Celebration 2014: A time to reflect

Celebration 2014: A time to reflect

Celebration 1992, provided by Lee Archives

This year, Lee will hold its 10th Celebration ceremony, on Sept. 18-19.

Inspired by the success and excitement surrounding the presidential inauguration of President Paul Conn in 1986, administration and students come together for this campus wide event that continues to capture the spirit of that inauguration.

"There was this feeling of wanting to have another presidential inauguration without inaugurating another president," Vice President of University Relations Jerome Hammond said.

In 1990, Lee had cause to celebrate. After a slide in enrollment in the early 1980's, the pattern soon shifted when Conn's presidency began.

Also cause for celebration, was the Vest renovation, the newly built Sharp-Davis Halls and the pedestrian mall, which replaced the road that previously coursed through the campus' center. It was out of this context that the regular Celebration ceremonies were born.

'It was really exciting having something that wasn't an inauguration that brought our benefactors together,' Director of Faculty Development Carolyn Dirksen said regarding the first Celebration in 1990. 'It was the beginning of this whole tradition of celebrations that kind of recharge our batteries for the next few years to move ahead towards a new vision.'

The straightforward title captures the essence of what the event means to Lee's campus, which occurs regularly in intervals of two to four years.

Danny Murray, director of church relations and director of Voices of Lee, said that the event is more than just looking back; it is a time of 'vision casting' for the university's future.

'Almost always, Celebrations produce a renewed sense of enthusiasm, purpose and vitality for students, faculty and staff, as well as friends of Lee,' Murray said. 'It is a wonderful time for people who are not on campus every day to see why so many of us love this place and how really special Lee is.'

An important facet of the event is the recognition of the relationships Lee has cultivated over the course of 28 years.

"Part of it is bringing in people who have donated to say we wanted you to be reminded of what your donations are doing," Hammond said. "I want them to be reminded how they are helping students and be refreshed."

The event, which occurs over the course of 24 hours, will begin with a dinner on Thursday evening for donors and friends of Lee who have made so much change possible.

Among the guests who will come to Lee's campus during the event are alumni representatives from as far back as 1948, who will be present during the main event of Celebration in full regalia.

There will also be a number of other VIP's including political dignitaries, community members, businessmen, friends and donors.

All donors will be recognized during the main event. Lee's administrators are always engaged in campaigns with specific goals to better the university's product. Celebration follows the end of one campaign and precedes the advent of the next.

The previous campaign included projects like the Chapel and the Communications Arts building, as well as the improvement in enrollment. This year's ceremony will take time to speak to those investments.

However, for the 24-hour period of Celebration 2014, Hammond, along with the rest of campus will be taking time to pause and admire what we have as a school.

On Friday there are a number of seminars given by experts in their fields followed by the culminating event in the Conn Center, which will include a choir performance and a number of speakers.

Although this event does provide a brief respite for all those involved in fundraising, Hammond said that even now the administration is involved in a new campaign and will continue working hard to make the University even better.

Lee faculty, donors, friends and students can take the time during Celebration to look back at how far Lee has come, and where it still has the room to grow and change.

"There is a kind of remembering why a university exists in the first place,' Hammond said. "It offers a moment to take a breath, look around, and say, 'This is pretty great what God is doing.''

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