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125th Reflections: Don Fortenberry

by Web on September 17, 2015

Although I could list numerous ways in which Millsaps shaped---no, transformed---me, that chapter of my life happened because of a prior connection. From my earliest memories, church was the organizing experience in my life. From my local congregation in Summit, Mississippi, to the Mississippi Conference Methodist Youth Fellowship program, church life held sway. From the local level through sub-district and district levels to the conference, we were connected to other persons our age and to active Methodists who had gone before. The sub-district in which I participated was named for Peggy Billings, a Millsaps graduate who served as a missionary in South Korea for a number of years and went on to serve as a highly influential member of the New York-based United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, working with fellow Millsaps alumna Mia Adjali in her capacity as director of the Church Center for the United Nations.One key part of the conference youth program was the annual Youth Assembly held at Millsaps, an event that brought to the campus several hundred Methodist youth from across south Mississippi. Led by such talented individuals as Julian Rush, Charles Ricker, Cathy Carlson, John Sharp Gatewood, Ken Robertson, and Gayle Graham (national president of the Methodist Youth Fellowship)---Millsaps students all!---we were led through a week of activities that nurtured our relationship to church---and to Millsaps. So when it came time to choose a college, there was no deliberation. Millsaps was the one and only choice. No campus visits, no conversations with representative of other colleges---the choice had in fact been made during those weeks of Youth Assembly.

Life has been rich with experiences that have made life full and meaningful---a Millsaps degree through the tutelage of Dr. Jonathan Sweat, Dr. Robert Bergmark, Dr. T.W. Lewis, Miss Elizabeth Craig, Miss Mildred Morehead, Dr. Donald Caplenor, Dr James Ferguson, Dr. Frank Laney and Professor Don Kilmer (all church people); graduate school at Duke University, Emory University and Union Theological Seminary; and, gratefully, three decades as chaplain at Millsaps. Millsaps prepared me academically for work at the graduate schools, but it was the church-college relationship reflected in those Youth Assemblies that first brought me to a place that changed my life. I am grateful to be one of that countless company of persons who share such stories of gratitude to Millsaps.