Union University turned 200 on Feb. 3, with celebrations including a special chapel service, bicentennial birthday party, documentary release and more.
The event began in the G.M. Savage Memorial Chapel with a service featuring interviews from each living Union president.
David Dockery, president from 1996–2014, began the service by wishing Union a happy 200th birthday and celebrating the university’s Christ-centered convictions.
He joined Tim Ellsworth, associate vice president for university communications, through a video interview.
“The university has rallied for almost three decades now around some core values that hold the institution together,” Dockery said, “excellence-driven, Christ-centered, people-focused and future-directed.”
He urged the Union community to remain true to those core values as they continue to give thanks to God, care for each other and pursue academic excellence.
Hyran Barefoot, Union president from 1987–96, and Bob Agee, Union alumnus and president emeritus of Oklahoma Baptist University, were interviewed by Ethan Voss, current Union student and SGA president.
They recalled memories from the old campus, located in downtown Jackson, and noted the tremendous growth the university has experienced over the past 50 years.
Barefoot said while the former Union campus was small and poor, the people were what made the university special, citing a gift of attracting excellent students and faculty who were outstanding in their specific fields.
Agee noted, “Union is on the threshold of its greatest days today. We’ve got a voice, we’ve got a message, and that makes the future even more exciting.”
Finally, Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, current Union president, was interviewed by senior Steve Williams. Oliver said the 200th anniversary is a testament to the students and alumni who love and continue to invest in the university’s Christ-centered mission.
“I hope that you will come back when Union turns 250 years old … and you’ll reminisce about the people you met here, the faculty who influenced you here and how good God has been to you,” Oliver said.
The service ended with three generations of Union alumni — Wayne (’81), Jeff (’89) and Brett Perkins (’12) — leading the audience in singing, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”
In addition to the chapel service, the university hosted a birthday party for Union students, staff, faculty and alumni with food, games, giveaways and more. During the celebration, A.J. Massey, Madison County mayor, read an official proclamation declaring Feb. 3 as Union University Day in Jackson and Madison Counties.
Union also released a special bicentennial documentary of its rich history, told through the voices of key leaders.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Union University and published by Tennessee’s Baptist and Reflector.