Statement of Acceptance
Seventh President of Johnson University
June 20, 2017
When the Board of Trustees extended the invitation to me to become the seventh president of Johnson University, I replied by stating, “There are many who love Johnson University as much as I do, but no one loves Johnson any more than me. I am humbled and honored to accept.” I have invested the past 28 years of my life in this institution, serving as professor, dean, and provost, as well as university historian. I know much about the past of this school, have had a hand in shaping the present, and am so grateful that the trustees have given me opportunity to lead Johnson into the future.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and it is only in gratitude that life becomes rich. It is very easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievement in comparison to what we owe others.” With this in mind, I must express my heartfelt thanks first to L.D. Campbell, chairman of our Board, and the other trustees who have expressed confidence in me to lead this great University. Their collective wisdom and support is invaluable. I would like to thank our current president Gary Weedman who has led this school so well and has served as model, mentor, and friend to me. I must also recognize President Emeritus David Eubanks who continues to be the finest source of wisdom and encouragement. I will have the unique privilege of having two former Johnson presidents living nearby with a wealth of experience and goodwill to draw upon. Finally, I would like to thank my family for their support and patience. As you would expect, my wife Debbie will continue to be a full and equal partner in this work.
I will have a full year of preparation for my work, and there will be more appropriate times to discuss specific plans, but I want to affirm from the beginning of this transition my commitment to the mission and core values of Johnson University. I fully support the Third Way, Great Commission Mandate “to educate students for Christian ministries and other strategic vocations framed by the Great Commission in order to extend the kingdom of God among all nations.” I believe wholeheartedly that a systematic and substantive study of the Bible forms the core of this education, along with an extensive arts and sciences curriculum, and relevant, impactful professional programs that “thoroughly equip God’s people for every good work” (Ephesians 4:12). We must continue to make this education affordable, making sure that anyone who “desires above every other desire” has access to the opportunity to prepare to extend God’s kingdom. All of this must be accomplished with the ethos of faith, prayer, and work.
As I wrote in the centennial history of Johnson nearly 25 years ago, “Faithfulness to the original impetus yet flexibility in response to change suggests the formula for success. It is essential that any institution recognize its original vision, motivation, and goals. This recognition becomes the rudder by which the past guides the present. The institution honors its past by evaluating every response to changing contexts and challenges in light of its original purpose.” I promise to keep my hand on that rudder.
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for-ever, Amen” (Jude 24-25).
Grace and peace,
L. Thomas (Tommy) Smith, Jr.