroom; I wanted to give people the sense of what it feels like to drown as a teacher,” Tooley said. “For many students, the only place where they can receive parental affection is school, so I ended up with 60 of my own children. Still, despite that sense of being overwhelmed, everything about Taiwan became home for me; the kids impacted me so much. I wanted to show everyone why I love the country, so making a film just made sense.”

In December 2022, Tooley requested that the movie’s premier screening be on Southern’s campus. While the university was not involved in production of the feature, the film was met with enthusiastic applause from both students and employees.

Tooley credits Southern’s School of Visual Art and Design with teaching her the language of film and providing her with a support system of friends that remains today.

“My capstone project as a senior gave me a taste of the emotional and spiritual journey [that] I would eventually go on with my feature film,” Tooley said. “I realized that no matter what happened, no matter how my relationship with God ebbed and flowed, whether I succeeded or not, I had to trust Him. I had to let Jesus take the wheel.”

Tooley currently is writing her next project while working as an adjunct professor at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she received a master’s degree in screenwriting and directing. She enjoys mentoring a new generation of artists with ambitious dreams.

-by Amanda Blake, senior journalism major

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Upcoming Events
SmartStart Begins – July 24
New students at Southern can earn three credit hours for free during the summer (a savings of more than $2,300). To learn more, visit

Alumni Event: ASI International Convention Dessert Reception – August 5
Swing by to see us at booth 518 anytime exhibits are open during the ASI Convention, and connect with fellow alumni on Sabbath afternoon, August 5, for dessert between 2-4 p.m. in the Bartle Room (2204) of the Kansas Convention Center. RSVP at

Alumni Event: NAD Educators Convention Dinner and Celebration – August 9
Join fellow alumni and just-retired education professor Krystal Bishop, PhD, for dinner and a celebration of her retirement on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in Copper Vista A at the Westin Phoenix Downtown. RSVP at, and be sure to sign Krystal’s memory book!

Kokocelli Duo in Concert – August 26
The School of Music welcomes Kaitlyn Vest on cello joined by adjunct instructor Kristen Holritz on flute for a performance on Sabbath evening, August 26, at 7:30 p.m. in Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists on campus. The free recital is open to the public and will be livestreamed. For more information, call 423.236.2880.

Mental Health Week Convocation: “Shadows Define the Light” by Me Ra Koh – August 31
Through the winding paths of her life and career, photographer Me Ra Koh shares stories that transform the discouraged and fearful. She sets in motion the tenacity to push past fear and doubt to achieve personal visions for careers and relationships. Join campus when Me Ra demonstrates how to thrive through photos, stories, and laughter on Thursday, August 31, at 11 a.m. in Iles P.E. Center. For more information, call 423.236.2814.

Blue Zones: Unlocking the Secrets of Longevity – September 21
Discover the secrets of people around the globe who live vibrant and healthy lives beyond age 100. Photographer and documenter David McLain has spent 15 years studying the habits and rituals of centenarians in five geographic locations: Loma Linda, California; the Nicoya peninsula of Costa Rica; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; and Okinawa, Japan. Come hear him share personal anecdotes and scientific research on Thursday, September 21, at 7:30 p.m. in Iles P.E. Center on campus. Admission is $10 per person; tickets may be purchased at the door. For more information, call 423.236.2814.

Homecoming Weekend – October 26-29
Reconnect with friends and former classmates at this year’s Homecoming Weekend on Southern’s campus! Featuring Dwight Nelson, ’73, as our guest speaker, along with many traditional and all-new events, the celebration promises to be a fun and meaningful time of fellowship, food, and fond memories. See what’s new this year, and sign up to attend at

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