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Alabama Baptist Leader Rick Lance to Address UMobile Grads May 14, Gary Palmer to Receive Honorary Doctorate, Pete Dunn to Receive Shofar Award

Dr. Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist Convention State Board of Missions, will deliver the commencement address during the 45th graduation exercises for the University of Mobile on Saturday, May 14, at 10 a.m. at the Mobile Civic Center.

The university will award the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Gary Palmer, president of the Alabama Policy Institute. Also, the university will present the Shofar Award for faithful service by an Alabama Baptist minister to Dr. William Terry “Pete” Dunn, pastor of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Uriah, Ala.

The William K. Weaver Jr. Excellence Award and the Annie Boyd Parker Weaver Excellence Award will be presented to the outstanding male and female students selected by vote of the university faculty.

Bachelor’s, master’s and associate’s degrees will be awarded to approximately 340 graduates.

As executive director of the State Board of Missions, Lance serves nearly 3,300 churches and more than one million Alabama Baptists. Prior to his election as executive director in June 1998, Lance served as a pastor for 29 years, including 15 years at First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa, Ala.

He holds a bachelor of arts in religion and speech from Samford University, a master of divinity in biblical studies and pastoral ministries and a doctorate of education in pastoral counseling and preaching, both from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been awarded a Doctor of Divinity from Judson College and a Doctor of Humane Letters from Samford University.

The university will award the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Gary Palmer, president and co-founder of the Alabama Policy Institute, a research and education organization whose purpose is to identify, develop and promote sound public policies that emphasize a limited government, free markets and competition, the rule of law and the preservation of healthy families.

In the 21 years since co-founding the Institute, Palmer has become widely recognized for his ability to address issues strategically and with clarity. He has authored and contributed to numerous papers and articles on state and national policy and was recently appointed to Gov. Robert Bentley’s Alabama Commission on Improving State Government.

He served on former Gov. Bob Riley’s Task Force to Strengthen Alabama Families; as an advisor to the Alabama Aerospace, Science and Industry Task Force; and on the Governor’s Welfare Reform Commission during the James Administration. He was a founding director of the State Policy Network, the professional service organization for America’s state-based, free market think tanks, and he served on the SPN board of directors for six years, the final two as president.

Palmer has been recognized by Focus on the Family twice for his leadership in support of Alabama’s families. Palmer was named an “Outstanding Young Man in America” and recognized as one of “America’s Emerging Leaders.” In 2008, he was listed as one of the “Top 40 Most Influential Non-elected Alabamians.”

Palmer is recipient of the Roe Award. Named in honor of the late Tom Roe who was instrumental in the founding of state-based think tanks, the Roe Award recognizes effective think tank leadership, innovation, and accomplishment and pays tribute to those in the state public policy movement whose achievements have greatly advanced freedom.

Before founding the Institute, Palmer worked in cost engineering and project control in the engineering field for Combustion Engineering in their Environmental Systems Division and for Rust International where he was assigned to projects ranging from refuse to energy to pulp and paper to aerospace. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama with a B.S. degree in Operations Management.

Pete Dunn will receive the Shofar Award, which is awarded to an Alabama Baptist State Convention minister for faithful service that may never otherwise be recognized. Dunn began his career as an electrical engineer and in the 1960s worked as an engineer for the manned lunar landing program at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and on the Saturn V Project for NASA. During this period, he also served as minister of music at Fulton Road Baptist Church in Mobile, where he was ordained, then as associate pastor at Littlewoods Baptist Church in New Orleans, La.

In 1968, Dunn began what would be a career lasting more than 30 years as a missionary in Arab-speaking lands for the International Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. With wife Patricia at his side, he served as executive director of the Board of Trustees for the Baptist Center for Mass Communication in Beirut, Lebanon, from 1968 to 1987, writing and producing radio and TV scripts and integrating media tools into evangelism, education and health ministries in the Middle East and North Africa.

He also served as pastor of Baptist churches in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Morocco. In addition, he also served as coordinator of War Relief for Lebanon, president of the Arabic Broadcasting Convention in 1990, co-founder of the North Africa Partnership, and principal of Beirut Baptist School for a year. He retired from the IMB in 2001 and has served as pastor of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Uriah, Ala., since 2003, in addition to teaching a course as an adjunct instructor in the School of Christian Studies at the University of Mobile.

Dunn holds a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Auburn University, a master of arts in theology and Christian communication from Wheaton College, and a Doctor of Ministry in theology, evangelism and counseling from Luther Rice Seminary.

For more information on the University of Mobile, visit the website at, or call Enrollment Services at 251.442.2222, or toll free at 800.WIN.RAMS.

Dr. Rick Lance

Mr. Gary Palmer

Dr. Pete Dunn

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