A Message From the President

When you’re with a group of people, or are part of a club or organization, and you feel particularly warm toward it, there’s usually no greater compliment to pay than to say something like, “This feels like family to me.” It’s a meaningful expression because it says the people involved are close and that they care for one another and spend enough time together to feel like the relationships are full of love, respect and caring. To say something “feels like family” is to say that we grieve with one another and we laugh with one another, and we support one another sacrificially.

This is the kind of thing that Paul said about Timothy (Philippians 2:19-23) when he sent him to Philippi. He said that Timothy was like a son to him, and also, that he knew of no one who would care as much for the Philippians as Timothy would. The words throughout this passage have strong family connections.

We often refer to “the HBU family,” and when we do, we are referring broadly to several ways that the idea of a family relates to HBU.

First, there are some historic families (see, for example, the article about Jim and Sherry Smith) who have led us in time, talent and donations throughout all the decades of HBU’s existence. Without them, we wouldn’t be here.

Also, by “family,” we are referring to the networks of support that we continue to build for alumni and friends.

And, of course, by the word “family,” we are referring to the care that HBU faculty and staff have for students. There are very few universities in our country where, for example, if a student is absent from class more than once, the professor will ask about her or him and reach out to help. I know of many instances in which a student was absent from a major exam or even the final exam, and the professor would get a fellow student to call and check on the one who is absent or do so personally.

It is commonplace here at HBU for professors and staff members to spend multiplied hours counseling with students and even praying with them. I know – though these must remain anonymous – of instances where HBU faculty and staff have given sacrificially of their time and resources for their students.

I know of a recent initiative undertaken by one of our professors – and he is spreading what he is learning to others – that points to his own concern for students who don’t succeed on the first test in his class. He has developed new strategies for mentoring and guiding toward academic success. It takes a lot of time, and there’s no extra pay for it, but the truth is, he simply cares. In fact, our entire Looper Learning Commons is dedicated, not just to academic success, but personal success, involving emotional, social and spiritual development.

When I first came to HBU – in fact it was in an opening round of interviews – one of the faculty members told me about the sense of community and fellowship here. I can honestly say after almost 13 years that I found that to be true then and it continues to grow today — exactly what you expect love to do. I’m confident it all begins with the shared devotion to Christ that is the foundation for all that we do at the University. You won’t always find here a uniformity of strategies or ideas, but you will find genuine warmth and care for one another and a common commitment to all the things that truly matter.

When Hurricane Harvey hit and there was great flooding, students went immediately into the community to help those in need. Faculty and staff formed teams of people who went throughout Houston to help in the neighborhoods hardest hit. They helped strangers, fellow faculty members and staff, alumni, and the families of students. We continue to share resources as a University with those who still suffer the lingering effects of the floods.

This issue of The Pillars points in many ways to the character of HBU as a community that has the feel and the habits of a caring family. I think you’re going to enjoy reading about the many activities going on here in recent months. The nature of the University is a place that loves and cares, just like a family.

– Dr. Robert B. Sloan

© 2019 Houston Baptist University