Quoting from Ecclesiastes and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Rick Atchley (’78) implored students attending Opening Assembly on Monday at Abilene Christian University to “start your race like you want it to end,” by not focusing on what he considered the more “over-rated” parts of their young lives.
ACU’s 108th school year began with several traditions handed down from one generation to another since its founding in 1906 as Childers Classical Institute. The Parade of Flags recognized home states, territories and nations represented by students, faculty and staff. Dr. Odies Wright (’72), associate professor of kinesiology and nutrition, led a cappella singing of “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” and “Oh, Dear Christian College.” Dr. Neal Coates (’87) – Faculty Senate chair, and professor and chair of political science – and Dylan Benac (Students’ Association president) read the apostle Paul’s “Sermon on Mars Hill” from Acts 17. Bart Herridge (’91) – Staff Senate chair, and director of student retention and services – led the invocation. Vice provost Dr. Susan (Lester ’92) Lewis worded the benediction. The Grand Chorus and Big Purple Band performed “The Old Hundredth Psalm Tune” along with music for the processional and recessional.
Atchley, preaching minister of The Hills Church of Christ in North Richland Hills, Texas, mixed tongue-in-cheek humor with serious advice he’s gleaned from 24 years of ministry to the largest congregation among U.S. Churches of Christ. An excerpt of his Opening Address:
Using basketball terminology, he also explained how happiness and worldly definitions of success – like one’s grades in college, said the former ACU valedictorian who encouraged students to also take time to have fun – are achievements in life he considers to be over-rated:
“… you were meant for more than to see how soon you could pay off a mortgage and how long you could put off a funeral. You were meant to fulfill the purposes and to display the majesties of God. You were meant for a calling, not just a career. Now, career is what you’re going to get paid for, but a calling is what you’re made for. And I think a school like ACU can help you prepare for both. Now, you can go to any of our fine schools in Texas and you can learn the principles of accounting. You can learn the skills to be a great teacher. You can learn what it takes to get into med school or law school. But here, some wise mentors can show you how to leverage that knowledge to make an eternal difference in the office, in the operating room, in the classroom. They can show you how to take a career and make it a calling, because God is inviting you into a bigger story than the one you might be living right now.”
“In the game of life, everybody gets fouled. Happiness is an accident, but joy is a choice. Joy springs from a foundation that transcends the good times and the bad times. For me, that foundation has been my relationship with Jesus Christ, and it’s been able to sustain me when the good days and the bad days come, and they do. Because Jesus has taught me a completely new way to keep score.”
With his speech finished a minute earlier than planned, Atchley offered “five bonus points”:
- Please remember that what you post is permanent.
- Don’t text and drive.
- If you’re thinking about getting a dog or a cat, do what Jesus would do: get a dog.
- In the words of Bill and Ted, “Be excellent to [each other].”
- I hope some of you have the chance to do what I did when I was at ACU: find somebody to marry who’s a whole lot nicer than you are. [He’s married to Jamie (Lyda ’81) and has three children. Two of them are current ACU students.]
After speaking to faculty during a luncheon in Hart Auditorium, Atchley took a few minutes to record “A Conversation With …”: