Hall Installed as President on Birthday
"I pledge to work hard to see that the value of your diploma continues to grow," said HSU president Dr. Lanny Hall to students filling Behrens Auditorium.
The annual convocation ceremony kicked off Hardin-Simmons' 119th year. The pageantry of faculty in robes and dignitaries from across the state marked not only the annual convocation but also the installation of HSU's 15th president.
The event brought coveted keynote speaker Dr. Belle Wheelan, the president of the commission which accredits all universities in the southern United States.
Hall said they have been friends since 1983 when they were at the University of Texas, both working on their doctorate. Dr. Hall drew a laugh from the audience when he said, "I have followed Dr. Wheelan's professional pilgrimage, and I knew she had hit the big time when I saw her on C-Span."
Hall came back to HSU in June after having served as the school's 13th president and, later, as its chancellor for a combined 13 years in Abilene. He has also served as president of Wayland Baptist University in Plainview and, most recently, of Howard Payne University.
Board of Trustee chairman Hilton Hemphill told the capacity crowd, "When we began our national search for the new president of this university, we did so with God's guidance." Hemphill praised Hall for his skills and urged him to draw strength from his predecessors, then added jokingly, "except for the tenure of the 13th president."
Wearing the traditional robe with purple collar and the presidential medallion bearing his name twice, Dr. Hall reminded the sea of students, alumni, faculty, and staff of the accomplishments of presidents who have gone before him. "When you look out over the campus and see the pond, or enter the Johnson Building, or see the stained glass of Logsdon, we owe a great debt to Dr. Fletcher," he said turning to the president emeritus.
"We build on the good work of the past to become stronger and more effective. This is an institution on the move! Let us keep dreaming big dreams," he told the crowd.
Keynote speaker Dr. Belle Wheelan has been president of a university herself. She has also been Secretary of Education in Virginia and currently serves as president of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
"Let me begin by giving praise to God from whom all things are given," said Wheelan as she started her speech which addressed all segments of the university. "To the faculty -- be sure students leave here believing they can conquer the world. Remind students they can acquire the skills to make them successful."
"It is for the students that we are here," Wheelan said. "It may be the 100th time you have answered the same question. Remember it is the first time for the student who asked."
She went on to address the student body, "Students - choose the statistic you want to be - a graduate or a dropout; employed or unemployed. You are in charge of your future!"
Sophomore Sarah Leathers said afterward she enjoyed the levity of Dr. Wheelan, but especially her brevity. While Wheelan spoke less than ten minutes "what she said had a tremendous effect," said Leathers. Erica Fairbanks concurs. The president of the student congress said, "Wheelan got to the heart of how students feel."
A highlight of the event, and somewhat of a surprise to many on the lower floor of Behrens, was the orchestra, band, and choir waiting in the balcony to perform a composition written solely for the installation of Dr. Hall as president.
Cowboy Band director and professor of music Dr. Wayne Dorothy conducted over two-hundred students in Psalm 139 for Chorus and Orchestra, written by HSU's own Dr. Bernard Scherr. To a roaring round of applause, Dorothy pointed from the balcony to Associate Professor Scherr, sitting below. Scherr took a quick bow while applauding the superb performance of the students.
The events included an early prayer service which was a request from Dr. and Mrs. Hall as a way of setting the context as to what lies ahead. In attendance for all of the day's events were two of the most important people to the Hall's, granddaughters Ada, four, and Lilly, who is nine. Along with first lady Carol Hall, also present was daughter Lana and her husband, Jonathan McCutchen.
Oh yes, one last thing. All of the events just happened to have occurred on Dr. Hall's 60th birthday.