COLUMBIA, SC — On February 29, Allen University and Columbia International University (CIU) celebrated the lives Dr. Gregory Grooms (Allen) and Dr. William Larkin (CIU), two professors who worked toward reconciliation through theological education. The event was held at Hoke Auditorium on the CIU campus.
Dr. Gregory Grooms and Dr. William Larkin were revered professors who touched countless lives in their own spheres of influence, but also worked together for the good of the Kingdom of God beyond their institutions and denominations. Dr. Grooms passed away in 2015; Dr. Larkin died in 2014.
The celebration included a keynote address from former CIU provost Dr. Junius Venugopal with a challenge to carry on the professors’ desire for believers to see the Church as Jesus sees His Church: as one family. Venugopal currently serves as provost and dean of education at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.
CIU students and alumni who are AME Church members joined with several CIU faculty members to plan the event over the past year.
Below are the thoughts of CIU sophomore Michael A. Lanier, who participated in the event:
As a member of CIU’s Ambassador Choir, I had the opportunity to perform with the choir as part of a special event. I knew the event was a tribute to two professors, Dr. William Larkin and Dr. Gregory Grooms, but what I didn’t realize was the tremendous impact these two spiritual giants had had on those around them. Many people were encouraged and strengthened through their example of Christ’s love, as I was to learn through this special evening.
The Ambassador choir performed along with the Allen University choir, the latter of which was one of the kindest, most friendly groups of people I’d ever want to meet. They sang a piece of their own in honor of Dr. Grooms, as we did for Dr. Larkin. The pieces were done with beauty and elegance, and I was very happy to be performing at the same event with a choir from another university, a bit of a rarity.
The Reverend E. Robert Thomas spoke on Dr. Grooms’ legacy at Allen University, noting his commitment and dedication, not only in the classroom, but in treating others with the love of God. I heard of his willingness to give, to mentor, and to show kindness to all who he came in contact with. I’ve never met Dr. Grooms, but as I sat there, I thought that I would certainly have liked to.
After this, CIU professor Dr. Markus Klausli gave tribute to Dr. Larkin, speaking of his personal engagement with students. He said that students would want to be around Dr. Larkin, because he made them feel like fellow scholars, studying alongside him, rather than under him. Though my time at CIU overlapped with Dr. Larkin’s for a short time, I never had the privilege to meet him, though I have heard of his wonderful interaction with students as he used his gift of teaching for God’s purposes.
Mrs. Larkin and Mrs. Grooms were presented with plaques recognizing their husbands. It was a fitting way to remember these two great men, as their one aim was to please the Lord and bring Him glory in whatever way possible.
The evening ended with combined choirs singing songs together including “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds.” Never have I heard the song sung so beautifully as when we sang it together. And as the evening came to a close, I found myself hoping that CIU and Allen University will continue to keep a strong relationship. Drs. Grooms and Larkin would have liked that.