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By: BETTY WATERS, Staff Writer September 19, 2002
MAKING IT OFFICIAL: Texas College’s 20th president, Dr. Billy C. Hawkins, who assumed his role in December 2000, will be formally inaugurated Friday at Harvey Convention Center. (File Photo)
With reverence and joyous worship, supporters of Texas College - a Christian Methodist Episcopal Church institution - began Thursday a series of inaugural events for its 20th president, Dr. Billy C. Hawkins. (Sept. 20, 2002)
With reverence and joyous worship, supporters of Texas College - a Christian Methodist Episcopal Church institution - began Thursday a series of inaugural events for its 20th president, Dr. Billy C. Hawkins.

An inaugural ecumenical worship service at Caldwell Auditorium opened with song, prayers of clergy from several faiths and readings from the Bible and Baha'i sacred writings. A mass choir presented several musical selections.

But the main inaugural event will be an investiture ceremony for Hawkins at 10 a.m. Friday at Harvey Convention Center, followed by a VIP luncheon/reception. Other inaugural festivities include a black tie gala dinner/dance at 8 p.m. Friday at the convention center and a 7 p.m. Saturday augural concert - billed as a "Gospel Explosion" - at Caldwell Auditorium.

The formal inauguration of Hawkins on Friday follows his having assumed the TC presidency in December 2000.

Miss Texas College, Jennifer Hallman, who is also president of the TC Student Government Association, welcomed the crowd to the inaugural worship service Thursday, then introduced dignitaries and the "first family" - Hawkins' mother, daughter, sisters, uncle and a niece.

Delivering opening prayers, the Rev. Donald Madlock, presiding elder, North Tyler District, Central Texas CME Annual Conference, prayed for God to anoint and consecrate Hawkins and to give him grace and wisdom.

Monsignor Joseph E. Strickland, rector, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Tyler, thanked God for the heritage of TC and for the college providing a place of learning and growing. He asked God's blessings on Hawkins that he may be girded with wisdom and uplifted as he fulfills the leadership role. Strickland also prayed for the faculty and especially for students that they might go into the world having grown in wisdom and knowledge.

The Rev. Dr. Jerry Phelps, senior pastor, Tyler Metro Church, presented a third opening prayer, thanking God for the special occasion, for raising Hawkins up and for students. He also asked God's blessings on Hawkins, thanked God for the vision for TC, prayed it will go forth and that God's plan will be fulfilled.

The Rev. Dr. Jerry L. Christian, pastor, Kirkwood Temple CME Church, Dallas, introduced the speaker, Bishop Marshall Gilmore, senior bishop and presiding prelate, Eighth Episcopal District, CME Church, who is also chairman of the TC board of trustees.

Christian recalled Gilmore's desire and efforts to see that TC did not close and his leadership in efforts to keep the college open during difficult times.

Gilmore said Hawkins is providing "great leadership" to the college. Gilmore lauded him for having initiated programs and for having led the college down the home stretch to attain accreditation after a period of non-accreditation.

Gilmore was instrumental in getting Hawkins to consent to come to TC from Mississippi Valley State University, where he was provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Gilmore based his message on the Biblical story of God speaking to Moses from a burning bush that was not consumed by the fire. Wonder is a medium for revelation of God, Gilmore said. The bush was symbolic of the Israelites as a nation remaining intact despite slavery in Egypt, he said. Similarly, TC is still intact, Gilmore said, despite inadequate funding, inept administration, church politics, greed and other problems that have plagued the college.

Moses came to the bush as a fugitive and shepherd, but left the bush a liberator, Gilmore said. Drawing a parallel, he said TC ought to teach students what they don't see in themselves. He added that students should have new and improved ways when they leave the college and ought to be better than when they came.

When TC lives up to its mission, it is holy ground; when the purpose of its founders is served, it is holy ground, Gilmore said. The bishop further stressed that God keeps his promise to be with His people and never leave them alone.

Betty Waters covers Tyler public schools, colleges and universities. She can be reached at 903.596.6286. e-mail:

©Copyright 2002, Tyler Morning Telegraph

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