University of Mount Olive Inaugurates New President

University of Mount Olive Inaugurates New President

MOUNT OLIVE – More than 700 people witnessed the inauguration of University of Mount Olive (UMO) President Dr. David L. Poole on Friday, October 5.  It was a historic and special moment in the life of the University, which was founded in 1951.

Professor of Music Dr. Alan Armstrong, dressed in full Scottish kilt, played the bagpipes for the procession of the dignitaries, Trustees, Foundation Board, and platform guests.  The University Choir and Symphonic Band performed musical numbers that had personal meaning for Poole including “Shenandoah,” Highland Cathedral,” “Pacem: A Hymn for Peace,” and “You are the New Day.”  The Southern Wayne High School Color Guard presented the colors.

An institution founded by the Original Free Will Baptist (OFWB) Church, the inauguration of UMO’s fifth president incorporated many Biblical principles and themes including scripture readings, prayers, greetings, and recitations.

The Reverend Ronnie Hobgood, President of the Convention of OFWB, said, “On behalf of the convention, I not only welcome Dr. Poole, but thank him for his commitment and support he has already given to the Original Free Will Baptist Church. I look forward to our relationship growing. I believe under his leadership the University will grow in the ‘grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 3:18).”

Other greetings were provided by constituencies including the Town of Mount Olive by Mayor Joe Scott, the Alumni Association by President Bryan Debose, and the UMO faculty by Dr. Gerald Seaton.

Mayor Scott said, “As we all take part in this investiture, I am reminded of a scripture in Matthew 5:16 ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.’ I believe this institution and this president is the light and may they forever shine, is my prayer to you.”

Speaking for faculty, Dr. Seaton said, “For a university that took its first steps in 1951, that has been offering educational opportunities to the people of North Carolina and beyond for nearly 70 years, it is all the more remarkable that this occasion commemorates the beginning of just the fifth presidency of the University.  One of the many ways in which the University of Mount Olive stands out is in its strong, capable leadership that has led it to impressive growth, and kept it safely moving forward through difficult times.  Each of our presidents has carried the torch of this University and brought us to new heights, and I look forward to the next leg of this journey and to the new experiences and achievements that Dr. Poole will help to make possible.”

Representing the alumni, Debose stated, “Today we celebrate our rich heritage and the foundation that all alumni have built here at the University of Mount Olive while we also embrace the present, and eagerly anticipate the future of our beloved institution which will be guided by the leadership and direction of Dr. Poole.  We look forward to meeting the great alumni that will be blessed to graduate under his leadership.  We know that these alumni will join the ranks of exemplary contributors to our communities and be genuine reflections of the University of Mount Olive.  We thank you Dr. and Mrs. Poole, for agreeing to be a part of the life of the University of Mount Olive and for allowing us to be a part of your lives. We look forward to working with you and ask God’s blessings upon you and upon our University.”

In a unique and historical moment, former University of Mount Olive Presidents Dr. J. William Byrd and Dr. Philip P. Kerstetter prayed over Poole as he knelt in front of the podium.

In his prayer Byrd said, “Today, we embrace a new leader and seek your blessing on all those who have the privilege to serve with him. We pray that the next needed thing will come with revelation and your guidance sufficient to make it so. David Poole will need your support and ours. May we be granted the necessary insight, commitment and wisdom to know your will in providing the needed support for Dr. Poole.”

Kerstetter followed by praying, “Gracious Lord, Heavenly Father, we ask your special blessing on David Poole as he leads the way to the next chapter in the life of this great University. Grant him strength and conviction; wisdom and courage; clear and focused vision.  We ask that you give him the gift of love and understanding for this university, for its rich history, and for its mission of service to its students, its founding church, and its communities.  Also, give him the gift of humility, the wisdom to realize that no one person can do it all, the ability to call on the people of this place for their advice and counsel, and the willingness to call on you, Lord, at each and every step.”

Associate Professor of English Lenard Moore recited a poem he wrote for Poole on the occasion of his inauguration entitled, “The Dawning.”  Wesley Beddard, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee, gave a Search Committee Report.

“‘Great work is not easy, but the results are worth it!’” quoted Beddard.  “That statement very accurately describes the sentiments of our Search Committee.  It was a lot of work, time consuming, and at times frustrating, but worth it.  The thing that I believe made our work successful, and kept us as a committee unified and focused, was that we began every meeting from September through April with prayer.  And every prayer had the same petition… Lord, lead us to the right person to be the next leader and President of the University of Mount Olive.  That was our prayer.  That was our mission.  And that was our purpose.  We believe our prayers were answered.  Dr. Poole, welcome to UMO!  May God continue to guide your path and continue His blessings on the University of Mount Olive.”

UMO board Chair Earl Worley performed the official investiture of President Poole including conferring of the Presidential Medallion, a symbol of Poole’s leadership role for the institution.

In his inaugural remarks Poole talked of the University’s past, present, and future.  His address, entitled, “Called to Lead” acknowledged the contributions of past presidents Lloyd Vernon, W. Burkette Raper, J. William Byrd, and Philip P. Kerstetter.  He praised business leaders and donors like those with the last names of Kornegay, Pope, Bryan, Morgan, Murphy, Lassiter, Herring, and McDonald for investing in the past and future of the University.  Poole also talked about the future.

“Today, we are called to begin the next chapter in the life of the University of Mount Olive.  Where agricultural programs, and behavioral science programs will be expanding to meet the needs of this region.  And programs in the health sciences will address the pressing health care need of our communities.  There will be additions of schools within the University to broaden our reach across the globe.  We may even have more common with the Wright Brothers than just being located in North Carolina.  And, finally programs in public service,” Poole said.

In remarking on service, Poole acknowledged the nearly 100 service project posters surrounding the arena that students, staff, faculty, and community members have committed to completing within the coming year.

“We believe the University of Mount Olive is ‘Called to Lead’ in service to others.  And we know that in order to best prepare our students academically, we need to prepare them for a life of service.  You see there is no great calling than to serve others.  That’s how communities grow and prosper.  That’s how communities develop and thrive.  And, that’s how we change the world,”  Poole concluded.

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, in Smithfield at Johnston Community College, and online. For more information, visit

UMO Board Chair Earl Worley places the presidential medallion on Dr. David L. Poole, newly inaugurated President of UMO.

(L-R) Standing, former UMO Presidents Dr. J. William Byrd and Dr. Philip P. Kerstetter say a prayer over Dr. David L. Poole on the occasion of his inauguration.

Dr. David L. Poole makes his inauguration remarks on Friday, October 5.

Dr. David L. Poole was inaugurated as the fifth president of the University of Mount Olive on Friday, October 5.

University of Mount Olive President and First Lady David and Mary Poole.