I recently attended the board of trustees meeting at University of the Cumberlands. Dr. Jim Taylor, UC president, invited me to serve as a board member some years ago. After resigning that position to become executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, I continue to be involved in the life of the university as an honorary board member.
My interest in UC’s mission is, to a large degree, selfish. I was raised in the shadow of her steeples and in a family indelibly marked by the institution. To date, 34 members of my and Michelle’s families have attended the university. That count includes both Michelle and me, and Michelle holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from UC. My sister is a current student. How could I measure the impact of UC upon our family?
In 1978, Taylor received unanimous appointment as President-elect of what was then known as Cumberland College. Himself a graduate, Taylor served in several administrative roles at the college before becoming president. During his tenure, student enrollment has grown from under 2,000 to today’s headcount of nearly 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Because of Taylor’s commitment to undergirding the financial future of the institution through tireless fundraising efforts, endowment funds have grown from under $7million in 1980 to over $76million today.
Changes to the campus during Taylor’s nearly four decades of leadership are impossible to appreciate from a written description. Let me simply state that updates to buildings I walked as a boy make them difficult to recognize and those buildings have been multiplied many times over. If traveling I-75 near the Kentucky/Tennessee border, take exit 11 at Williamsburg and enjoy a driving tour. Now visible from the interstate, it will only take a few minutes of your time but will surely leave you in awe of the architectural beauty this Kentucky Baptist institution.
Over the years, Kentucky Baptists have invested tens of millions of dollars in the university through the Cooperative Program. I’m fairly certain that CP is the largest single donor in the university’s history. Of course, Kentucky Baptists have additionally invested untold millions of dollars in the university through personal gifts, estates, scholarships, etc.
The return on this investment is not only the ongoing educational opportunities afforded by an institution espousing a Christian worldview and distinctly Baptist identity but also generations of graduates who serve the Kentucky Baptist and broader Southern Baptist family. Moreover, the impact of students on mission through UC’s local Mountain Outreach ministry, through national and international mission trips, and through careers where they will live out the teachings of Scripture and bear witness to Christ means that, through UC, Kentucky Baptists are reaching Kentucky and the world for Christ.