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Donation to Southern allows endowment of three chairs

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Walter H. Chiles Sr. never attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, but his love for Southern Baptists’ oldest seminary ran deep.

It began when he was young, growing up in the home of a Southern Seminary graduate. His father, John R. Chiles, earned degrees from Southern in 1903 and 1904, studying Greek under New Testament scholar A.T. Robertson.

Chiles’ uncle, Arthur J. Foster, graduated from Southern in 1903 and donated the funds that helped acquire the building that became Foster Hall – now used as a residence for doctoral students. Chiles’ brother-in-law and cousin also attended Southern.

Chiles may not have been a Southern student, but his gifts to the seminary will help provide the education for an untold number of students in the future. One of Chiles’ financial gifts’ recently matured, giving the seminary the resources needed to endow three chairs. Those chairs have been named: the Walter Hale Chiles Sr. and Georgia S. Chiles Chair of Evangelism and Missions; the John Russell Chiles Chair of Biblical Languages [named for Chiles’ father]; and the Ollie Hale Chiles Chair of Church Music [named for Chiles’ mother].

Chiles, who passed away in February 1996, gave the seminary gifts totaling $5 million. Georgia, his wife, passed away earlier this year.

“Mr. Chiles was the consummate Christian gentleman and a model of Christian stewardship,” Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said. “He loved and honored his father, a proud graduate of Southern Seminary. He dearly loved his wife, Georgia, and his family. Beyond all these, he loved the Lord and wanted to see that ministers were rightly trained in the Word of God.”

In the early 1990’s, Chiles provided the lead gift that allowed the construction of Chiles Hall in the Honeycutt Campus Center. Dedicated in 1997, Chiles Hall houses the cafeteria and Heritage Hall, which hosts many campus events.

In an interview in 1993, Chiles said his gifts were a way of expressing his appreciation to the seminary.

“My gifts to the seminary are a way of thanking Southern for the education my father received and continuing the work he started years ago,” he said.

The John Russell Chiles Chair of Biblical Languages is aptly named. Chiles’ father had a life-long passion for the Bible’s original languages.

“My father was a Greek scholar who read the New Testament through each year in Greek,” Walter Chiles said in 1993.

Doug Walker, Southern’s vice president for institutional advancement, said the gifts from Chiles are greatly appreciated.

“One of the greatest things that can happen for the seminary is for us to have every professorship endowed,” he said. “That will help cut the cost of theological education to our students, reducing the cost that we have to charge our students for tuition.”

Walker said that Chiles’ first gift, $25, came in response to a mailer asking for library donations.

“From that point on he became a great friend of the seminary,” he said.

Chiles and his wife Georgia lived in Eustis, Fla. A member of Bay St. Baptist Church in Eustis, Chiles worked for 34 years as a salesman and sales manager for Jostens Jewelry. Friends knew him as “the ring man.”

Born in Jonesboro, Tenn., and raised in Rogersville, Tenn., he attended Mars Hill College (S.C.) before graduating from Furman University (S.C.). Chiles also served on the board of trustees at North Greenville College in South Carolina.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SOUTHERN DONORS.

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  • Michael Foust