Lee University Inaugurates President Mark L. Walker
By Eliza Souers
Lee University formally inaugurated Dr. Mark L. Walker as its 17th president on Friday, April 23.
During his inaugural address, Walker expressed his hopes for the future of Lee. He also addressed five commitments for the university to focus on: mission excellence, academic expansion, student and community engagement, program innovation, and ministerial development.
“We are called upon today to sharpen our vision of sending forth graduates who think critically, communicate effectively, and engage all cultures thoughtfully in order to serve as creative, caring, resilient, and skilled problem solvers and servant leaders,” said Walker. “In response to this mandate, we must maintain these five fundamental commitments.”
His address focused on being a light in a dark world and how Lee’s students can do that.
“Lee University’s mission of preparing students for responsible Christian living in a complex world is vital to our society today,” said Walker. “We are sending forth light-bearers into all fields of endeavor to lead and serve like Christ for the betterment of all humanity. The world is a better place with Lee students in it.”
Walker received many well wishes and support from members of faculty, church, local government, community, alumni, students, and Lee’s Board of Directors. Dr. Tim Hill, the general overseer of the Church of God, Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks, and Cleveland Vice-mayor Avery Johnson contributed to the expressions. Also presenting were Lee alumna Vanessa Torrence, current student Dhuranique Ferguson, and members of the Lee employee family Dr. Shane Griffith and Stephanie Taylor. Each speaker presented hopes, support, and challenges for the future.
“As students, we have seen Dr. Walker continually put his confidence and trust in God while simultaneously trusting his students to be bold and competent leaders of change on this campus and in the world,” said Dhuranique Ferguson, a senior exercise science and pre-athletic training major who spoke on behalf of the student body. “I trust and hope that Dr. Walker will approach this new journey with grace, accountability, and truth.”
During the Investiture, Jerry Madden, a member of the Board of Directors, presented Walker with the Investiture Bible, originally owned by Lee s second president, F.J. Lee, for whom Lee University is named. Dennis Livingston, chair of the Board of Directors, presented the Presidential Medallion.
“The tradition of the kingdom of God and of Christian higher education is to embrace not only God’s word but also the arts and sciences,” said Livingston. “This mission has been carried forward by many Lee presidents who, as leaders of this institution, have been faithful stewards of God. Lee today is a monument to their stewardship and to the grace of God. This is the tradition that we now transmit to Dr. Walker.”
Walker succeeds Lee Chancellor Dr. Paul Conn, who served as the university’s president for 34 years, making this the school’s first inauguration ceremony since 1986, the fifth formal in the school’s history. Walker began his presidency in August, but because of the pandemic, official celebrations were postponed.
“We need an individual who will share our aspirations and give clarity and focus to our dreams,” said Conn. “We need someone who will stimulate and challenge us intellectually, someone who can give voice to our moral and spiritual commitments, someone who energizes and inspires us to grow and achieve. That’s what we have in Dr. Walker.”
Music selections were presented through a unique combination of live and recorded performances, featuring the Lee University Wind Ensemble, Voices of Lee, and the Lee Festival Choir and Orchestra. Students, staff, and faculty were encouraged to join one of three watch parties on Lee’s campus to view the livestream of the ceremony.
“I’m thankful to have been able to witness the inauguration of President Walker,” said Emily Chesteen, a sophomore advertising and studio production major. “I admire his heart for this campus, and I hope he continues to love and listen to his students as he goes forward in his presidency.”
Prior to his presidential appointment, Walker served as vice president for ministerial development and chair of the Department of Christian Ministries at the university for three years.
Before that, he served as pastor at Mount Paran North Church of God for 25 years. He also served on Lee’s Board of Directors for seven years.
The university also held a special student-led inauguration chapel on Thursday to honor Walker and his family.
To view the inauguration ceremony and other videos created for the event, visit leeuniversity.edu/inauguration/.