America's Minister of Encouragement Welcomes MC Students and Parents
August 26, 2008Feeling the pain of Mississippi College parents, Christian humorist Dennis Swanberg offered the remedy Saturday - a speech filled with belly laughs and words of wisdom.
Known as "America's Minister of Encouragement," Swanberg spoke from the heart as a Baptist preacher with a gift for one-liners at a convocation at First Baptist Church in Clinton. The event was really geared to hundreds of new MC students, but parents got equal time.
From funny impressions of former presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan to movie icons like John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart plus evangelist Billy Graham, Swanberg showed why's he's in big demand as a speaker nationwide.
"The Swan" is really an old-fashioned guy who's been a powerful Baptist preacher and country humorist based with his Swanberg Ministries in West Monroe, La. "I'm an eight-track guy in an Ipod world," is how he describes himself. "I'm old-timey. I watch the Andy Griffith Show," he says, and quickly mimics TV's beloved deputy sheriff Barney Fife. "Anybody seen Thelma Lou?," he asks people randomly in his MC audience.
Nobody is sure if they've seen Barney's girlfriend Thelma Lou in Mayberry, but many in the MC family have spotted Swanberg's two sons lately in Clinton. Chad Swanberg is an MC alumnus, and his youngest son, Dusty Swanberg is an MC senior. "Both my boys love this place. I love this place!." Dusty Swanberg is on track to graduate in December with a degree in criminal justice and history. He's also popular with students outside the classroom. "He's an honorary member of every (MC) tribe," Dennis Swanberg jokes." He loves Mississippi College!."
Chad Swanberg helps book his dad at 170 events per year at mega churches from Dallas to San Antonio to small congregations around the nation.
Joining Swanberg on the FBC platform were number of MC leaders including President Lee Royce, Vice President for Student Affairs Jim Turcotte and Eric Pratt, vice president for Christian Studies. With time for prayers, church hymns and reflection, it was an emotional event to formally welcome MC's new students and parents into the MC community.
No matter what situation arises at MC or off campus, Swanberg, a Baylor University alumnus, promised the students they can count on the Lord every day. God will "never leave you, nor forsake you," Swanberg said. "He loves you big-time."
Adding to Saturday's welcome, Student Government Association President Harley McAlexander of Clinton led the recitation of the student pledge. "I make it my personal ambition to: conduct myself with integrity, strive for excellence in my academic work and personal life, be accountable for my ethical conduct and compliance with university rules, and respect the rights and dignity of others," says a portion of the pledge.
MC began the special convocation a year ago with the first event last August in the A.E. Wood Coliseum.
The church gathering also offered rest to hundreds of students, parents and other family members after making the move into residence halls on the Clinton campus.
Other Welcome Week activities, including a business fair Wednesday and concert Thursday - continue non-stop, with Friday night bowling and Saturday evening movies on the Quad. Day classes at MC begin Wednesday Aug 27. The first football game of the 2008 season is the Sept 6 "Backyard Brawl" that pits rivals Choctaws against Millsaps with kickoff at 7 p.m. on the Jackson campus.
MC is marking its 183rd academic year.
PHOTO: Christian humorist Dennis Swanberg