For those entrusted with leadership stewardship of universities, it is easy to become hurried and harried, challenged by a variety of events such as bomb threats, the unfortunate death of a student, occasional wayward and wrongheaded behavior of a staff, faculty or student member of the community or athletics complications. These moments can distract us in appreciating the wonderful and elevating moments that come our way by virtue of our special trust.
One such special moment in the life of UTC occurred on a recent Friday evening, April 19th. The Chattanooga Times Free Press had carried a lovely story on retired professor Dr. Roland Carter’s career the previous day, and we hosted a reception celebrating his contributions at the chancellor’s residence that Thursday evening.
On Friday evening, a full house at First Baptist church was treated to a magical and magnificent musical evening featuring choral groups from UTC, the Morehouse College Men’s Chorus, the Hampton University Chorus and the Chattanooga Choral Society for Preservation of African American Music.
I have many lovely memories of musical moments in my life from active performance as a symphony musician with Savannah and Memphis orchestras and from attending musical events. None of those memories, however, exceed in pleasure and inspiration those that flowed from this commanding evening. Every musical rendition and every performing group received a standing ovation from a thrilled and appreciative audience.
The elevating and inspiring experience of the closing notes of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” composed and conducted by Professor Carter, evade description in words, but the emotional uplift of the evening was real and is burned into heart and mind forever. This was truly a trip to the mountain top for student choral members and the audience.
My heart is full with pleasure and warmth of this event, and I regret only that I did not have longer to serve with Roland here at UTC. As Chancellor, I am grateful for the investment of his considerable talent and caring for UTC, its students and our community. This evening will remain a special moment in my service as Interim Chancellor of this wonderful university and the community which embraces it.
Our public universities are investments in the power of ideas and the intellectual promise of our students, investments in the search for truth and the cultivation of mind. They are instruments of scientific, technical and economic development. Never tell me, however, that public universities are not guardians of human dignity/civility, guarantors of democracy and do not touch heart, soul, and spirit of their students and our communities. This musical evening was full testimony to the public university also as a curator of our artistic and noble impulses.
E. Grady Bogue is interim Chancelor of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.