by Norm Miller

CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews)—Truett-McConnell College held its annual faculty/staff orientation Aug. 13 in preparation for the Fall 2013 semester that begins Aug. 21.

Addressing the crowd of about 100, TMC president, Dr. Emir Caner, noted that traditional enrollment is up about 10 percent, online enrollment is up 15-to-20 percent, and the school’s retention rate remains significantly above the national average.

The increased enrollment is an anomaly as new student population among regional colleges has dropped nationally by 2.3 percent since last spring, according to an article on, Caner said.

Caner attributed increased enrollment to the unique niche of Truett-McConnell, and the high retention rate of students to the staff and faculty, who treat students as individuals and not merely as names on a class roll. “Even in this economic climate, students are coming in droves to Truett-McConnell because of you,” he said.

“These students are making sacrifices,” he added. “They could attend another, less expensive college; but they cannot get the kind biblical education we offer.”

“I would rather train 300 warriors for Christ than 3,000 wimps,” continued Caner, noting that God continues to bless TMC because “we’re doing what we can to train a rising generation who will change the world for Christ.”

Caner cited six mission trips by students this summer as evidence that such change already is happening. Students ministered in Costa Rica, Peru, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, and in an undisclosed country near the Middle East.

“Our success is based upon strong identity,” said Caner, noting the four following distinctives:
— “We will never be ashamed of being a distinctly Christian college. Anyone is welcome here, but we want all students to know God and recognize his call upon their lives.”
— “We have a clear purpose, and that makes us different than many other schools.”
— “We enjoy wide support from the 3,600 Georgia Baptist churches that give us $1 million annually.”
— “Truett-McConnell College is a loving community.”

These distinctives are crucial far beyond Truett-McConnell’s identity and continued success, intimated Caner, who said: “Traditional marriage is at an all-time low; abortions are on the increase. If the family declines, so will education, and so will society.”

“However, this is a college where students are nurtured spiritually in a biblically distinctive atmosphere that honors Jesus Christ and his Great Commission,” Caner said. “Our goal is for students to be more passionate for God than when they got here.”

Introducing New Faculty

Caner welcomed:
— three-time Dove Award winner Dennis Allen as assistant professor of worship and church music;
— Steven Tyndale, assistant professor of music and director of instrumental studies;
— Deborah Alvater, assistant professor of nursing;
— Lisa LaPree, assistant professor of nursing;
— Susan Turpin, education and behavioral science division chair and associate professor of education, who is former principal of Clarkesville Elementary School, Habersham County;
— Angela Rainwater, assistant professor of education; and,
— Michael Whitlock, assistant professor of Christian studies.

Reporting on Academics

Dr. Brad Reynolds, vice president for academic services, reported that Truett-McConnell plans to increase its academic offerings with a Master of Arts in Theology degree in the fall of 2014. This will open the door for other Masters programs, he said.

Also on the drawing board are plans for a criminal justice degree.

Such curricular additions are not yet official and must be approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Reynolds later told TMCNews.

“We are not changing our vision, but are maintaining what God has called us to do,” Reynolds said. “We will continue to center our entire curriculum around the Bible, the word of God.”

Updated Facilities

Vice President for Administrative Services Mr. David Armstrong highlighted numerous upgrades to campus facilities, including a newly paved road, with a sidewalk that runs adjacent to the new dorm. Additional new sidewalks provide students with safe passage from the new dorm all the way to Miller Hall. A new parking lot by Otwell dorm provides 72 spaces.

Armstrong also noted the addition of lunch service at Outtakes in Miller Hall. “The people have spoken, and we have listened,” he said. “By popular demand, we will offer this and then evaluate it.”

The campus also has 51 new Wi-Fi Internet access points offering a 150 mbps rate.

Armstrong introduced Dr. John Yarbrough, director of alumni relations. An alumnus of TMC (’69), Yarbrough recently retired as pastor from Cleveland’s Mount Yonah Baptist Church.

Athletics Updates

Vice President for Student Services and Athletics Mr. Chris Eppling introduced Dr. Stay Hall, TMC’s athletics director, who touted the school’s new athletic website,

Introducing recent graduate Emily Grooms as the new sports information director, Hall said Grooms deserves extensive credit for her work in launching the new website.

Hall also introduced Tiek Fields, assistant men’s basketball coach; Angel Granados, assistant women’s soccer coach; and Allen Hayes, volunteer coach for volleyball.

TMC has spent about $100,000 on improvements to athletic facilities, Hall said, including upgrades in the gymnasium and on the baseball field.

Expressing gratitude for the numerous corporate sponsors coming on board with TMC, Hall said, “These sponsors believe in our vision, and they support the mission of what Truett-McConnell College is attempting to achieve.”

Accolades for Longevity

President Caner offered his thanks and gave plaques in honor of several staff and faculty, whose tenure at TMC spans as much as 35 years. Those persons and their years of service included: Michael Justus, Humanities division chair/professor of history, 10 years; Melissa Fortner, registrar, 15 years; Sandy Harris, information technology, 20 years; Jeanavon Burrows, administrative assistant to the president, 20 years; Deborah Garrett, administrative assistant, admissions, 25 years; and Gloria Sutton, campus mail services, 35 years.

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