Posted on October 31, 2011
By Jason Mullins
Hundreds of people crowded into Milligan College’s Seeger Chapel Friday afternoon to witness the inauguration of the school’s 15th president.
Dr. William B. Greer was officially welcomed to Milligan during an inauguration ceremony, which was highlighted by a keynote address from United States Senator Lamar Alexander.
Greer succeeds Dr. Don Jeanes, who retired from the school after 14 years in the president’s office.
In his keynote address, Alexander provided words of advice to Milligan’s incoming president. Alexander, who has also served as President of the University of Tennessee, joked, “People sometimes ask me what’s harder; being governor of a state, a member of the president’s cabinet or president of a university? My answer always is, ‘obviously, you have never been president of a university or you wouldn’t ask a stupid question like that.’ This is a significant challenge that Dr. Greer undertakes.”
Tennessee’s senior senator also praised Greer, the faculty and students at Milligan College. Alexander challenged them to excel in their academic efforts and their service to the community. “You have more capacity than most to make something of your life in what this country has to offer,” said Alexander.
In addition to the keynote speech from Senator Alexander, several prominent individuals from around the area welcomed Greer to the Milligan presidency. First District Congressman Dr. Phil Roe and East Tennessee State University President Dr. Paul Stanton spoke briefly at the inauguration.
Congressman Roe took the opportunity to congratulate Greer for his achievements in business and in academia. The former Johnson City obstetrician, told Greer that he is “inheriting a great program,” said Roe. “This college has made a great choice for its new president.
Stanton said ETSU and Milligan share a unique relationship. He said that many of ETSU’s professors and staff have degrees from Milligan and many of Milligan’s faculty members have a degree from ETSU, including Greer. Stanton, who will retire as ETSU president at the end of year, is also an alumnus of Milligan College.
“We are proud to be your neighbor and your partner,” said Stanton.
Tim Wallingford of First Christian Church in Johnson City, C. Danny Johnson of the Milligan Board of Trustees, Sociology professor Dr. Susan Higgins and Student Government President Shannon Slaughter also provided words of welcome and encouragement to Dr. Greer prior to his inaugural address.
Dr. Greer, and Milligan’s First Lady, Edwina Greer, both participated in the investment ceremony before a near-capacity audience. Greer officially received the ceremonial robe and hood, as well as the presidential medallion, to symbolize his new responsibilities at Milligan.
“This has been a marvelous week, full of events that have celebrated the community that is Milligan College. This has been the greatest week of my life, other than the week Edwina and I got married,” said Greer.
Greer discussed several obstacles and challenges for Milligan. He said that the institution must continue to work to overcome financial issues, tuition increases, remaining relevant in today’s society, staying on the cutting-edge of technology and the impact of government on higher education.
Greer also touched on capital improvements to the campus over the past several years. He said the Gregory Center, new tennis complex and renovations to Mary Sword Commons and Derthick Hall demonstrate the school’s commitment to students and their educational experience at Milligan. “With that, the campus has never looked more beautiful and never served its students better,” said Greer.
Greer said he was proud to be a part of an institution that is dedicated to “sending the world graduates who go on to lead and to serve, with a passion for their work and a love for their God.”
The address also focused on the importance of a Christian liberal arts education, despite an increased focus on professional preparation for students of higher education.
Greer said the school must remain committed to teaching “the importance of living a life that reflects the example of Jesus Christ and the importance of serving others before self.”
A special hymn written for the inauguration was also performed at the event. Dr. Lee Magness, Milligan’s Vera Britton Professor of Bible, wrote a hymn entitled “Fide et Amore: Go with God in Faith and Love.” The selection was inspired by a Latin phrase from Milligan’s seal.
Greer, who has served as president since July, is also a 1985 graduate of Milligan College. He received his bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Business Administration in 1985. Before entering the world of academia, Greer worked for Pet Dairy/Land-O-Sun Dairies and Morrill Motors.
Greer received his M.B.A. from East Tennessee State in 1992. He later earned a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Greer has been a member of the Milligan faculty since 1992, when he became an adjunct professor.
In addition to his teaching experience, Dr. Greer has also served as the founding director of Milligan’s M.B.A. program and vice president for institutional advancement.
Following Dr. Jeanes’ retirement last October, a search committee appointed by the board of trustees selected Greer as the institution’s 15th president on March 18, 2011.
Greer said he will continue to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Jeanes and Dr. Marshall Leggett. “Assuming the presidency of an institution with a history as old and as rich as Milligan College is, to say the least, a little bit overwhelming. I stand in the shadows of many great leaders who came before me,” Greer commented.
Greer’s speech also mentioned Milligan President Josephus Hopwood. Hopwood was Milligan’s second president and the man who named the school.
Greer said Hopwood believed “the true object of education is to make its possessor happier and more useful to society, at large.”
Hopwood lamented, however, that some people use their education and obtain personal happiness through the acquisition of money, personal honor and power. Greer noted that Hopwood believed others “take a truer view of life. They seek a larger soul with broader and more correct ideas of man, of nature and of God.
“Since those earlier days, Milligan has grown, but our commitment to Christian education has never wavered,” Greer stated.
Greer challenged the Milligan community to remain committed to “honoring God by educating men and women to be servant leaders. We do this by offering an educational and residential experience that shapes the whole person.”