A Taste of Southern
The second annual A Taste of Southern event was held September 28, and approximately 350 people came together for a glimpse of what Southern students and employees enjoy on campus.

Nearly $130,000 was raised, with proceeds adding to the university’s endowment scholarship for first-generation college students that was started at last year’s inaugural gala. Southern alum Rebecca Hogan of Russ Blakely & Associates shared her experience as a first-generation student and invited the audience to support others like her. Some of the 380 current students at Southern whose parents do not have four-year degrees will benefit from the new funds next school year.

Guests watched a live, outdoor routine from the university’s Gym-Masters acrobatic team and also saw animation unfold in action as presented by the School of Visual Art and Design. President Ken Shaw reported that Southern “offers the only animation program of its kind in the area.” 

Taste of Southern Gala 2023Elected officials in attendance included Tennessee Senator Bo Watson, who gave the invocation prior to dinner. In addition to performances by the Southern School of Music’s Symphony Orchestra and renowned guest tenor David Phelps, the evening featured a silent auction with donated items ranging from a pottery experience to a foursome at Council Fire Golf Course and a baseball bat signed by record-breaking star Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Atlanta Braves.

“Our goal for the annual event is two-fold,” said Ellen Hostetler, vice president for Advancement. “First, to welcome our community into the Southern experience; and second, to raise scholarship dollars for a unique group of students on our campus.” Part of the Chattanooga region for more than 130 years, Southern has been ranked among “Best Colleges” for 22 consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report and also slated as one of the most diverse regional universities in the South.

Sponsors for this year’s event included the Irvin and Evea Bainum Foundation, Morning Pointe Senior Living, San Sebastián Development, SouthEast Bank, Southern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Chattanooga Times Free Press, and other community partners.

Visit southern.edu/taste to view photos of the event.

-by Tina Frist Smith, communication manager


Groundbreaking Celebration for the Ruth McKee School of Business
The Board of Trustees and many donors, alumni, professors, students, and community members gathered under beautiful blue skies to break ground for the Ruth McKee School of Business on Friday, September 29. The building site located outside Mabel Wood Hall along University Drive in Collegedale was prayerfully dedicated back in February, and the approximately 42,000-square-foot facility is set to be completed by 2025.

“The new name for the School of Business honors the co-founder of McKee Foods, best known for Little Debbie snacks, who embodied integrity, wisdom, acumen, and beneficence—the same qualities we strive to instill in each of our graduates,” said Stephanie Sheehan, PhD, dean.

School of Business Groundbreaking“The four-story structure will be the first thing visitors see when arriving on our campus, setting the tone for professional and quality education for all students who are enrolled at Southern,” said Ellen Hostetler, vice president for Advancement.

With a 10% increase in enrollment over the past five years, the current School of Business is the second largest academic area on the university’s campus. In August, the largest class of incoming business students arrived to join the already tight academic quarters within Brock Hall. The new building will be nearly five times as large as the School of Business’ existing space and will house a spacious auditorium, an innovation lab, and an investment lab with computers for analyzing real-time financial market data.

“Our mission is to equip the next generation of top-tier business leaders,” Sheehan added.  “Fostering an environment for Christian business principles to be experienced and practiced, this new space will enhance cross-departmental innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities as well as community and student networking.” 

More than 80% of the $20 million campaign goal, which also includes a program endowment, has been raised through donations and commitments from alumni and friends of the university.

To learn more, visit southern.edu/gobusiness.

-by Tina Frist Smith, ’89, communication manager


Southern Adventist University Celebrates Historic Freshman Enrollment
Newcomers abound at Southern Adventist University this school year with a freshman class of 758 students—the university’s highest freshman enrollment ever. 

“We are so excited to welcome the largest freshman class in our history,” said President Ken Shaw, EdD. “Our enrollment team has done a remarkable job sharing the good news about Southern. I also believe that as young people visited our campus over the past year, they sensed the genuine friendliness of our community and experienced our mission being lived out in their interactions with staff, faculty, and students.”

Fall 2011 set the last freshman enrollment record at 652, meaning this semester is the first time a freshman class at Southern has not only reached but also exceeded 700 students. At 2,827, the institution’s current undergraduate class is one of its largest ever, second only to 2,896 in 2012.    

Record Enrollment“I praise the Lord for blessing our team to be able to share Southern’s story across the country and the world,” said Jason Merryman, vice president for Enrollment Management. “It is an honor to contribute to the university’s mission of equipping students to embrace biblical truth and embody academic and professional excellence. I’m thankful every day that God allows us to do this work.”

The university’s annual Southern Serves Day, previously known as Freshman Service Day, immediately engages new students in a variety of projects in the local community, and this fall’s event saw more participants than ever before. Cheryl Craven, Christian Service director, was deeply impressed by students’ dedication to serve from dawn to dusk. 

“Some individuals persevered past 4 p.m., helping out at the Samaritan Center and cranking out bunk beds for Sleep in Heavenly Peace,” she said. “They completed 74 beds for local children ages 3-17 who would otherwise be sleeping on couches, blankets, or even floors.” 

“I’m thrilled about high enrollment because it means more students now have an opportunity to grow in their relationships with the Lord and discover how their individual talents can ultimately serve Him,” Merryman said. “I believe there is no better place on earth to accomplish these things.”

-by Amanda Blake, senior journalism major


2023 Annual Report Available
The 2022-23 academic year began with exciting enrollment and continued with preparations for the new School of Engineering and Physics, a campaign for the new Ruth McKee School of Business building, and an upgrade to the McKee Library entrance, just to name a few highlights. We also strengthened community partnerships through our inaugural gala, A Taste of Southern, and opened a new plant-based eatery on campus, The Garden at KR’s.

2023 Annual ReportThrough the narratives and images in the Annual Report, you will catch a glimpse of life at Southern last year. Enjoy the stories of faith, resilience, collaboration, and accomplishment revealing God’s provision and your support. Every alumnus and donor who has generously given helped to enrich the Southern experience.

Enjoy the stories, videos, and other special highlights at southern.edu/annualreport.

-Staff Report


Homecoming Weekend Featured Speaker: Dwight Nelson, ’73
Dwight Nelson, ’73, grew up in a missionary family and was one of a very few from his high school class at Far Eastern Academy in Singapore to come to Southern. He didn’t know much about the school, but it was located within a day’s drive of his two sets of grandparents, and he had  a cousin at Southern, Gerald Retzer, ‘71. Realizing he wouldn’t be able to visit his parents in Japan often, if at all, made having family nearby the most important factor in his decision.

Because of his experience once he arrived on campus and the letters he wrote to classmates attending other colleges, many came to Southern the next year!

For him, the biggest value that the university provided was relationships—friends, professors, supervisors, and, most importantly, his wife, Karen, ’74. When he first met her, he was dating someone else. It wasn’t until later, while he was participating in a seminar band at a Seventh-day Adventist Church near Monteagle, Tennessee, that a spark was ignited. One of the other theology majors, Bob Bretsch, ’73, invited Karen to come up and sing one Sabbath. Dwight was to play the piano for her, and it was at their Friday evening practice session that they started really getting to know each other.

The couple broke up during Dwight’s senior year, and he graduated and accepted a call to the Oregon Conference, where he pastored in Roseburg. He sent Karen a letter, and the courtship was rekindled. He flew her out to his parents’ place in Portland for Thanksgiving, and she accepted his proposal. The couple didn’t see each other until a week before their wedding the next summer in Charlotte, North Carolina. In fact, Karen’s graduation gift from her parents was paying for all her long-distance phone calls with Dwight.

Dwight NelsonAfter getting married, the couple went to Andrews University in Michigan, where Dwight completed his master’s degree, and then returned to Oregon to pastor until 1983. At the age of 30, he accepted a call to Pioneer Memorial Church on Andrews’ campus and spent the next 40 years there.

Dwight felt called to pastoral ministry while he was still in high school, and any time he considered another option, God drew him back to that calling. Now 50 years later, he’s thankful for that calling, as are the many in his congregations over the years.

Looking back, one of the experiences that stands out most is Net ’98 (also known as the NeXt Millennium Seminar—October-November 1998), the only global live satellite evangelistic event ever undertaken by any denomination. The series was beamed from Pioneer Memorial to 100 nations in 40 languages for five weeks. “God’s fingerprints were all over that global moment, and it was a humbling honor to have a part in it,” Dwight says.

Reflecting on his journey, Dwight recognizes the pivotal role that Southern played in his life. He hired several pastors from Southern throughout his career, and he appreciates the strong bonds of faith and friendship forged during his time at the university. The influences of faculty members such as Doug Bennett, ’51, Frank Holbrook, Robert Francis, and Smuts van Rooyen, ’64, have left their imprint on him to this day.

As Dwight prepares for Homecoming Weekend in just a few weeks, he’s looking forward to seeing friends from the class of ’73­. He acknowledges the diverse journeys they've all embarked upon but looks forward to celebrating their shared bond. Southern, with its deep connections to academies and its strong foundation in faith, holds a special place in Dwight's heart.

Dwight will be speaking at both Sabbath worship services during Homecoming. For information on these and other events throughout the weekend and to register, visit southern.edu/homecoming.

-Staff Report

Upcoming Events
Memorial Services: October 21-November 4
This year we’ve lost several former employees who have had an impact on many alumni lives throughout their time at Southern. We invite you to honor those you know at one or more of their memorial services. Ron Qualley, dean of men from 1980-93: Sabbath, October 21, at 3 p.m. in the Talge Hall Worship Room. Dennis Pettibone, professor in the History Department from 1988 to 2014: Sunday, October 22, at 3 p.m. in Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists. Mary Elam, who worked in different capacities, most notably as director of Records and associate vice president for Academic Administration, from 1965-96: Sabbath, November 4, at 3:30 p.m. in Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists.

Ask an Attorney Series: October 16-24
Southern’s Planned Giving office invited estate planning attorneys and financial planners from Chambliss Law, Thompson & Associates, Genesis Investments, and Pierce Huisman Law to volunteer time to connect with you on campus. Take advantage of a free, one-hour consultation to learn about starting or updating your estate plan, planning for retirement, debt consolidation, setting up a budget, investing, elder-care planning, and other topics. Call 423.236.2832 or email plannedgiving@southern.edu for an appointment.

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 southern.edu/homecoming.

Physician and Foodie Jonathan Reisman: November 2
The Schutte Family Lecture Serieswelcomes Jonathan Reisman, MD, to speak at 11 a.m. in Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists. This author of The Unseen Body and Anatomy Eats has practiced medicine in some of the most remote places in the world. For additional details on the free event, call 423.236.2814.

Invoke: the not so classical quartet Concert: November 2
Described as “not classical but not, not classical,” the multi-instrumental ensemble encompasses traditions from across America—including bluegrass, Appalachian fiddle tunes, jazz, and minimalism—and will perform at 7:30 p.m. in Iles P.E. Center. For more information about this free event, call 423.236.2814.

Symphony Orchestra Concert: November 5
The School of Music invites the community to a Symphony Orchestra concert, directed by Laurie Redmer Cadwallader, at 7:30 p.m. in Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists. For more information, visit southern.edu/musicevents or call 423.236.2880.

Archaeology Lecture: November 6
Professor Michael G. Hasel, director of Southern’s Institute of Archaeology and curator of the Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum, will present “Destruction in the Gate: New Excavations at Tel Hazor, Israel” at 7 p.m. in Lynn Wood Hall Chapel and livestreamed at southern.edu/streaming. For more information, call 423.236.2030.

Michel Martin Lecture: November 9
The School of Journalism and Communication welcomes Michel Martin of NPR’s Morning Edition for a discussion on “Making Sense of a Polarized World.” Join in person or online at 7 p.m. in Iles P.E. Center. Registration is required for those without a current Southern ID. Visit southern.edu/truth for details.

Alumni Association Tour / Tulips, D-Day, and the Rhine: May 6-17, 2024
Join fellow alumni and friends of Southern for a tour of beautiful sites and remarkable history in Holland, Belgium, France, and Germany. Learn more and sign up at southern.edu/alumnitour.

                                                                            gfh   gh