Category: Florida

Story originating from Johnson University Florida.


Smith named seventh president of JU

Tommy Smith

Knoxville — Today in a ceremony at Alumni Memorial Chapel, Johnson University Board of Trustees Chairman L. D. Campbell announced that Tommy Smith has been named the president-elect of the Johnson University System.

Smith, JU’s current Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs, will be installed into office July 1, 2018 upon the retirement of current JU President Gary Weedman.

“Dr. Smith was an obvious choice for our board of trustees,” Campbell said.

He said Smith embodies the values and beliefs of the university

According to University Media Relations, Smith served Johnson University as a Professor of History from 1989-2012, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences from 2012-2014 and Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs since 2014.

In a statement of acceptance from Smith, he wrote “When the Board of Trustees extended the invitation to me to become the seventh president of Johnson University, I replied by stating, ‘There are many who love Johnson University as much as I do, but no one loves Johnson any more than me. I am humbled and honored to accept.’”

Smith said he has  invested the past 28 years of his life in this institution.

“I know much about the past of this school, have had a hand in shaping the present, and am so grateful that the trustees have given me opportunity to lead Johnson into the future,” Smith said.

Smith will have a year to prepare for his new role.

“I will have a full year of preparation for my work, and there will be more appropriate times to discuss specific plans, but I want to affirm from the beginning of this transition my commitment to the mission and core values of Johnson University,” he said. “I fully support the Third Way, Great Commission Mandate ‘to educate students for Christian ministries and other strategic vocations framed by the Great Commission in order to extend the kingdom of God among all nations.’”

Smith holds a B.A. degree from Johnson University, a M.A.R. in Church History from Emmanuel Christian Seminary, and a Ph.D. in American History from the University of Tennessee.

“He has held preaching, associate, youth, and worship ministries in East Tennessee and has engaged in several interim preaching ministries, seeking to assist churches during important transitional periods,” his official university bio says.

Smith is also the author of Above Every Other Desire: A Centennial History of Johnson Bible College.

He and his wife Debbie have two sons, Jacob and Joshua, and six grandchildren.

Weedman announced his retirement to the JU board Feb. 21. and the JU faculty and staff May 8.

Weedman was named president July 1, 2007.


Click here for more information about the president-elect.


Weedman announces retirement

KNOXVILLE — Johnson University President Gary Weedman announced to faculty and staff Monday that he will retire from the presidency of Johnson University at the end of the 2017-18 academic year.

His retirement will be effective June 30, 2018.

“Throughout Dr. Weedman’s tenure as president, Johnson University has experienced tremendous growth in enrollment, academic programs and facilities,” a statement released by the university said. “Next year will mark Dr. Weedman’s 11th year as president, 50th year in Christian higher education and his 75th birthday.”

The statement says Weedman informed the trustees of his decision in February.

“It is no small challenge to find a successor of Dr. Weedman’s caliber, and we covet your prayers during the presidential search,” JU Board of Trustee Chairman L.D. Campbell said in an open letter. ”

Weedman told faculty and staff that he will stay connected to the university in some capacity.

“Institutions, especially those favored by God, endure as resilient entities,” he said in his letter and told faculty and staff.  “No one person or persons prove to be indispensable. So, I do not worry about the future of Johnson University. God will continue to bless the school as it stays true to its mission.”

Weedman has long touted the quality of Johnson University.

“I will have occasion later to reflect on the past 11 years,” Weedman wrote in an open letter. “I have emphasized throughout that we are a 10-Talent School because of the faithful service of our predecessors and an outpouring of God’s blessings.

“We have tried to use the results of their good work to educate students to help extend the kingdom of God among all nations. It has been a joy to see God expand these efforts beyond our imagination,” he added.

The statement from the university says that the board of trustees has begun a presidential search.


SACSCOC approves JU reaffirmation, gives recommendation on assessment

KNOXVILLE — For most students and alumni, Johnson’s accreditation reaffirmation in December went by with little fanfare, or even acknowledgement. But for administrators, faculty  and staff, the reaffirmation was the culmination of year’s of work.

Johnson received its 10 year reaffirmation of accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges Dec. 4, 2016.

The Vice President for Academic Affairs/Provost, Tommy Smith said, “We invest a lot of time into this [two year process] because it’s worth it—Worth it for the students and University.”

Being accredited places the University in a class of high quality that reflects the best practices in education.

Read More


Wolf clears up confusion over chapel requirements

KNOXVILLE — Chapel is required for all Johnson students, both traditional and non-traditional.

Chapel requirements are broken down based on full-time or part-time status.

If you are a full time student you are required to go to three chapels a week, whether you are a traditional or non-traditional student. You can either attend or attain credit for these three chapels, through chapel make-ups.

Online students that are still in an on-ground program have the same chapel requirements as traditional students. They make up every chapel online since they can not attend on-ground.

You can miss up to three chapels and still have an A. You can miss up to six and still have a B. Any more than six misses and you fail. That is the same for both students that are attending chapel and making up chapel.

“Where there is some distinction, is what sorts of absences are allowed to be made up,” Dean of the Chapel, Bill Wolf, said.

There are five options for missing a chapel that are excused, a work schedule conflict and illness are two.

For commuting students, if they do not have a reason to be on campus directly before or after chapel, can make up the chapel without an ordinary excuse or conflict. Therefore they are not required to come to campus early or stay late just for chapel.

Chapel make-ups are posted on Sakai in the Chapel tab. Chapel makeups are only available online for seven days after the original chapel occurred.

“The reality is, no chapel absence is excused,” Wolf said.

Every absence is an absence, whether that be a personal absence or an administrative absence, which means the University/administration caused the absence.

Administrative absences include; basketball trip, tour choir trips, baseball trips, conferences for classes, etc.

These kinds of absences do not have to be made up.

“The reality is, the only kind of absence that will be excused or doesn’t count against you is one the school has caused,” Wolf said.

An example of an administrative absence that does not need to be made up is if the student misses due to work study.

If a student works during chapel for one or all three of the required meeting days, no make-up is required.

However, the administration that caused the absence must notify Wolf before the absence will be excused.

Presently the JU Tennessee campus and the JU Florida campus have different chapel requirements.

When JUFL was first adopted by Johnson, their chapel met once a week at 11 a.m. on Tuesday’s. They also had D-Groups that were not connected to chapel.

To bring the JUFL and JUTN campuses into alignment, JUFL’s chapel was moved to 9 a.m. and the D-Groups were attached to chapel requirements to resemble JUTN Wednesday chapel groups.

For the Thursday chapel requirement, JUFL meets five or six times each semester. This is a step towards them having chapel every week on Thursday, to match the JUTN campus.

As of right now, JUFL and JUTN chapel requirements are not the same.

“We are moving toward the requirements being aligned perfectly,” Wolf said.

Wolf said that the reason Johnson has such a focus on chapel is embedded in the mission statement of the University which ends in “To extend the Kingdom to all nations.”

“Chapel is a time in which we come together as individuals who are hopefully living our lives as living sacrifices through pleasing acts of worship,” Wolf said.

Wolf compared chapel to breathing in the air of the Kingdom.

“This Kingdom we want to extend is not just a theory, it is not just an idea, it is a living breathing reality that we experience in Christ,” Wolf said. “In order to extend that Kingdom we need to breath in the air of that Kingdom, and chapel is the time that we put away our books, put away our laptops, put away our homework, put away disagreements we might have with our roommate, we put that stuff aside and just focus on Jesus.”

Wolf said another important aspect to having chapel is in the identity of JU as a whole.

“It is important to our identity. We are Christians, and as Christians we worship God. That is our identity and it is our identity as a University,” Wolf said.

Wolf said that this is most clearly seen in Johnson’s Homecoming celebrations.

Wolf said that where other schools have special sporting events, Johnson worships. Gathering together for sessions of study, teachings, and praying.

“When we contemplate Christ, the Spirit transforms us into the likeness of Christ, so we come together to contemplate, focus on Jesus and believe in his Spirit to transform us into the likeness of Jesus,” Wolf said. “That is part of how we extend our mission, we gather together to worship.”


JUFL campus hosts summer music camp

KNOXVILLE — Johnson University Florida’s School of Communication and Creative Arts is preparing for Resound, a summer music camp and concert tour experience for high school upperclassman.

JUFL Performing Arts Director, Dirk Donahue and Assistant Dean and professor of music, Ruth Reyes, will lead a group of JU alumni in conducting the camp.

Resound runs from July 9-16 on the Florida campus. It coincides with another event called Missions Metropolis.

Reyes gave details on what participants can expect from both events.

“While on campus, students of both camps will eat together, study the Bible together, worship together, play together, then separate into their intensive preparation to go on a concert tour or go on a missions trip,” Reyes said.

Reyes said the the Resound program is modeled after New Creation, JUFL’s auditioned vocal band that represents the University at all major events.

“It is a fun week of intense rehearsals to put together a worship concert and then go on a mini-tour at the end of the week,” Reyes said. “Imagine this unique experience with all the tour grind of set-up, tear-down, and developing friendships with other creative students.”

After a week of hard work, the participants will travel to churches in Central and North Florida to perform a worship concert.

The cost of the camp is $225 and includes meals, housing, programming, and tour travel. The deadline to apply is June 1.

Vocalist and instrumentalist must post a video on YouTube or Vimeo performing a modern praise song.

Incoming juniors and seniors, as well new high school graduates who are vocalists, instrumentalist or in tech production are encouraged to participate.

Apply for Resound here.



JU Royals, Suns take on ICOM 2016

Lexington — This weekend students from Johnson University Tennessee and Florida attended the International Conference On Missions in Lexington,Ky. This year’s theme was “Mobilize: Disciples Making Disciples”


Each year, participants from all over the world join together at ICOM to engage in the world of missions and learn what it means to spread the Gospel throughout the world.

The conference was based around the idea that the church should become disciples that mobilize and produce more disciples. ICOM challenges the church to engage in missions and assists in training, equipping, and mobilizing disciples through the power of the Gospel.

Along with JU students, many members of the faculty and staff traveled to ICOM.

“I’ve traveled to 48 different countries,” JU President Gary  Weedman said. “I’ve been to many of the countries represented here and I enjoy getting  to see people I’ve met abroad.”

Main session speakers included: Mike and Karolyn Schrage, Andrew Jit, Oscar Muriu, Frank Preston,Kyle Idleman and Lee Bridges.

Testimony speakers included: Yvette Mujawayuhi,Traci Harrod, Dennis Okoth, Duane Jenks,Timothy P, Yassir E and Scott Young. There were also skit performances by Chad Brown.

“It was super cool,” JUFL student, Lexie Goodman said. “I got to go out to eat with missionaries and we talked about long term in the field.

“I got a better insight of what my future could be,” she said.

Each day consisted of a morning session, worship, a time of offering, three workshops throughout the day,and concluded with an evening session.

While some students were attending ICOM for the first time, others attend ICOM every year.

“I keep coming back because it is my way of getting connected to the different mission groups here and seeing my old friends,” said JUTN student Ashley Curtis.

JUFL Student Body President, Seth McManus also attended ICOM and mentioned the unity between the two Johnson campuses present at ICOM.

“I love ICOM — We send more people each year and just seeing how they respond is great,” he said. “I got to meet with Kaleb Mullins (JUTN Student Body President) and just seeing the unity of the two campuses is super cool—  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

All of the 2016 testimonies and sessions can be viewed on the ICOM 2016 Livestream. Next year’s theme is “Together” and ICOM will be held in Peoria, IL Nov. 16-19 2017.

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JUTN Royals gain victory against JUFL Suns in volleyball match

KNOXVILLE – The JUTN Royals volleyball team won their match against the JUFL Suns yesterday at 7 p.m. in the Phillips-Welshimer Building Gym. Both teams fought hard but the Royals came away with the win leading in all three sets.

Royals player 15,Taylor Bayham, and player 13, Alexandra Harrel were both recognized before the game for senior night.

Both teams put forward much needed effort. The Royals did not let the Suns get too far ahead and maintained the lead for a majority of the game. At a couple of points in each set, the teams were tied but that did not prevent the Royals from dominating the scoreboard.

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For more information on the Royals and other Johnson University athletics, visit the Johnson University athletic Sports page


Johnson sees first drop in enrollment in four years

KNOXVILLE — When students arrived on campus this semester, they may have been surprised by a small paper sign, on the door of Johnson Hall First North Hall, that simply reads “guest housing.”

While the guest housing is nice for visitors to the university, university officials would rather have students staying in those rooms. The hall closure is due to to a surprising drop in enrollment the university has experienced this fall.


Johnson Hall 1st North closed off to students and being used instead for guest housing.

The 2016-2017 academic year came with the first drop in enrollment for Johnson University in four years, Tommy Smith, Vice President for Academic Affairs/Provost, and Richard Clark, Vice President for External Relations/Chief Advancement Officer, both confirmed.

New student enrollment for JUTN went down 11 percent  and for JUFL it went down 13 percent. However, online enrollment went up 19 percent, Clark informed.

“We are down overall about 55 or 56 students from last fall,” Smith said. “We are significantly down in traditional undergraduates on both JUTN and JUFL campuses.

Smith said traditional undergraduate enrollment was where the largest drop was seen. This is a major concern to university administrators since it is such a large part of the university’s revenue stream.

“We are about even in on campus graduate students, and then online we are way up. Online we are nearly up 60 students overall,” he said.

There are currently a total of 1,327 students enrolled at Johnson.

Up until July ’16 an increase in student enrollment was anticipated.  

“July saw an unprecedented drop off in our ‘pipeline’,” Clark said. Clark was referring to the pipeline of perspective students who were considering Johnson.

Smith told Faculty Friday that towards the end of June, applications were outpacing past years by about 50.

“In June we were still tracking ahead of last year,” Smith said. “Then in July and August, the bottom fell out. We had a whole bunch of students that decided to go somewhere else.”

Smith said the decrease in new student enrollment numbers was exacerbated  by the fact that many students did not return to JU following last year. Also, a record graduating class contributed to lower enrollment this year.

“. . . and that’s why the big drop,” he said.  “You can’t always control the new students.”

While university administrators are concerned about the enrollment drop, they are still optimistic about Johnson’s future.

“We certainly are concerned when we don’t have a record enrollment or meet our goals that we have,” Smith said. “No one is panicking though. We recognize that we’ve got good people, good procedures in place, and a great campus.”

JUTN had record enrollment across the past four years, and Smith said to be down one year is not unusual.

The fall in enrollment does have administrators reevaluating this year’s budget. Johnson is somewhat dependent on tuition income for revenue and Smith said “if tuition and income is down, if students are down, then we have to make adjustments in the budget.”

Smith did say students could be assured that no cuts of any kind were made on essential services, staff, hours or faculty members, and no programs were diminished in result of the drop.

“Long term, if this [decrease in enrollment] were to happen year after year then you’ve got to start looking at programs and personnel,”Smith said. “But one year, like this, is not going to effect programs or personnel.”

No single reason can be pinpointed as to why Johnson has experienced this sudden drop. Both Smith and Clark agree that it is a combination of factors, of which all are being extensively studied.

The first step in moving forward includes gaining a better understanding as to why there was a decrease in enrollment.

“It’s diagnosis before prescription,” Clark said. “It’s always better to have an understanding of what got you [to where you are] before you start deciding we’re going to do ‘this’ or ‘that’, and start chasing down a solution that might not fit the situation.”

Clark said that both external and internal reasons likely contributed to the drop.

“In other words, the climate surrounding overall college enrollment is changing, it is a more competitive environment for universities then it ever has been, and there are a variety of factors related to that,” he said. “Additionally, internally, we’ve had a lot of turnover in our admissions department. Especially at the highest levels.”

Clark said a number of directors had left the school and new personnel are in place.

“Of course we gained a lot of directors too, very good people [are] in these positions now,” he said. “We also lost our Vice President for enrollment services, Tim Wingfield, this last year. All of this instability, we think, has contributed. We think there are some specific things we have to do better than last year.”

Smith agrees.

“There is a definite process by which the admissions office works with, we look at every aspect of this,” Smith said.

For Smith, the most important focus going forward is retention. Retention is the rate at which you keep continuing students from year to year.

“We have historically had a very high retention rate, 85-90 percent,” Smith said. ” This year it is down to about 80 percent.” Smith said there was also a drop in retention from fall to spring last year, which is concerning.

The university recently hired a new Director of Retention for this academic year, Demetrius Jaggers, who has been tasked with evaluating and addressing retention issues.

“He is already putting together teams on both campuses to analyze retention from the last four or five years,” Smith said. “[They] look at what happened this year and then try to put some policies and processes in place to try and improve retention.”

JUFL has also seen a drop in continuing students.

“In Florida we had about 13 fewer continuing students,” Smith said. “So we go back and analyze, who are those students, why didn’t they come back, and if there are reasons we can find and correct, we want to correct.”

Smith said both campus communities will continue to focus on what they know works.

“We do know, what works for new students, is making sure we keep personal touch,” he said. “What Johnson does, is we connect personally with these applicants.”

The drop in enrollment is a situation that no one has direct control over, but Clark said they will respond to the reality of the situation.

“We are not waiting around,” Smith said.

“What we believe is that Johnson is very good at providing a value,” Clark said. “There are things that Johnson is able to provide that no public University is ever going to be able to provide to students, no matter how inexpensive it is. The ‘value’ is what we focus on.”

“We provide it at a comparatively inexpensive rate,” he continued. “We do everything we can to keep the cost of education here, within reach of every qualified student.”

Clark said that Johnson’s donor base is a significant part of the value the university provides to students.

“Our donors are committed to seeing that a quality education is provided to [Johnson] students,” he said. “Beyond keeping the cost low the value of the education is something that you’re just not going to get on a public campus.”

“What we’re interested in doing, is getting great commissioned students out into the world, to make an impact in the world for the cause of Christ,” he said.

Another external factor that administrators are studying is the impact of the Tennessee Promise, which is in its second year.

Tennessee Promise is a program that offers Tennessee students a ‘last-dollar’ scholarship, meaning the scholarship will cover tuition and fees not covered by the Pell grant, the HOPE scholarship, or state student assistance funds. The scholarship is primarily used for community colleges.

Smith said of the Tennessee Promise program that “we’re nervous, but so far we haven’t been directly impacted.”

Another state program is also impacting the university.

“There is a program called Tennessee Transfer Pathways, that makes it easy for students to come from community college to a four year college without losing any credits,” Smith said. “We are getting ready to become a part of that program.”

Smith will be going down to the Florida campus next week to meet with the admissions staff, to evaluate and advise a plan for the coming year. This is already underway on the Tennessee campus.

“We see this as a one year reversal for this year,”Clark said. “We think that there are great years moving forward and we welcome partnership with our student body to see that happen.”

“This could be our correction year,” Smith agreed. “Despite the drop in enrollment, applications last year were up, they were significantly higher than the year before.”

Both Clark and Smith agree that there is no reason to worry about the future of Johnson.

“We welcome [your] prayers, thoughts, ideas and efforts on behalf of the university to help reverse [the drop],” Clark said. “One of the things that we know for sure, is that family and friends who refer their family members and friends rank right up there at the top of the ways and means by which students come to Johnson.”

A final enrollment count will not be available until mid October.

Fluctuation in enrollment numbers are very normal and very reversible.

“We believe that God has great things in store for Johnson as a University and for our student body,” Clark said.





Royal Scribe staff looking for new reporters

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 11.52.38 AMThe Johnson University Royal Scribe staff is kicking off their third year of covering news and information of interest to the JU community.

Reporting for the Royal Scribe is open to any student on any Johnson campus.

The Scribe staff meets at 7 p.m. Thursdays in the RPC conference room, room 68. New and returning students who have an interest in reporting for the Royal Scribe are encouraged to attend tonight’s meeting.

“Reporting for the Royal Scribe is a great way to be involved in campus life at Johnson,” Matthew Broaddus, the Royal Scribe faculty advisor, said. “Plus, it is a great way to build your resume no mater what field you are studying.”

Broaddus said the ability to communicate effectively is one of the most important skills college graduates should have.

“Our reporters learn to to collect information and present it in a logical format,” he said. “That is an important skill for everyone.”

The Royal Scribe platform allows students to do reports in text, video, audio, with pictures, and other multi media formats.

About 20 students contributed to the Royal Scribe last year, and many of them are returning.

JU Sophomore Abbey Whitaker is the returning managing editor for the Scribe, while Regan McSherry moves from staff reporter to senior editor.

“I find myself constantly wanting to share with people all the great and exciting things happening around Johnson,” Whitaker said. “And the Scribe is the perfect outlet for that. The Scribe has taught me much discipline and patience throughout the semesters working on it.”

Whitaker runs much of the day-to-day activity for the Scribe, while McSherry is taking the lead on publicity, recruitment and helping with other editorial duties.

“As a senior at Johnson, I’ve come to appreciate the sense of responsibility and pride in keeping students, faculty, staff and alumni updated about news that affects our school,” McSherry said. “Real journalistic experience doesn’t just look good on a resume, its rewarding for many people.”

The Royal Scribe was launched as an opportunity for Johnson students from any major to be part of documenting campus life.

“We provide an opportunity for the world to see Johnson through the eyes of our students,” Broaddus said. “And, we do reach the world.”

Broaddus said fall 2015 readership for the Scribe included 11,102 unique page views, consisting of 4,021 unique visitors from 52 countries. Readership has continued to grow this year with 14,675 views, 7,687 visitors and readers in 93 countries.

“It amazes me we have people consistently reading our student news publication in Brazil, Russia, China, and so many other countries,” Broaddus said. “Students who report for the Scribe have a tremendous opportunity to let the world know the great things happening at Johnson University.”

Anyone can follow the Royal Scribe via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

News updates are also sent periodically through the week from Please block that address from your e-mail if you do not wish to receive the news updates.

The Royal Scribe also has an office located in EAC room 465.

For more information about tonight’s meeting, to ask questions about the Royal Scribe, or to suggest a story idea, please email