By Vicky Kaniaru
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews)--Truett-McConnell College (TMC) honored the departing Mike Simoneaux at a luncheon Aug. 15. Simoneaux leaves the Cleveland, Ga., institution to become president of Brewton-Parker College, Mount Vernon, Ga.
During his 12-year tenure at TMC, Simoneaux filled various positions, including interim president, vice president for institutional advancement, and vice president for institutional effectiveness.
"I owe him a debt of gratitude," said Vice President for Academic Services Brad Reynolds, addressing the crowd of almost 100. "Anytime I had a question, I would stop by his office and inquire about what to do. I just want to personally thank him for being the mentor that he was to me."
Former TMC trustee, Barry Thompson, attended the luncheon, driving more than 250 miles from Decatur, Ala., where he is the associate pastor for education and administration at First Baptist Church.
Simoneaux and Thompson's friendship developed during the latter's total of 15 years as a TMC trustee.
"Mike Simoneaux has made such a tremendous investment in this school. I wanted to be here in the chorus of people saying thank you for all he's done," Thompson said. "One reason Truett-McConnell is being blessed is because of him."
Adding levity to the luncheon, TMC's Professor of Chemistry Robert Loffredo offered some comical observations about Simoneaux, claiming they were part of a book that he, Loffredo, planned to write titled "The 500 Leadership Sayings of Mike Simoneaux." According to Loffredo, some of those sayings are, "You're going to have fun whether you like it or not" and "It's better to have tried and failed than never to have failed at all."
Loffredo presented Simoneaux with the "Christopher Columbus Leadership Award" which read: "In recognition of the person who didn't know where he was going, didn't know where he was when he arrived, and didn't know where he had been when he returned."
TMC President Emir Caner followed Loffredo's comedic commentary, saying, "Dr. Simoneaux was the first one who met me at the door and said, 'Here's what you're getting yourself into.' He then promised his undying loyalty that he was going to stay and retire here, but he left me quicker than Elizabeth Taylor left her husbands."
Reflecting a more serious tone, Caner credited Simoneaux: "Literally, Truett-McConnell would not be here today if it weren't for the hard sacrifice of Dr. Mike Simoneaux," he said.
"It's not merely that he was interim president, but that he did what was necessary to keep this institution afloat and moving in the right direction when the hardest times hit Truett-McConnell. So in many ways, the buildings that are being built, the programs that are being expanded, and the people who have come here to become Truett-McConnell College family owe an incredible debt of gratitude to Mike Simoneaux for all his years of service at Truett-McConnell. Now he's going to [Brewton-Parker] to prayerfully do the same thing."
Caner then invited TMC leaders and trustees to gather around Simoneaux and his wife Bonnie, and to lay hands on them and pray for them in their new ministry assignment.
"I could not have done anything without these wonderful people who surrounded me with themselves," said Simoneaux after the prayer.
Amid additional remarks, Simoneaux said, "[Brewton-Parker has] a high mountain to climb. But you know what? The Lord created the mountain, and he is going to create the way up. ...We love Truett-McConnell College. God bless Truett-McConnell College."
Initially reticent to comment, Bonnie stood and tearfully added, "This morning, when I walked downstairs, Mike's first words were, 'This is the last day I work for Truett-McConnell.' It was sad."
Truett-McConnell College equips students to fulfill the Great Commission by fostering a Christian worldview through a biblically-centered liberal arts education.