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UMobile taps Timothy L. Smith as president

MOBILE, Ala. (BP) — Trustees of the University of Mobile have selected Timothy L. Smith as the fourth president its 54-year history.

Smith, 52, is provost of Anderson University in South Carolina. Previously, he was dean of Union University’s school of nursing in Tennessee where he oversaw a 79 percent expansion in enrollment and founded the Center for Excellence in Healthcare Practice that included a nurse residency program for five hospitals.

“The University of Mobile has a great foundation, with many building blocks already above the foundation,” Smith said, noting “huge opportunities to serve the community and partner with so many organizations.”

“I want people inside the institution and externally to know that I’m coming in to listen; I’m coming in to collaborate; and I’m coming in to partner,” the president-elect said.

Smith will assume the presidency May 16, succeeding Mark Foley, who announced his retirement last October after 18 years as leader of the Baptist-affiliated liberal arts university. In January, trustees launched a nationwide search for his successor.

UMobile trustee chair Fred Wilson, former partner in P.J. Lumber Co. in Mobile, introduced the Smith at a news conference today (Monday) at the university’s Harrigan Center. Joining in the introduction were Terry Harbin, chair of the presidential search committee, and Foley. The press conference followed a trustee meeting called specifically to elect the next president of the 1,500-student university.

“Dr. Tim Smith will be a president for every constituency of the university,” Wilson said. “He is a tireless worker and a great visionary with a broad range of experience.”

Harbin said the search committee recommended Smith for three primary reasons.

Smith, who holds two Ph.D.s and is licensed by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, “is unbelievably well-qualified through his academic preparation,” Harbin said.

“Secondly, he has practical experience. He has done in other places what we need done at the University of Mobile. And thirdly, he has demonstrated humility. A man who has accomplished what he has accomplished in life to come in and be a down-to-earth, Christ-centered servant is amazing,” said Harbin, a past chair of UMobile’s trustees and market president of BancorpSouth Bank in Mobile.

Smith and his wife Penney, a healthcare administrator consultant helping hospitals with regulatory compliance, have a grown son and daughter.

Foley said he and his wife Marilyn are “delighted to welcome Tim and Penney to the University of Mobile family.” Having “invested 18 years of our lives into this special place,” Foley said, he can think of “no better person to lead the university to even greater things than Dr. Tim Smith.”

Smith holds a Ph.D. in leadership and a master of arts in theological studies, both from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; a Ph.D. in nursing (anesthesia) from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Graduate College; a master of science degree in nursing from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, College of Nursing; a diploma in nurse anesthesia from the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine; a bachelor of science in nursing from Memphis State University; and a diploma in nursing from Baptist Memorial Hospital School of Nursing.

Smith has held a variety of academic positions, from assistant professor to provost. He joined Anderson University in 2014 as vice president of strategic initiatives and special associate to the provost, becoming provost in 2015. In addition to overseeing day-to-day operations of the university, he led an effort to establish it as a leader in the health sciences. Since 2014 he has served as adjunct professor in the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at Southern Seminary.

At the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, College of Nursing, from 1997-2004, Smith rose from assistant professor to associate professor, and director of the nurse anesthesia program. At Union University from 2005-2014, he started as associate professor and dean of the school of nursing, rising to professor and then executive director of the Center for Excellence in Health Care Practice.

He worked as a cardiovascular intensive care registered nurse in Memphis at Baptist Memorial Hospital Central and Methodist Hospitals Central. Later, he was a CRNA, RN and physician assistant with Medical Anesthesia Group and Cardiovascular Center, both in Memphis. He also served as a CRNA with Anesthesiologist Associates and also Anesthesia Consultants, both in Chattanooga.

Smith said he will focus on building upon the heritage of faith at the University of Mobile, while working toward even stronger academics with continued growth in the spiritual formation of students.

“When I looked at the University of Mobile, what I saw very quickly and what I heard very quickly is that it is an institution that it is rock-solid in its faith on God’s Word, in that we depend on Him and we are led by Him as we continue moving forward,” Smith said. “My experience in academia is that there are a lot of changes you can make in an institution, but if an institution has wandered from its faith, it is very hard to bring the institution back to that.

“The University of Mobile has such a strength in the intentionality of its faith-based approach to Christian higher education. That’s the No. 1 thing that attracted me,” Smith said.

Both Anderson University and Union University are Southern Baptist-affiliated schools, like the University of Mobile. Smith said serving in Christian higher education “has been a calling on my professional life for several years. This is why I went back to seminary, to continue to strengthen my understanding of Christian worldview.”

The Smiths are members at Taylors First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C.

Search Committee chair Harbin said 38 candidates applied for the post, and the committee interviewed six. While any of the final six would be well-qualified for the job, he said Smith was the unanimous choice to recommend as Foley’s successor.

Among Foley achievements were an intentional integration of a Christian worldview into all aspects of academics and campus life. Also during his tenure, the university invested $44.8 million in capital projects, built residence halls to double the capacity to 734 and created the Center for Performing Arts.

The University of Mobile, which is affiliated with the Alabama Baptist State Convention, is located on an 880-acre campus near Mobile, with more than 40 undergraduate and graduate programs in the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, School of Christian Ministries, School of Education, School of Nursing, School of Worship Leadership and The Roger Breland School of Music, Adult and Professional Studies.

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  • Kathy Dean