A Wonderful Journey

Lonnie

It seems like yesterday. It was a hot August morning in 1976. I had just recently turned 18, had long hair (parted in the middle), was the proud owner of a new Chevy Vega, would soon start dating a gorgeous 17-year-old blonde, and was ready to, and confident that I would, conquer the world.

I came up the driveway past recently planted oak trees facing the main (and only) classroom building at the top of the hill. I parked in the back and literally bounced up the steps through the back door of what is now Weaver Hall and made my way to my first class as a collegian. I felt the excitement, mingled with apprehension that all new college students experience. At the heart of my emotions was the belief that these next years were going to make a difference in my life.

Fast-forward almost 50 years. Each day, I drive up that same entrance – but so much has changed. Mobile College is now the University of Mobile. I pass majestic, mature oaks. I still see Weaver Hall, updated with a roof, portico and cupola. I pass so many buildings that weren’t here in the ’70s. The stress of trying to find a student parking space has been replaced with the joy of a reserved spot. Rather than bouncing, I leisurely walk

up the steps through that same door heading, not to a freshman class, but to the president’s office. Also, the gorgeous 17-year-old blonde is now the gorgeous first lady and my wife of 43 years.

Indeed, so much has changed over six decades since the University of Mobile was founded in 1961. However, there have been some important constants. As in 1976, each day begins with that same combination of excitement and apprehension. There is no higher purpose than the academic training and spiritual mentoring that takes place on this campus. That task is both exhilarating and daunting. Likewise, my belief in the life-changing difference this university can make has never wavered. Experience the Difference is more than a marketing slogan — it is a call to action through faith.

When I was a student, the faculty and staff poured into my life. A day seldom passes when I don’t think about Dr. Petersen, Dr. Weaver, Dr. Davis, Dr. Eubanks, Dr. Garner, etc. Each, in their own way, took time to care about me as an individual. That culture of caring that began at Mobile College still thrives among the dedicated faculty and staff at the University of Mobile.

As a faculty member, it has been my honor to teach and serve with so many gifted colleagues. We have labored mightily through often trying times. We have celebrated and mourned together. Most significantly, I have had the awesome privilege and responsibility to teach several thousand students over 45 years.

My first love is the classroom. All I ever wanted to be was a history teacher, and anything beyond that was, as my father would say, “just gravy.”

It has been a wonderful journey. Our people have been remarkable and our God has been faithful. On behalf of Lynne and myself, I thank you all for your confidence, patience, support and, most of all, your friendship.

About the Author

Dr. Lonnie Burnett

Dr. Lonnie Burnett became the 5th president of the University of Mobile on Nov. 22, 2019. He graduated from UM, then Mobile College, in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts. He earned a master's and doctorate and taught U.S. history in the Mobile County Public School System for nearly 25 years before joining UM as professor of history. He held a variety of leadership positions, including dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, prior to becoming president.

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