Freed-Hardeman University celebrated the 80th birthday of Milton R. Sewell, president emeritus and chancellor of the university, at a special chapel program Friday, March 11, 2022, one day prior to his actual birthday.
The program included commendations from FHU President David R. Shannon, Henderson Mayor Bobby King and Chester County Mayor Barry Hutcherson. Shannon described Sewell as “a compassionate and generous man, who has greatly impacted the kingdom and Christian education.” He added, “We are honoring a man whose influence has been tremendous.”
Sewell became president of FHU in 1990 and served for 18 years in that capacity. Prior to that appointment, he had served as president of Mars Hill Bible School and as Freed-Hardeman vice president of development. During his tenure as president of FHU, both enrollment and endowment greatly increased, nine buildings were constructed, and 39 new academic programs were initiated.
“We stand on his shoulders every day,” Shannon said of Sewell.
King praised Sewell for his service to the community. Recounting a personal memory of Sewell, King mentioned his service in 2009 after Henderson lost a police officer in a robbery attempt and fatal shooting. At a reception and lunch for family and friends of the officer, Sewell greeted and hugged every one of them as they came in and stayed throughout the gathering. King concluded, “and when he left, he told me not to worry about the meal — that he had it.”
King presented Sewell with a key to the city. It was only the second time a key to the city has been given. The other was presented to Eddy Arnold, Chester County native and music legend.
Hutcherson read and presented Sewell with a proclamation announcing that March 12, 2022, was being celebrated as Milton R. Sewell Day in Chester County.
Finally, Shannon presented Sewell with a sign marking his recently designated reserved parking space at the front of Gardner Center. To conclude the program, Chorale led faculty and students in singing “Happy Birthday” and “To Thee Our Dearest FHU.” As chapel was dismissed, Shannon announced that the FHU Lion’s Pride Dining Services would serve birthday cake and one of Dr. Sewell’s favorite ice cream treats with dessert selections that day.
In addition to Friday’s chapel celebration, 65 family, friends, staff and past and current trustees attended a surprise party Thursday evening, March 10, at the Mid-South Youth Camp Tucker Family Dining Hall. Several guests made comments that reiterated both Milton and Laurel Sewell’s generosity with their financial support, home, hospitality, mentorship and time.