6/27/2009 - Birmingham Pastor tells graduates to "hold nothing back..."
By Michael J. Brooks
Family, students and friends jammed Alumnae Auditorium on the campus of Judson College in Marion on Saturday for the college's 171st annual commencement.
Judson president Dr. David Potts presided and awarded diplomas to the graduating seniors.
Potts noted that the class of '09 had distinguished themselves in and out of the classroom.
"These are outstanding young women who have achieved good things in the classroom and on the court," Potts said. "They've also been active in Christian missions in this area and overseas. Several in this class spent time in Niger sharing the love of Christ.
"We're especially proud of your academic accomplishments," he said to the graduates. "We commend you for staying the course during these years at Judson."
Birmingham pastor and most immediate past president of the Alabama Baptist Convention, Dr. Roger Willmore, served as commencement speaker.
Before his address, Potts bestowed an honorary doctorate on Willmore on behalf of the college's trustees, noting that Willmore had been "diligent to underscore the value of Christian higher education as a significant part of the mission of Alabama Baptists."
Willmore, who began his ministry at age 19 serving as pastor of the Ephesus Baptist Church in the Marion suburb of Sprott, told the graduates that the world they faced was so different from the one he faced as a young graduate, and they must be committed to God in order to be strong and to bring honor to Christ.
He used stories of the Old Testament hero Daniel to illustrate.
"Daniel ‘purposed in his heart' to be committed to God when offered the king's food and wine," Willmore said. "He found himself in a new country-Babylon-where the God of Israel wasn't known, but he made a vow early in his life to be faithful to God. He might have faced a death sentence for disobedience. Going against the grain takes courage."
Willmore noted that Daniel also demonstrated courage when he continued to pray three times each day while facing Jerusalem, even after such prayers were forbidden by the king.
"The scripture says, ‘as was his custom,' so he was committed for the long term," Willmore said. "There is a great need today for long-term commitment to God, to the church, to the king and his mission."
Willmore told about Florence Nightingale, called "the lady with the lamp," who served the wounded during the Crimean War. She was asked toward the end of her life the secret of her success, and she replied, "I held nothing back from God."
"Graduates, the world is waiting for you," Willmore said. "Go from this place today and make a difference for God and for good. May your lives always bring honor and glory to our Lord."
After conferring degrees, Potts presented the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Non-Student Award to alumna Mary Grace Armstrong Adams of Cedar Bluff and the student award to Amy Butler of Tuscaloosa.
Mary Amelia Taylor of Frisco City received the J.C. Faulkner Award and Laura Liddell Philpot of Pine Apple received the Bible Award for outstanding Christian service.
Taylor, Susan Guider of Utica, Miss. and Ashley Renee Sandlin of Lacey's Spring shared the Scholarship Award for having the highest academic average in the class-a perfect 4.0.
Professor of English Daniel I. Thornton was awarded the Lula and Alton Holley Award for Excellence in Classroom Teaching.
* Article courtesy of the Judson College Public Relations Department.