Lipscomb University played on a new stage Thursday, Nov. 6, as more than 2,300 community leaders, employees, donors and friends gathered in Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium to share a vision for what the institution will be and the impact it will have on the community by 2020.
A number of dignitaries shared their thoughts about the impact Lipscomb has had in higher education and in Nashville. Sen. Bob Corker, Mayor Karl Dean, Ralph Schulz, president and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce; Renata Soto, executive director of Conexión Américas; Charles Strobel, Room in the Inn founding director; Beth Harwell, Speaker of the House, state of Tennessee; and James Harbison, executive director of the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency; were among those expressing their gratitude for what Lipscomb has done in the community. Lee Camp, professor of Bible at Lipscomb, also brought a sample of his TOKENS Radio Show to the Ryman stage as part of the festivities.
“What an appropriate place (the Ryman) to share in Lipscomb’s progress and vision for the future here on Nashville’s premier stage,” said Dean. “I’m excited to be a part of that progress, because Lipscomb University and the city of Nashville are both on the move. But for Nashville to reach the next level as a truly great American city, we need innovative partners like Lipscomb, a partner that is innovative in education, in workforce development and in service to the community. Tonight we celebrate a city at the top of its game.”
Corker commended Lipscomb for its work with veterans.
“This is an exciting night,” said Corker. “I want to thank the Lipscomb community for what it has done for our veterans through its veterans services program. I am grateful for the Lipscomb community that you have here and around the world and for the values that you have.”
The evening was hosted by Charles Esten, who portrays Deacon Claybourne in ABC’s hit television program, “Nashville.” He was joined on stage by fellow cast member Clare Bowen, who plays Scarlett O’Connor on the show.
“When the show was renewed for a second season, I moved my family here,” Esten told the audience. “We love it so much here. The entire Nashville community has opened its arms to us. And we love Nashville right back. Tonight I’m blessed to get to spend some time with you. We are starting this evening with appreciation. Gratitude is such a good place to be. We’re so grateful to the men and women who have made Lipscomb a premier university. But more importantly, we’re grateful to God for His blessings and boundless grace. And that’s the true source of Lipscomb’s greatness.”
The celebration also included compelling stories of three current and former students, Caleb Joseph, Amanda Martin and Ben Maenza, who shared the impact Lipscomb has made on their lives.
“Thank you for giving me this opportunity to tell you how Lipscomb University has shaped my life,” said Joseph, catcher for MLB’s Baltimore Orioles. “I have spent most of my life around Lipscomb as a child and then in college. I learned so much more about life lessons than just how to play baseball. Playing in the big leagues, you are exposed to a lot of things that the world tells you are important. If it weren’t for my teachers, coaches and influences in my life from Lipscomb, I wouldn’t have the strong foundation that I have. I know there is a higher purpose. This is my community. Lipscomb has been and always will be an important part of my life.”
Martin, a 2016 Tennessee Governor’s Management Fellow, told the audience that, “Lipscomb is so successful at preparing its students to succeed because learning extends far beyond the bounds of the traditional classroom.”
“Lipscomb not only instills knowledge in the minds of its students but challenges those students to use what they have learned to fulfill a calling toward service and leadership,” she said. “I have never regretted for one day attending Lipscomb. I am confident that my Lipscomb education has equipped me with the tools and the drive to make positive changes in our state.”
Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry led those gathered in the famed “Mother Church of Country Music” in a visioning of the institution’s future.
“We look to 2020 with an intentional, courageous and gracious faith,” he said. “We want to hear our call to serve. This is not about what can be done for Lipscomb. It is about what Lipscomb can do for the world. This is not about what we can create. It is about who we will serve. This is not about giving to an institution, it is about giving through an institution to impact the lives of others.”
Lowry announced several initiatives for the next five years including a new School of Public Policy and Civic Leadership, the innovative competency-based education program, a physician assistant program and additional scholarships for minority and first generation students as well the formation of the College of Entertainment & the Arts and the College of Computing & Technology.
“While meeting student needs, we will also be launching a number of programs to meet the needs of the Nashville community,” said Lowry. “Among these are initiatives to prepare more Latino teachers to meet the need in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools; to offer our high school students the opportunity to complete a year of college education, which saves them thousands of dollars in tuition; to provide mentors for the new Tennessee Promise Program, which offers a free community college education to young people in the state; and to increase service to the community through an enhanced service-learning program, among many others.”
James Harbison, executive director of the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency, said he looks forward to the work Lipscomb will do in the community.
“I’m so excited to be working with Lipscomb on several projects,” he said. “One is a new initiative for community service. While Lipscomb has been nationally recognized for the service of its students to the community, I have been impressed with Lipscomb’s creativity and passion for service and am enthusiastic about it bringing its creative thinking and resources to impact the lives of Nashville’s residents.”
Lowry said that more details about these new programs and initiatives will be announced in the coming months.
“While these are conceptual programs now and there is still much work to be done, this is our vision for 2020. This is how we will continue to BE Lipscomb in the future,” he said. “As you have heard me say many times, you cannot be who you need to be if you remain where you are. Thank you for being a community that continually strives to move and evolve in order to become an institution that seeks to be all it can be, in impacting the lives of its students and all who come in contact with it.”
--Photos by Kristi Jones, university photographer, and Shelby Smith; video by Josh Shaw, university videographer