By Gerard Flanagan, news writer and photographer, Office of University Communications
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – Dr. Joseph Hopkins was in what he called his “dream job” as dean of the School of Arts at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. when he was told about an opening for the presidency at Campbellsville University.
At first, the opening wasn’t on Hopkins’ radar, but as he talked with a search agent about the job and the university, Hopkins said “God began to work in my heart as I heard how CU was living out its bold mission.”
Nearly a year later, Hopkins was officially inaugurated as the 12th president of Campbellsville University in Ransdell Chapel Sept. 16.
“Most of you here today have seen and heard the sacred work of Campbellsville University,” Hopkins said. “To be a part of this university family is nothing less than an honor, and to be trusted with any level of leadership is a holy mantle.”
The theme for Hopkins’ inauguration was “Legacy of Hope,” a legacy that began “with a group of faithful saints in 1906,” according to Hopkins.
That legacy “has continued to this moment, and we stand at a new threshold of promise and hope,” he said.
Hopkins said a legacy of hope begins with a foundation. In his address, Hopkins said his mother and grandmother would sing with him at the piano during his childhood. It was in that time that Hopkins heard of God’s plan for his life.
“He had made a way to forgiveness, and through the faithful teaching of my parents, I heard and received God’s incredible gift of salvation,” Hopkins said.
Today, Campbellsville University stands on a foundation of Jesus Christ and His word, Hopkins said.
“You see, it is the tradition of this university in times of crisis and possibility to lean on God’s wisdom rather than our own,” he said.
At various times in its history, Campbellsville University has faced financial challenges and other difficulties.
“Devoted leaders, faculty, students and supporters saw us through those challenges,” Hopkins said. “It is a legacy of foundation rooted in prayer, sacrifice and steadfast faithfulness.”
A legacy of hope grows in fellowship, Hopkins said.
“Walking together we find ourselves sharing in this journey, encouraging through loss and defeat, deepening the relationship of love that binds us together,” Hopkins said.
When Dr. Kenneth W. Winters became president of Campbellsville College in the summer of 1988, retention was an acute problem.
“With purpose, faith and ingenuity, initiatives were created toward recruiting, retention, strategic planning and master campus planning,” Hopkins said. “Significant improvements were made to buildings, freshman retention rose as high as 93% and record enrollments were achieved.”
The university has established regional educational centers across the Commonwealth and the nation. Another center will soon open in Canada.
“Together, the CU family found creative and innovative ways to accomplish God’s commission and reach every deserving student,” Hopkins said.
Campbellsville University is built upon abiding relationships that span generations, Hopkins said.
“As we walk through this place, remember these challenges, and remind one another of the incredible stories of accomplishment as a team,” Hopkins said. “Our lives become woven together, we lean upon one another, and we are shaped and deepened by the blessings God provides.”
Hopkins said a legacy of hope yields joy today for the promise of tomorrow, with Psalm 30 declaring “Joy comes in the morning.”
“But the morning is a time of anticipation, not a time of accomplishment,” Hopkins said. “Friends, I believe this Scripture teaches us there is joy as we anticipate what is yet to come, and most assuredly, this is Campbellsville University.”
“For more than 116 years, we have lived in the joy of today for God’s promise of tomorrow.”
Hopkins told the story of the beginning of his marriage to his wife, Suzanne, and how they envisioned the traditional path of shaping a family.
“However, after 11 years of struggle and serious health challenges, God turned our hearts toward the idea of adoption,” Hopkins said.
The Hopkins family welcomed Joseph 19 years ago, and two years later, his brother, Vance, would join the family.
“There was true joy in the morning of our new family,” Hopkins said. “The same sense of family is true here at CU.”
A legacy of hope is exemplified with the start of each academic year, when Campbellsville University welcomes a new class of students, according to Hopkins.
“We don’t know their stories, the good and the bad – but from the moment they declare CU as their home, they are forever ours, and the bond is certain,” he said.
The generosity of donors and faculty and staff who invest in the lives of students have contributed to this legacy of hope.
“You have forever changed us, strengthened us and made us better,” Hopkins said. “So, it is this Legacy of Hope that compels you and me to pour ourselves into the future of these students and many more yet to come.”
Hopkins said Campbellsville University will be built upon “the perfect, trustworthy and true Word of God.” He said Campbellsville University will reach toward “every deserving student with exceptional education as we prepare them to become salt and light for Christ.”
And, Hopkins said Campbellsville University will renovate old buildings, erect new buildings and equip faculty and classrooms with the best tools in the industry.
The university’s most important work will be in the “building of an army of ambassadors who will carry the love of Christ, the fragrance of Christ and the hope of Christ as salt and light to a world in need.”
“We will go to the ends of the earth and the range of our creative imagination to deliver opportunity,” Hopkins said, “and we will climb to new heights of scholarship and pedagogy to be sure the education each student receives is exceptional.”
Hopkins called Campbellsville University a “life-changing, world-shaping cause.”
“It was the mission of CU that drew us to you,” Hopkins said. “It is this same mission that makes our hearts want to serve as long as you will have us. And it is the Christ-centered, outward-focused mission of CU that continues to draw countless faculty, staff, students and friends to give their lives toward honoring God in this place.”
“And through all of this, God has promised that He will be faithful.”
The following individuals provided greetings at the ceremony: Dr. Larry Noe, chair of the presidential search committee and member of the Campbellsville University Board of Trustees; Kate Cecil, president of Campbellsville University’s Student Government Association; Dr. Joe Owens, member of the Campbellsville University Board of Trustees and pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church; Leah Magers, president of the Campbellsville University Board of Alumni; and Dr. Twyla Hernandez, chair of the university’s faculty forum and professor of Christian missions.
“After we had gone through an extensive process and interviewed a diverse group of candidates, it was the unanimous consent of the members of the committee that Dr. Joe Hopkins was God’s man for Campbellsville University at this time,” Noe said.
During her remarks, Cecil discussed Campbellsville University’s motto, “Find your calling.”
“This has been completely true for me,” Cecil said. “Campbellsville is where you come to grow and take steps toward your desired future. We want this hope to be true for Dr. Hopkins as well. We are so grateful you have been called here.”
“I know his term as president will enrich our campus and lead Campbellsville University on the path that God has placed it.”
Owens said Campbellsville University has been an integral part of church life in Kentucky throughout its history.
“Under your leadership, Dr. Hopkins, the churches of this Commonwealth are looking to your and this university’s continued pledge to give our students strong Biblical truth while molding and shaping their spiritual, academic and civic lives,” Owens said.
Magers, whose grandparents attended Campbellsville University when it was known as Russell Creek Academy, and who has had multiple other family members attend Campbellsville University, discussed the importance of family bonds in her remarks.
“These bonds formed have and will continue to last a lifetime,” Magers said. “Dr. Hopkins, we know these bonds will grow stronger through your leadership, and we look forward to you inspiring us with your guidance and legacy of hope.”
Hernandez read from Isaiah 40:31: “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
“These words from Isaiah 40:31 evidence the Christian hope we have this day,” she said. “Under your leadership, this university will soar to new heights of Christian service, and we will run and not grow weary as we serve together in this historic institution.”
Three pastors who served with the Hopkins family each provided a charge to Dr. Hopkins.
Dr. Joby Tricquet, pastor of Fairfax Baptist Church, Fairfax, Va., provided a charge of hope to Dr. Hopkins.
“I ask you, and I charge you to move forward in hope,” Tricquet said, “knowing Biblical hope, hope we have in Christ Jesus, is not a wish, but a confidence that God is faithful to His word, keeps His promise, and as you are faithful and march forward in hope, what great days lie ahead.”
Tricquet told Hopkins a legacy is not merely something on which you stand but is something entrusted to him.
“You have a great legacy here at this great university,” Tricquet said. “Since 1906, its cause has been for the Kingdom of Christ. Treasure it. Hold tightly to it. Take it to where it needs to go next.”
Dr. Jim Cooley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., echoed the university’s motto, “Find your calling,” as he provided a charge of ministry to Hopkins.
“I know the reason you are on this campus today is because you believe serving as president of Campbellsville University is answering God’s call,” Cooley said. “Fulfill your calling every day. Be faithful to the Word. Let the Lord use you, and do all in Jesus’ name.”
Dr. Charles T. Carter, pastor emeritus at Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Birmingham, Ala., gave a charge of legacy to Hopkins.
“Everyone leaves a legacy,” he said. “People will remember you by something. I hope you will find through Him a legacy of faith.”
Dr. Andrew Westmoreland, president emeritus of Samford University in Birmingham, recounted a story where the Samford University community grieved the death of a student.
“I watched as he comforted a grief-stricken mother and family,” Westmoreland said. “There are moments when a presidency cannot be faked. I have seen inside the soul of Joe Hopkins and lying securely within him is a moral compass that points true north and a heart that beats in solidarity with those he serves.”
Henry Lee, chair of the Campbellsville University Board of Trustees, presented the presidential medallion to Hopkins. Hernandez and Dr. Donna Hedgepath, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Campbellsville University, presented the university’s mace. Hedgepath also called the inauguration ceremony to order.
Dr. H. Keith Spears, chancellor for university system advancement and 11th president of Campbellsville University, presented the Hopkins family.
Dr. Tony Cunha, dean of the School of Music, led in the singing of songs and hymns.
Dr. Wayne Dickard, pastor and evangelist, provided the invocation. Dr. John Hurtgen, dean of the School of Theology, gave the benediction.
Hopkins and his wife, Suzanne, sang “Yours Is The Kingdom” as a song of testimony.
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with an enrollment of nearly 12,000 students. The university offers over 100 programs of study including doctoral, masters, bachelors, associate and certification programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.