HANNIBAL – As one of his last official duties as president of Hannibal-LaGrange University (HLGU) before he retires in three months, Woodrow “Woody” Burt addressed 192 graduates and their guests during the May 5 commencement exercises.
“Graduates, you’ve been educated from a Christian perspective because that is what education in America was intended to do, and that’s what HLGU is all about,” he said.
“It is a transformation process of the renewing of your mind,” Burt continued, alluding to Paul’s charge in Romans to not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. “Collegiate learning was designed to help students learn to love God with all their mind. The education and training you’ve received here at HLGU is far more than mere acquisition of knowledge, or the mastering of a subject or gaining understanding in a particular field of study.
“This institution’s motto is ‘scientia ad serviendum,’ or ‘knowledge for service.’ What you’ve gained here in wisdom and insight is intended to propel you into a hurting world equipped to care for others and to make a difference. Show the world you care. Remind yourself every day when you get up that today is a gift from God, use the day wisely and cherish it. In Ephesians 4:1, Paul writes ‘I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.’ Graduates, good luck, and may God bless you as you put your knowledge to service.”
Since coming to the Baptist university more than 30 years ago, Burt has seen the campus experience many changes. When he arrived as a member of the faculty, the school totaled 369 students. This past fall the enrollment topped 1,200.
“We both stand on the threshold of a new adventure in our lives,” he said. “For you, it’s the beginning, and for me, it’s the close of my time at Hannibal-LaGrange. But I have a lot more I want to accomplish, just as I know you do.”
Burt served as a HLGU faculty member, director of admissions, dean of student affairs, academic dean and registrar, chief development officer, executive vice president, interim president and since 1995 presides as president. Thirty-three of his 38 years in higher education have been devoted to HLGU. Burt earned his Educational Specialist and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Burt was ordained to the ministry in 1967 and has served in ministry positions throughout the Midwest.
Burt and his wife, Katherine, have three children and five (soon to be six) grandchildren. Burt and Katherine, who teaches English at HLGU, will guest-teach at a sister university in Cambridge, England, this fall. She will return to HLGU for the spring 2013 semester before retiring next May.