Mayor declares June 10 Dr. John Begley Day


Forty-seven years ago this month, Dr. John Begley and his wife, Lucretia, left Nashville for Columbia. Dr. Begley felt called to bring his ministerial background to education and, from 1978 to 1997, he served as president of Lindsey Wilson College.
Since retiring from the presidential position, Dr. Begley has remained the chancellor and continues to serve the college, the community, and the world through charitable endeavors.
On Monday, the City of Columbia and Lindsey Wilson College came together to honor Dr. Begley for his contributions throughout the years, namely for his role in the Uganda Counseling and Support Services organization, which sponsored the event.
During a presentation held in city hall on Monday morning, Dr. Begley was given letters of recognition from U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, Congressman James Comer, and State Sen. Max Wise.
McConnell’s letter (with a handwritten “THANK YOU” next to the signature) stated, “Countless lives have been touched through your contributions to higher education and through your ministry with the Uganda Counseling and Support Services. I am confident that your legacy and impact of your work will be felt for years to come.”
Along with these letters of support, Mayor Pam Hoots gifted Dr. Begley the key to the city and issued a proclamation declaring June 10, 2024 John Begley Day in Columbia.
Uganda Counseling and Support Services (UCSS) is a non-profit ministry that was founded in 2011 by Dr. Ronald Kaluya, a Lindsey Wilson College student at the time, who previously approached Dr. Begley for help with his idea.
“I think I said, ‘I don’t have time, I can’t.’ The next thing I knew, he had announced to people I had accepted,” Dr. Begley recalled, his last words drowned out by laughter from the audience.
UCSS’s mission involves bringing prosperity and assistance to underprivileged areas of Uganda, Dr. Kaluya’s homeland. Having witnessed the struggles of the small villages firsthand, Dr. Kaluya was able to assess what was most needed. Unsanitary water, mental health issues, and a lack of both nutrition and education plagued large parts of the nation. To combat these problems, UCSS has drilled over 100 wells, established farms to feed families, and has constructed numerous primary schools, a high school, and a vocational school. To show how far the organization has come, when UCSS started, their schools consisted of a shade tree.
A healthcare center has been built and UCSS offers counseling. The healthcare center has seen over 6,000 people and the counseling services have been used by over 8,000 in 2023 alone.
Developments such as these have been crucial for Ugandans’ quality of life. Before the wells, for example, it was not uncommon for some to be miles away from clean drinking water, which they would have to collect and bring back on foot. Some villages relied on roots and paste for food. Thanks to UCSS’s agricultural push, there are crops and goats, providing much more nutritional variety.
“It’s a miracle what he’s accomplished,” Dr. Begley said about Dr. Kaluya.
As described in the proclamation for John Begley Day, Dr. Begley received his Master of Divinity Presbyterian Seminary and did his graduate work with Murray State University. UCSS’s Christian roots and mission has benefitted from his knowledge of ministry and the Bible. Churches have seen an increase in attendance since UCSS began in 2011, and according to their website, UCSS plans to construct permanent churches and equip them with generators. They also plan to train more Sunday school teachers.
While Dr. Kaluya was not in attendance to see Dr. Begley receive the key to the city among other honors, his sister was present. Lucy Namulemo is also a former Lindsey Wilson College student who recognized the impact that Begley’s work had on her both at home in Uganda and through her tenure at Lindsey.
In his speech honoring Dr. Begley, UCSS Chairman Thomas Hunt, who presented the letters from McConnell, Comer, and Wise, said of Dr. Begley, “I can’t think of anyone more deserving.”
Dr. Begley’s involvement with Lindsey continues through the Begley Scholarship, where three freshmen each year are selected to receive full tuition and housing throughout their tenure at the college.
For those looking to directly help UCSS, they are on social media and take donations on their website. UCSS Ambassadors also are available to speak for churches and Bible studies.
By Kenley Godby

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