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Carson-Newman names O’Brien president

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. (BP)–J. Randall O’Brien of Baylor University has been named as Carson-Newman College’s 22nd president, David Ogle, chair of the presidential search committee and board of trustees, announced July 8.

O’Brien currently serves as Baylor’s executive vice president and provost and professor of religion and as a visiting law professor. He will assume Carson-Newman’s presidency on Jan. 1, 2009, but will begin his transition on Aug. 1.

Carson-Newman, founded in 1851 and affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention, has 1,700 undergraduate students, 150 graduate students and 129 full-time faculty at its Jefferson City campus.

O’Brien holds doctor of theology and master of divinity degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, a master of sacred theology from Yale Divinity School and a bachelor of science degree from Mississippi College. He has done additional studies at Harvard and Oxford universities.

A licensed and ordained Baptist minister, he has served as interim pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio since January 2007. He has served as pastor or interim pastor of 19 churches in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana and regularly preaches in revivals and conferences in churches, conventions and universities across the United States and abroad.

Ogle said trustees were unanimous in embracing the search committee’s recommendation of O’Brien after a 15-month process.

“Both the search committee and the trustees are convinced that God has blessed us with the right individual to lead Carson-Newman College into a great new era that achieves our vision of becoming a premier Christian liberal arts college with a world-wide impact,” Ogle said.

“Dr. O’Brien’s experience in Christian ministry and higher education covers a broad spectrum of work, starting as a college instructor, then moving to assistant, associate and full professor of religion. Administratively, he’s been a dean and provost. It quickly became apparent to the committee that Dr. O’Brien’s reputation in Baptist higher education was national in scope. He brings a breadth and depth of education, experience and understanding for the roles, challenges and opportunities required to ensure quality faculty and instruction, vibrant student life and visionary leadership. Further, he is also nationally recognized by Baptists as an outstanding pastor, religious scholar, author and speaker. I look forward to seeing Dr. O’Brien in Baptist pulpits across this nation as Carson Newman’s chief ambassador.”

O’Brien joined Baylor’s faculty in 1991 as an associate professor of religion after serving three years as senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark. Before assuming his current post as executive vice president and provost in 2006, O’Brien’s roles at Baylor had included professor and chair of the department of religion, acting dean of the George W. Truett Theological Seminary and executive assistant to the president of the university.

From 1980-87, O’Brien held a tenured faculty appointment in Old Testament and Hebrew at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark.

“Kay and I are honored to be invited to join the Carson-Newman family,” O’Brien said, “as I enthusiastically and prayerfully accept the servant-leadership role of president.

“This is, indeed, a sacred calling upon our lives, which humbles us and inspires us. Along with our new Carson-Newman family, Kay and I celebrate all that God has done, is doing and is going to do through Carson-Newman College as, together, we continue to build a Christ-centered college to impact the world…. We ask for the prayers of all for the college and for us as, together, we embark upon an exciting new era.”

O’Brien reported that C-N’s interim president, Joe Bill Sloan, “will be returning to the classroom full-time, which is his first love,” but “he has graciously agreed to informally advise me as I make the transition into the presidency over the next several months.”

O’Brien, a native of McComb, Miss., recently completed a term as president of the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion, Southwest Region, and currently is on the executive board of the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities. He is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in Religion.

At Baylor, O’Brien has received numerous teaching awards, including Mortar Board’s Circle of Achievement Award on three occasions, the Carr P. Collins Outstanding Professor Award presented annually by the graduating class, the Outstanding Professor Award given by Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society and the Outstanding Faculty Member Award presented by the student congress.

O’Brien has published four books and more than 70 articles in various journals and Bible encyclopedias. The titles of his books are “Set Free by Forgiveness: The Way to Peace and Healing,” “I Feel Better All Over Than I Do Anywhere Else (And Other Stories to Tickle Your Soul),” “Who Is Jesus?” and “The Progression of the Mosaic Motif to the Johannine Concept of Messiah.” He currently is writing a historical novel on the civil rights movement in the South in the 1960s after which he plans to write a volume on the Book of Job, dealing with issues of innocent suffering, doubt and faith.

O’Brien is a Vietnam veteran with the 101st Airborne Division and received, among other decorations, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the United States Air Medal, The Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross and the Bronze Star.

He and his wife have two married daughters, Elise Syer and Shannon Evans, both of whom are preparing to serve as international missionaries, and a son, Chris, a college freshman.

Kay O’Brien has had an extensive professional career as a licensed social worker in Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. She has worked in both clinical and teaching settings, while having taught in the Baylor University School of Social Work since 1997.
Adapted from a news release by Carson-Newman College.

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