BPC president offers success journey in convocation address

MOUNT VERNON -- Dr. David Smith began his six year as Brewton-Parker College's president by laying out a plan of "Your Success Journey" in welcoming students, staff and faculty members, administrative officers and guests to the new academic year during convocation Aug. 26 in Saliba Chapel.

Smith opened his address by proclaiming several observances that will take place during the 2003-04 academic year.

"We will celebrate the 100th anniversary of this college's existence; we will complete our first full year in the newly constructed Student Activities Center; the newly completed Writing Laboratory will become available to you, located in the Jones House, on the west side of the Education Building; and our non-traditional students will gain access to a new lounge, also located in the Jones Building," Smith said.

"I hope that many students will develop passions for learning about academic disciplines to which previously you had not been exposed."

Smith noted the formality of the event with the faculty, education-related staff and administrators in their academic attire, the tradition of the dress and the many colors representing the institutions from which each earned their highest degree.

"The kaleidoscope of color, texture and design behind me are another illustration of the academic opportunity and professorial excellence you will experience here at BPC," the president said.

Smith said he participated in much reading over the summer from which he said he hopes to generate learning for himself.

"I have tried to discipline myself to keep at least four books open at any given time, at various locations around my office and home," he said. I have discovered that even a little time each day dedicated to such reading offers me a perspective that is deeper, wider and more inspiring than any other way I can expend my time. Develop a habit of reading and researching topics of interest while you are here. It will serve you well all of the remainder of your life."

One of those books Smith said he read served as the basis for the title of his convocation, "The Success Journey" by "leadership guru" John C. Maxwell.

"I want to speak to you for a while this morning about success," Smith said in beginning his thematic oration. "I am also trying to find ways to grow in the meaningful dimensions of my life.

"In (his book), Dr. Maxwell identifies three steps that enable you and me to successfully complete a lifelong journey to meaning and fulfillment. He suggests that we should know our purpose, grow our potential and sow seeds that benefit others. As I read his thoughts, I became convinced that he offers us very good insight into a successful journey through life."

In highlighting Maxwell's first point, Smith said the author "writes under the premise that each of us has specific talents and aspirations that lead us toward God's will for our lives. When we discover that purpose, and engage in a genuine effort to attain it, we find the best kind of living."

In supporting Maxwell's first point, Smith quoted national newspaper columnist Dave Barry and his description of college as being "'basically a bunch of rooms where you sit for roughly 2,000 hours and try to memorize things. The two thousand hours are spread out over four years; you spend the rest of the time sleeping and trying to get dates.

"'Basically, you learn two kinds of things in college: (First,) things you will need to know in later life (two hours). These things include how to make collect telephone calls and get spaghetti sauce stains our of your pajamas; (and second,) things you will not need to know in later life (1,998 hours). These are things you learn in classes whose names end in -ology, -osophy, -istry, -ics, and so on. The idea is, you memorize these things, then write them down in little exam books, then forget them. If you fail to forget them, you become a professor and have to stay in college for the rest of your life.'"

Smith continued: "Well, as humorous and entertaining as Mr. Barry may be, I think he has missed the point about your college experience. Do you remember what the writer of Proverbs expressed about our life's journey? Proverbs 14:6 declares, 'There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death.'

"You see, it's important to know your way through life. The truly significant aspects of your life are merely the sum of all the relatively insignificant decisions you make between the mile markers. In order to know what you are going to do with your life, you must learn where you want to go.

"I am confident that while you are here, God can speak to you and show you your life's plan. He will encourage you through the strong instruction of this great faculty; He will edify you through the opportunities you will have to put your classroom learning into practice; He will strengthen you by placing around you fellow students, staff members and local citizens who will model for you what it means to be driven by a purpose and a commitment to Someone larger than our own world.

"In order to experience a successful journey through life, we must first know where we are going. Find your purpose while you are here."

In returning to Maxwell's points, Smith said the author "next admonished us to grow ourselves to our maximum potential. It is never enough to know where we are, or where we want to go."

"Let's use these years at Brewton-Parker College to grow toward our maximum potential. Although you may come to college without a vision for the future, develop one. And though you may be only a little further developed in your understanding of the world around you, do your best to continue growing toward your maximum potential. If you do, then you are well on the way toward your personal success journey."

In using Maxwell's final point, where he "encourages us to sow seeds along the way that will be helpful to others," Smith opened his point with the example of American pioneer Johnny Appleseed who traveled westward from the colonies and planted apple trees along the way "so that others could benefit from them. His example is a virtuous one for all of us."

Smith quoted the book "Ethical Anchors," in which "we are reminded that the WAYS we live is more important than the DAYS we live." He quoted the book's statements of ethical living: The temptation to behave unethically crosses all professional and vocational barriers; ethical behavior is seldom a last-minute decision; culturally accepted ethical behavior does not always line up with biblically acceptable ethical behavior; and personal ethics are formed by our view of the world around us.

"How will you be regarded by others when your life's journey is completed?" said Smith, who followed with several comical epitaphs on gravestones of cemeteries of colonial New England.

"Well, my friends, only time will tell us what our tombstones may read," Smith said in beginning his conclusion. "But the way in which we live our days will determine whether our journey is successful. And the decision is yours. Are you ready to find out why you are here?

"I pray that as a student at BPC you can focus upon the purpose of your life. Will you devote yourself to becoming all that God created you to be? As you walk out the front doors of Saliba Chapel in just a few moments you can begin that enterprise. Shall others benefit from your days among them? Surely, they will either praise you or curse you. The decision is yours."

Smith concluded: "My desire for each of us is a successful journey. Your classes beckon you to attend and learn. Your social and service opportunities invite you to develop outwardly as well as intellectually. Your life awaits you. May your journey be successful."


Dr. David Smith (at podium), president of Brewton-Parker College, offers thoughts of "Your Success Journey" in welcoming students, staff and faculty members, administrative officers and guests to the new academic year during convocation Aug. 26 in Saliba Chapel. (Photo by Terry Gaston)