In the fall of 2007 when General Colin Powell came to Lubbock as the keynote speaker for the first "An Evening with …" dinner series there were many in attendance who couldn't imagine the event ever being duplicated, much less improved upon.
Many of those same attendees left "An Evening with George W. Bush" simply "amazed and excited" about the university and its direction after the former President delivered the keynote address during the benefit dinner in September before a crowd estimated to be close to 1,400 at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center.
"I came away from the evening overwhelmingly impressed with the entire event," said longtime Lubbock Christian University friend Mark Griffin, who attended with his wife, Claudia, his parents B.R. 'Rip' and Geneva Griffin and other family members. "It was absolutely a first-class, highly professional event and LCU and its many, many alumni and supporters should be extremely proud."
The evening began with a dinner crowd of approximately 900 being served by Lubbock Christian University athletes in the banquet hall. The former president accompanied LCU President, Dr. L. Ken Jones and his wife, Suzie, into the dinner portion of the evening where they were able to enjoy their meal while sitting with Randy and Susan Andrews, title sponsors of the event. Master of Ceremonies, Morris Wilkes, CEO of the Wilkes Company and a longtime friend and associate of President Bush, welcomed the crowd before introducing the President. Sam Beard ('68), a member of the LCU Board of Trustees, offered the invocation followed by the vocal ensemble, Legacy, performing the National Anthem. Legacy is a contemporary Christian all-male a capella group. Members are Marty Baker ('06), Josh Wheeler ('07), Clint Dickerson ('06), Jake Lierman ('05), and Michael Thompson.
"What a great event that Lubbock Christian University could bring an individual of the stature of President Bush and give him the appropriate atmosphere to tell us how he really felt about his days in the White House," said Dr. Ronald J. Kendall, Institute Director of the Texas Tech University Institute of Environmental and Human Health. "We in the audience had a rare opportunity to hear from a two -term president, his philosophy, his values, strategy and decision making, and the ups and downs that come with a position like that. I compliment LCU for a job extremely well done."
After the conclusion of dinner the assembled crowd moved to the Civic Center Theatre where they were joined by other ticketed patrons to hear President Bush first give a keynote address and then join Dr. Jones for a casual question and answer session. One of the most moving portions of the evening was the prayer led by Dr. Jones on behalf of President Bush, followed by the beautiful benediction of "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" sung by the LCU Praise Choir under the direction of Dr. Philip Camp.
The President gave a very free-flowing, humorous and, at times, light-hearted speech, but throughout the entire address his focus on leadership, faith and freedom remained obvious. He left no doubt that he shares with LCU some of the same principles and philosophies of life. His delivery was one that kept the entire audience tuned in to hear every word and he often told stories that illustrated the many attributes that helped him withstand eight solid years as the leader of the world’s greatest country.
"(My wife, Krista) and I agreed that LCU nailed the event from start to finish," said Matt Bumstead, Co-President of United Supermarkets in a post-dinner letter to Dr. Jones. "We believed the whole evening to be a magnificent reflection on the character and quality of the university. The choral benediction, incidentally, was a breathtaking moment. BRAVO!"
At the conclusion of the question and answer session with Dr. Jones, Mr. Randy Andrews of title sponsor GRACO Real Estate Development, Inc. presented President Bush with a handmade set of spurs as a momento of the occasion.
For the patrons who were able to be part of the evening there were many, many fond memories that will no doubt linger in their minds for years to come. To say that the night was a success might actually be a tremendous understating of the actual feelings that most in attendance took away.
"It was a night that we will remember for a long, long time," said Dr. Craig Horton ('95), who attended with his wife, Kenni. "LCU managed to bring a first-class event to our city and the entire evening was spectacular and full of professionalism. Needless to say I believe everyone that was able to be in attendance will be proud to say they were there."