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Eleanor Terry chair to help fund WMU-Samford women’s center

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–A major contribution to Woman’s Missionary Union Foundation is the lead gift toward establishing the Dr. Eleanor F. Terry Chair for Christian Women’s Leadership at Samford University.
The gift was made by her husband Bob, editor of The Alabama Baptist, with 85 gifts made to the Eleanor Terry Memorial Fund held by The Alabama Baptist also to go toward funding the chair.
The chair in Christian women’s leadership is part of a joint effort between WMU and the Baptist-related university in Birmingham, Ala., to create a center of study to help women prepare in a Christian context for leadership roles in church, social institutions, government and the general marketplace.
When fully endowed, earnings from the fund will be used to support a director for the center and defray other related expenses. Donations received to date represent more than a quarter million dollars toward the $1 million necessary to endow the chair.
WMU’s and Samford University’s governing bodies approved a recommendation earlier this year to formalize a partnership between the two entities. Leaders of the two entities have talked informally for two years about creating a program of study for women at Samford.
While details of the program are still being developed, the overall goal is to offer an accredited degree, a certification program and professional development opportunities.
Terry’s selection of this avenue to memorialize his wife is because of her commitment and passion for women to be trained for leadership roles. Eleanor Terry died July 20, 1998, from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in Durban, South Africa, where they were attending a Baptist World Alliance General Council meeting. He also sustained serious injuries in the accident.
In Birmingham, Eleanor worked at Birmingham-Southern College, where she served as director of graduate studies and assistant professor of administration and management. Previously at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., she was senior associate dean of students, a role in which she developed and directed a Freshman Year Program. She also served as an adjunct professor. She had a variety of other teaching experiences throughout her career, including at a seminary, business college and in public schools in Missouri, Kentucky and Mississippi.
She also used her leadership talents in Sunday school, church training and WMU, serving as a teacher and leader locally and a trainer statewide and nationally.
In Birmingham, she became active in Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, serving as a leader in the church’s annual women’s conference and teaching courses on spiritual mentoring.
A native of Vicksburg, Miss., she held bachelor and master degrees in English from Mississippi College in Clinton and a doctor of philosophy degree in higher and adult education administration from the University of Missouri in Columbia.
In the weeks preceding her untimely death, she had discussed the directorship of the Samford-WMU women’s leadership center with leaders from both entities.
“Eleanor’s life was about missions and ministry,” said her husband. “Whether it was as a public school teacher, a church worker or a college administrator, Eleanor was about helping people.
“She had a special passion for helping Christian young women reach the full potential with which God endowed them,” he continued. “Education opened the door for her own ministry and she believed it could for others. Eleanor also believed women offered needed contributions to the church and to the workplace. She longed to see those gifts accepted and utilized.
“The Christian Women’s Leadership Center combines the two emphases that were so much a part of Eleanor,” he noted. “She would be honored and pleased to be associated with helping women prepare for Christian leadership through education and training. She would be equally pleased to be associated with the creative partnership of two outstanding institutions, Woman’s Missionary Union and Samford University, in accomplishing these goals.”
Both Dellanna O’Brien, WMU executive director, and Thomas E. Corts, president of Samford University, said the development of a Christian women’s leadership program is greatly needed.
“Christian leadership training has been a major focus of WMU for generations,” O’Brien said, “but never has there been a greater need for the unique gifts and skills of women in the area of leadership than today.
“We feel indeed fortunate to be able to partner with Samford University in the development of an academic program specifically designed for women choosing to honor Christ in their life’s ministry,” she added. “Because of the high standards of Christian education historically demonstrated by Samford, we have the greatest expectation for the success of this program.”
Corts agreed. “A women’s leadership studies program could serve the church and community by encouraging the highest and best potential among women university graduates,” he said. “We believe many women are eager to apply their natural nurturing capacities to the problems of our society and to ministries in our Lord’s name.
“To work with WMU, the premier Christian women’s organization, in endeavors of this type is totally compatible with Samford’s mission and with our understanding of the Christian gospel,” he said.
Individuals or groups wishing to make a contribution to the chair may send it to WMU Foundation, Dr. Eleanor F. Terry Endowment Fund, PO Box 11346, Birmingham, AL 35202-1346.
*Name changed for security concerns.

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  • Tanya Dawson*