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Four honored alums recall beginning at Southwestern

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–The far-reaching impact of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was evident in the ministries of the four alumni honored at the school’s national alumni luncheon in New Orleans June 13.

The 2001 Distinguished Alumni for the Fort Worth, Texas, school included the pastor of a mega-church, two long-time seminary professors and an executive director of a state convention in a pioneer state.

Jack Graham, pastor of 17,000-member Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas, remembered the first day he walked onto the seminary campus as “one of the happiest days of my life.”

During his seminary years, he was edified and encouraged, and he formed lifelong friendships with students, faculty and staff, said Graham, who received a master of divinity in 1976 and a doctor of ministry in 1980.

Using the current students who work on his church staff as evidence, Graham said, “I can tell you I’ve never been more excited about the future of Southwestern.”

Prestonwood’s ministry includes ministries to underprivileged families, women facing crisis pregnancies and thousands of singles in the Dallas area. Graham’s radio and television ministries are broadcast nationwide.

F.B. Huey, who earned a bachelor of divinity in 1958 and a doctor of theology in 1961, also recalled his first day on campus in fall 1955.

“I never would have dreamed or imagined in my wildest imagination that there would be a day like this when I would receive some recognition for which I am very humbled, very grateful,” said Huey, an Old Testament and Hebrew professor at Southwestern from 1965 to 1995.

Admitting to being uncomfortable with being called distinguished, Huey added, “If being distinguished means that your life is being an influence on someone else, perhaps on many people, then every Southwesterner in this room today deserves to be named a distinguished alumnus or a distinguished member of Southwestern Seminary.”

Huey concluded his comments by saying that he could never repay the debt he owes Southwestern. He encouraged other alumni to make a partial payment of their debt through continued support of the seminary.

Huey has also served as a missionary, pastor and interim pastor of more than 30 churches and translator for the New American Standard Bible and the New International Version.

For 40 years, H. Leon McBeth has taught church history at Southwestern. He recalled that when he began as an adjunct instructor in 1958, he and Tom Urrey, another new instructor, were dubbed the Gold Dust Twins.

“Now, of course, the years have passed and we are the Trail Dust Twins,” McBeth said.

He said a Catholic acquaintance who did not understand what the Distinguished Alumni Award was told McBeth it must be similar to the first process on the steps to canonization.

“President Hemphill, nobody ever explained it quite that clearly to me,” McBeth quipped. “But I say, Let the process continue.”

McBeth received a bachelor of divinity in 1957 and a doctor of theology in 1961. The distinguished professor of church history has served as pastor and interim pastor of numerous churches and has written extensively including “The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness” and “A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage.”

Charles Sullivan, executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana, recalled the moment he was in the home of J. Howard Williams and the then seminary president knelt and prayed with Sullivan.

Having such “a great man of God” praying for him “made an impression on my life that has never been forgotten and that has never been lost,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan, who also has been a pastor for 42 years, received a bachelor of divinity in 1955 and a doctor of theology in 1961. He thanked the seminary for its contributions to his ministry. And he noted that the award had more than personal significance.

He said the award represented the seminary’s recognition that work in pioneer areas “is significantly important to the cause of Southern Baptists and that as we look forward to the future the real future is going to be in the pioneer states where there are so many millions of people who are without the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

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  • Matt Sanders