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Friends honor former Golden Gate Seminary president Crews

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–The life and presidency of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s William “Bill” O. Crews was celebrated April 12 at a retirement dinner attended by trustees, faculty, staff and friends.

Crews served as president from 1986 to 2003. During that time, more than 2,500 seminary graduates served as Christian leaders or missionaries in 30 countries around the world.

“The word ‘leadership’ defines Bill Crews,” current seminary president Jeff Iorg said, adding that Crews has been a mentor and friend to him for many years.

Iorg told those in attendance Crews deserves the accolades he has received. He said Crews comforted him when he was seriously ill and “helped me learn the things that were happening in the Southern Baptist Convention.” Iorg told Crews, “You have been a constant source of confidence and stability during the transition to a new administration.”

“Thank you for a remarkable legacy,” faculty spokesman Dr. John Shouse told Crews, adding that one of Crews’ greatest contributions was in creating a close connection between the seminary and the churches it serves.

Crews said he was “grateful” for the 18 years he served at Golden Gate.

“I am also grateful for those, who from 1859 to the present, have made the seminary dream come true,” he said, referencing the seminary’s 19th-century roots. The seminary officially opened a century later, in 1959. “We’re stewards of their dream of shaping effective leaders for the churches of tomorrow.”

Several hundred friends and colleagues attended the dinner and heard praises from representatives of the faculty, students, the Southern Baptist Convention and Marin County community.

Earlier in the day, seminary trustees approved several honors for Crews, who is now chancellor of the school. They include:

— Announcement of the William O. Crews Chair of Leadership. The endowed chair is funded by a gift from Jack Rice and his late wife, Duna, of Sacramento, Calif.

— Creation of a special section of the seminary library housing leadership books and materials named in Crews’ honor.

— Renaming the seminary’s “Eagle Leadership Award” to the “Crews Leadership Award.”

— Naming Crews president emeritus upon completion of his tenure as chancellor in 2006.

Crews was also presented a series of laudatory plaques from a variety of organizations. One, from seminary students, was created from a piece of steel cut from the Golden Gate Bridge when it was remodeled.

Rotary Club representative Jim Placak also lauded Crews for his active participation in Rotary activities in several communities over his career, including most recently the San Rafael Rotary Club. He mentioned Crews’ sense of humor and ability “to speak at any time, in any place, on any subject.”

Crews became the sixth president of the Golden Gate Seminary in December 1986, transitioning to the role of chancellor in 2003. He came to the seminary from Riverside, Calif., where he served as pastor of Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church for eight years. Previously he served as a pastor at churches in Washington, Oregon and Texas. He also served on the staff of the Northwest Baptist Convention.

He served on the seminary board of trustees from 1982-86. He has also served as president of the Northwest Baptist Convention and the California Southern Baptist Convention. His local community activities include the boards of the Marin County Chamber of Commerce, the North Bay Council and Marin General Hospital.

Crews holds a bachelor of arts degree from Hardin-Simmons University and a bachelor of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He earned his doctor of ministry degree from Golden Gate Seminary in December 2000. He was awarded two honorary degrees in 1987: the doctor of humanities degree from Hardin-Simmons University and the doctor of divinity degree from California Baptist University.

During his tenure as Golden Gate president, the seminary established new campuses in Phoenix (1995) and Denver (1996). The seminary also achieved accreditation approval to offer full masters degrees at all five of the seminary’s campuses.

His wife, Jo Ann, was also honored. Gifts presented to her included a book of memories containing numerous letters from friends; a rocking chair and a painting by one of her favorite artists, Thomas Kinkade.

The banquet also featured entertainment by Christian comic Dennis Swanberg. The Crewses currently reside in the Vancouver, Wash., area with their son, Ronald. Crews will continue to teach classes for the seminary at its Pacific Northwest Campus.

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is a Cooperative Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention and operates five campuses. They are in Northern California, Southern California, the Pacific Northwest Arizona and Colorado.

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  • John C. Eagan