Words Fitly Spoken
Editor’s Note: The following column was written by Dr. Lanny Hall when he was president of Howard Payne University. It was published in “College Faith,” a publication of Andrews Press in 2004. Its message is relevant today. Hall also is past president of Hardin-Simmons and Wayland Baptist universities.
By DR. LANNY HALL
My university years represented a time of searching for identity and wrestling with the highs and lows of my sense of self-worth. I found myself competing with other students for grades, working to be noticed by professors, wondering, most of all, if I would ever be the “somebody” I desired to be.
Many times I felt as if I did not have what it would take to be successful. I experienced moments – even days — questioning whether I would master the subjects required in my degree. I dreamed of teaching government and history in a high school, but often questioned whether my dream would be fulfilled.
During my sophomore year at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas), I took a demanding European history course under the leadership of a dignified and brilliant professor, Dr. Gordon Healey. One day as Dr. Healey was quietly returning our first exams, he came to my desk and held out my “blue book” in his hand. As I reached for it, my eyes focused on the grade. It was the most beautiful “B-“ I had ever seen, because I had expected a much lower grade. In the thrill of that moment I was not prepared for what Dr. Healey would say to me. As he released the booklet into my hand, he whispered, “Mr. Hall, I thought you would have done better on this.”
I was stunned! Not only did he know me, but he thought that I might be capable of doing better in his class. Did this mean that my professor actually thought I might be an “A” student?
I cannot begin to express just how much that did for my sense of self-worth. “Perhaps I am capable of doing better. At least one faculty member has confidence in me,” I thought to myself.
Later in my academic pilgrimage, my major education professor, Dr. Watt Black, and I walked together for a short distance down the hall of the building that housed the education department. In a brief conversation he asked me a question that changed my life: “Have you ever considered pursuing a doctorate?”
“Wow! Another professor at the same university must have confidence in me,” I thought.
Over the years, I have often reflected on the words of those two professors. Oh, the power of words in raising our spirits! What a significant impact a simple statement or question can have! In day-to-day small talk, the words of university personnel have great potential for positive and negative influences on students.
I believe that God puts people in our lives to say just the right words to us – just when we need those words the most. I thank God for Professors Healey and Black. I am thankful that they were encouragers. While their words may have been routine for them, their brief encounters with me had lifelong, and life-changing, value.
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
Proverbs 25: 11 KJV
Dr. Lanny Hall is former president and chancellor of Hardin-Simmons University