The Rev. Dr. William Penn Davis’ personal mission statement – “I am my brother’s brother – I am not my brother’s keeper” – formed the basis of the renowned Mississippi Baptist Seminary president and MC alum’s career.
Davis’ commendable objective will be at the heart of a pair of presentations one of his most ardent proteges will deliver to faculty, staff, students, and community members at Mississippi College on Tuesday, Jan. 17.
Dr. Oren Renick, a professor of health administration at Texas State University who has authored a poignant account of Davis’ Civil Rights efforts and has produced an authoritative tome on intergenerational service-learning, will expound on both subjects during his visit to the Clinton campus.
Renick will kick off MC’s 2023 Chapel service schedule with “The Rev. Dr. William Penn Davis and the Quality Diamond” at 11 a.m. in Swor Auditorium in Nelson Hall. He will then present a faculty development workshop, “A Service-Learning Model for Reforming Higher Education and Engaging the Community,” at 1 p.m. in Self 302.
A three-time graduate of Mississippi College, Renick obtained his B.A. in political science in 1966, his M.A. in history in 1967, and his J.D. from the MC School of Law in 1983. He is the author of “Smoke Over Mississippi: A Journey of Hope and Reconciliation,” which details Davis’ work toward racial reconciliation during the Civil Rights Movement. The book is based on the author’s interviews with Davis and the minister’s diaries during the Civil Rights Era.
Published in October 2015 by Insight Press of Covington, Louisiana – a second edition of the book was released in 2020 – students have used his work in Christian Studies classes at MC.
Renick also received his master’s in public health from Tulane University and his master’s in theology from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He served as executive editor of the scholarly text, “The Ties That Bind” – which he dedicated to Davis – that focused on intergenerational service-learning.
Renick became acquainted with Davis, a white pastor who preached racial reconciliation following the burning of black churches in the Magnolia State in the 1960s, while in graduate school at MC. The young scholar devoted his master’s thesis to Davis’ pioneering work, then expanded on his scholarly paper until it ultimately became “Smoke Over Mississippi.”
“Rev. Davis was a man of goodwill,” Renick said. “He was a peacemaker. He was committed to serving others and doing things that benefitted other people. He was a selfless man who was truly open and accepting of everyone.”
Renick said his Chapel presentation will center on Davis as a role model for living.
“My message to the students will be primarily in the area of service excellence,” he said. “I’m going to look at the life of Davis, what empowered him to do the things that he did, how he might serve as a role model for us today, and how we can move forward with civic engagement and giving back to the community.”
Dr. Sara B. Kimmel, associate professor in the MC School of Business who helped arrange Renick’s visit, said the presentation is not to be missed.
“Dr. Renick is a remarkable and dynamic person,” Kimmel said. “He took the time to nurture his relationship with Rev. Davis and craft a beautifully written book that calls us to be mindful of and pursue those situations that Christ calls us to, even in their difficulty. There’s some heartbreaking information in the book, but we should be very proud of the Civil Rights legacy of this MC graduate and how Dr. Renick is carrying that legacy forward with his work today.
“It’s a great thing to share with our students. Whatever their passion, whatever their mission field is, they need to pursue it.”
Renick said Civil Rights and service-learning – two seemingly distinct topics – share a common bond.
“They are compatible in that both strive for the greater good of vulnerable populations,” he said. “My contribution is intergenerational service-learning – I try to partner university students with older adults in the community to engage with one another and create enduring relationships. The students provide some practical caregiving for senior adults, who share their wisdom with the students.
“Service-learning is a way to bring the generations together for mutual and community benefit. It better prepares youth for the future.”
Retha Ann Price, MC associate professor of marketing, said Renick’s extensive service-learning background and community-engagement experience will enrich everyone who attends the faculty workshop.
“The workshop will provide a model for building an effective service-learning course,” Price said. “Dr. Renick has a passion for helping students learn through serving others. He will share his firsthand experience of putting older adults and college students together for mutual benefit.
“Engaging students in service-learning helps them apply what they learn in the classroom to community issues and prepare them to be leaders of purpose.”
She said Renick will provide an overview of best practices in service-learning and give examples of how Shepherd’s Centers of America employ those practices. Founded on the ideal of bringing together individuals from all walks of life to celebrate the joys of aging, the Shepherd’s Centers of America create meaningful opportunities for service, lifelong learning, individual well-being, and independent living designed by, with, and for older adults through an interfaith network of community-based organizations.
“Anyone interested in learning more about how to incorporate service-learning in a course should attend this workshop,” she said.
Renick has simultaneously served as chair of the Department of Health Administration and interim chair of the Department of Health Services Research at Texas State and was founding director of the Service-Learning Initiative, chair of the Faculty Senate, and director of the Long Term Care Institute. Before joining the Texas State faculty, he served as chief executive of three healthcare organizations, including managed care organizations in Chicago and New Orleans.
The public is invited to both presentations. Click here to register for the faculty development workshop.