October 28, 2022

CENTRAL, S.C. – A ceremony today formally marked the inauguration of Dr. William D. Barker as the 19th president of Southern Wesleyan University (SWU), as part of a three-day celebration. The award-winning scholar, military chaplain, and entrepreneur succeeds interim President Dr. William C. Crothers and former President Dr. Todd Voss, who retired on June 30, 2021. After a global search, the University announced Barker as its next president on January 21, 2022. Barker assumed office on July 25. The inauguration ceremony, located at the Newton Hobson Chapel and Fine Arts Center, featured addresses by Dr. Elaine Phillips, Harold John Ockenga Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biblical and Theological Studies at Gordon College; Rev. Dr. Ivan Satyavrata, chairman of the board of World Vision International; and Maj. Christopher “Chisel” Heiserman of the United States Air Force. Barker gave the inaugural presidential address after Voss presented him with the presidential medallion and Rev. Ken Dill offered a commission by laying hands on and praying for the Barker family (wife Sara and children Aidin, Catharine, and Isaiah). In his address, Barker cast a vision for SWU as a holy university, serving as both a refuge and an oasis as students are formed and matured spiritually and intellectually. Barker, a scholar of biblical studies, pointed toward the biblical definition of holiness for the University, meaning it should be “set apart” and distinct from secular counterparts. As president, he desires for SWU to be a refuge; as a time and space for uninhibited growth of the mind and maturing of the soul. Barker also described his vision for SWU as an oasis, meaning a place of human flourishing as a natural result of the presence of God’s law and teaching.

Barker illustrated the urgency of equipping students to “affect change in the world for the Kingdom of God” despite strong secular headwinds in culture today. He said, “By integrating faith, life, and learning, we train students to proclaim the gospel with academic excellence and spiritual vibrancy. Study for the Christian is never about the mere acquisition of information. Rather, study for the Christian must always be about the worshipful acquisition of information for the sake of transformation—to be more like Jesus.”

Other highlights from the event included a welcome by Rev. Ken Dill, associate vice president for spiritual life and University chaplain; official greetings from the Board of Trustees, students, staff, faculty, alumni, Wesleyan Church, community, and Military and Chaplain Corps; a Scripture reading (Mark 10:35-45); and the Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, a symbol and seal of commitment to serve Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Performances and the singing of hymns were led by Professor Lori Shelton (piano); Mr. Devon Broome (The City of Greenville Pipes and Drums); Professor Emerita Jane Dill (organ); Department of Music Studies Coordinator and Professor of Music Dr. Don Campbell; and the SWU Chapel Band.

The three-day inauguration events began on Thursday with faculty symposium and table top talks. Dr. Mike Tapper shared his research on worship music in a presentation called Songs Stick. He said, “Music doesn’t just grab our minds, it grabs our heart.”

Prof. James McDonald’s presentation was about his passion – teaching students. He shared success stories from many of his grads and said, “I want to help young men and women discover who God wants them to be.” He said, “Most people don’t believe in themselves, but they believe in someone who believes in them.” At SWU, we believe in our students.

Dr. Priscilla Hammond, Dr. Michele Eller, Dr. Staci Johnson, Dr. Jeff Mohr, Dr. Mark Wilson and Dr. Amber James gave table top talks, sharing about their passion for teaching and educating SWU students.

The celebration concludes in a time of fellowship on Saturday as the SWU community gathers together at The Founders over a barbecue meal, and then food trucks and fireworks to end the evening.