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Union students found out during the summer that one of their favorite professors would not be returning for the fall semester. The King’s College in New York City named Greg Thornbury its new president in July, and his first official day was Aug 1.
News gradually spread via Twitter and Facebook that the Thornburys took the opportunity. It was a shock to many because couple was not able to share the news until they were about to leave town.
“There is one freestanding Christian college in that city, and it must succeed. No one will ever get a chance to do this again,” Thornbury said in a July 11 news release. “ We need an institution of higher education that is articulating thecause of God and truth in the greatest city in the world.”
The couple returned to Jackson Sept. 4 for a reception that immediately followed Greg Thornbury’s chapel address.
During his message, which he titled, “Fear not. Stand firm. Be silent,” he counseled the audience, “I have nothing better to say to you than to look to Christ.”
Taylor Worley, assistant professor of Christian Thought and Tradition and assistant vice president for University Ministries, studied under Thornbury when he was a student at Union and is a close friend.
“It’s almost uncanny how perfectly they are suited for the opportunity at The King’s College,” Worley said. “They match up so well with the mission
of the institution, the ethos of the college and the atmosphere of the city.”
At Union, Greg Thornbury was vice president of spiritual life and dean of the School of Theology and Missions, where he authored “Rediscovering Classical Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom of Carl F.H. Henry,” was a contributor to several books, and mentored and influenced students.
Kimberly Thornbury was dean of students and senior vice president for Student Life. Under her leadership, the Student Life staff grew from 15 to 34 members, said Bryan Carrier, acting dean of students.
Kimberly Thornbury started more than 60 new programs, organizations and initiatives, including Barefoots Joe, the Hundley Center and Student Leadership and Engagement.
During her time at Union, graduation rates have increased from 55 percent to 67 percent. She also oversaw the rebuilding and remodeling of 22 buildings after the 2008 tornado.
Both were advocates for students, Worley said.
“Every day, without fail, they communicated that students are the priority here,” Worley said.
The couple served Union for 15 years.
The King’s College was founded in 1938 and is the only evangelical Christian college in the New York City.
Joy Moore, director of Barefoots Joe and professor of English, worked under Kimberly Thornbury’s leadership.
Now that the Thornburys are living in New York City, “I am hopeful that the city will experience an increased presence of strong, thoughtful, articulate and contemplative believers in every area, including media, politics, arts and culture” Moore said.
She reflected further on the Thornburys’ legacy.
“We each have stories of how we’ve been affected by them — some conversation or class, or some happenstance encounter in the Student Union building hallway,” Moore said. “They’ve shaped so much of what we experience as normal at Union.”
Worley has one request in the couple’s honor.
“I would ask that we all — faculty, staff, and students — pull together and be more aware of each other’s needs at this time,” Worley said. “Greg and Kimberly did that for us, and I think now it’s our turn to make more lasting investments in each other.”