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ETBU hosts Great Opening Ceremony of The Great Commission Center

April 28, 2023

East Texas Baptist University welcomed generous donors and friends of the institution in celebration of the opening of the newly-constructed Great Commission Center during a ceremony held Friday, April 28. The new home to the Fred Hale School of Business, Career Development Office, and Great Commission Center program, the Great Commission Center will be a center for academic learning and discipleship training.

"We rejoice in the culmination of God's plans for this facility," ETBU President Blair Blackburn said. "He engraved on our hearts this vision some five years ago. After much prayer and planning with the Board of Trustees, we pursued this strategic vision to construct a new center for academic learning, spiritual discipleship, ministry and missions service, business leadership, and career development. The Great Commission Center is the fulfillment of that vision."

The facility is approximately 23,000 square feet and reflects the institution's adopted Classical Georgian Collegiate architecture, and stands at the forefront of the ETBU campus. The Great Commission Center features large and medium-sized classrooms, conference meeting rooms, and dedicated student study spaces. In addition, offices for the Fred Hale School of Business, Great Commission Program, and Career Development are located in the facility. The Great Hall is a multipurpose event space located on the third floor of the building that provides business and leadership programming, fellowship, performing arts, worship activities, and community life enrichment. The building serves as the physical manifestation of ETBU's core mission of developing Christian servant leaders and encouraging all believers to fulfill the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20.

As one of ETBU's largest academic programs, the Fred Hale School of Business will call the Great Commission Center home. Serving as a training ground for ETBU graduates to pursue their career callings, the modern 21st-century learning facility will be dedicated to educating ethical Christian business leaders for corporate America and for an international marketplace spanning global economies.

"This day will stand as one of the treasured memories in the life of this University as we dedicate and commission this Center for academic learning and discipleship training," Dr. Blackburn said. "This training center will be another milestone that marks our missional commitment for which the Lord purposed ETBU 111 years ago. Surrounded by so many generous donors and friends of ETBU, giving thanks to the Lord comes quite naturally on such a special day as this one. His goodness is manifested all around us, seen in the fellowship we are enjoying today, yet envisioning the future impact this building will hold for our students and faculty."

The doors of the Great Commission Center were opened to donors, alumni, and friends of ETBU for the first time on Friday afternoon as the University showcased a vision brought to life through the combined efforts of dedicated faculty, staff, contractors, architects, investors, and prayerful supporters.

"I have the great privilege of visiting with alumni and donors, and the refrain I hear over and over is that there's something special about this campus," Vice President for Advancement Scott Bryant said. "ETBU is a special place, and many of you in this room can attest that your time on the Hill resulted in great spiritual growth for you. You can walk around this campus and remember special moments you had with friends, faculty, and God. The Lord has been at work on this Hill for over 100 years, and when I reflect on the great legacy of impact this institution has had on students' lives, I say to myself, look what God has done. There's something beautiful about being part of what He is doing."

The Great Commission Program is an institution-wide initiative that connects students, faculty, and staff with local communities in East Texas, cities throughout the United States, and cultures across the world in fulfillment of the Great Commission call in Scripture. The Great Commission Center articulates ETBU's Christ-centered mission and equips students to live out their vocation for Jesus' calling on their lives, and serves, simultaneously, as a gathering place for the campus community to be empowered to go and make disciples.

"I'm very proud of this building," Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Thomas Sanders said. "But as we look at this building, we should think about what it is saying to us, what it's calling us to do. It's really not a Great Commission Center; it's a great calling center, a great sending center, a great educating center, and a great equipping center. If we're not doing those things, we're not fulfilling what God has called us to do. Because the story doesn't end today; it begins today."