HANNIBAL, Mo. (BP) — Woodrow “Woody” Burt, president of Hannibal-LaGrange University since 1994, has informed trustees of his plans to retire effective Aug. 31, 2012.
“God has blessed me with the privilege of serving at Hannibal-LaGrange for 32 years,” Burt said during a Sept. 9 board meeting at the Missouri campus. “As I begin my 33rd year with HLGU, I want to thank you for the opportunity you’ve entrusted to me over these years. I’ve accomplished most all I set out to accomplish. Between that and turning 66 next August, I just believe it’s time to move on.”
Terry Buster, pastor of First Baptist Church in Palmyra, Mo., and chairman of the board of trustees, said the board accepted the notice with regret.
“His impact and influence on Hannibal-LaGrange University will continue in the years to come,” Buster said. “We look forward to working with him in the course of this next year in anticipation of one of the best years the university has ever experienced.”
The board met in executive session immediately after Burt’s announcement and named the trustees’ executive committee to serve as the presidential search committee. Buster said the executive committee is slated to change in November as new trustees rotate on and off, and the committee will have to determine if they want to keep the current structure for the search committee.
“The committee will meet in the course of the next few weeks to determine the process we will follow in our search,” Buster said. “We ask for the prayers, support, input and encouragement of alumni, students, faculty, staff and the churches of the Missouri Baptist Convention.”
Since coming to the school formerly known as Hannibal-LaGrange College as a professor more than 30 years ago, Burt has watched it grow from a two-year institution with fewer than 400 students to a four-year university with a fall enrollment around 1,200 this year.
During his tenure with HLGU, Burt taught speech communications and served as admissions director, dean of students, registrar, academic dean, chief development officer, executive vice president and president.
Burt’s wife Katherine will continue to teach English at HLGU at least through the spring semester of 2013.
The school has been lauded by the North American Mission Board for sending students into the home mission field and has built several dormitories and academic buildings in recent years.
“If you ask me what I’m most proud of, it’s not our buildings, academic, graduate or athletic programs we’ve added, and it’s not the name change or that we’ve been tops in missions mobilization,” Burt said. “I’m most proud of the people I’ve been privileged to know and work with: students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni.
“No one person has made this happen. This has been a team effort,” he said. “Through God’s grace, the support of many wonderful alumni and friends, the backing of a great board of trustees and the work of an outstanding faculty, staff and students, we have accomplished much.”
Vic Borden, pastor of Red Bridge Baptist Church in Kansas City and chairman of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s interagency relations committee, said Burt’s decision is bittersweet.
“It’s bitter because when Dr. Burt steps away as president of HLGU the personification of graciousness and humility will go with him,” Borden said. “I’ve had dozens of encounters with Burt in the past many years and have always found him to be engaging, kind, encouraging and diligent in the assignment God has given him. Truly these will be huge shoes to fill.
“It’s sweet because HLGU is God’s institution,” Borden added. “The Lord is already preparing a leader to follow. I’m looking forward to working with the next president and enjoying that relationship just as I have with Dr. Burt.”
Jay Hughes, interim executive director of the MBC, echoed Borden’s sentiments.
“Under Dr. Burt’s guidance and leadership, HLGU has experienced tremendous growth and success while giving God all the glory,” Hughes said. “Dr. Burt has been a friend to the MBC and he will be sorely missed. The MBC will be praying for Dr. Burt and his family as they transition to retirement.”
Serving on the presidential search committee will be Buster; Edgar Alms of Hannibal; Milton Baumgardner, pastor of First Baptist Church in Monroe City; Pat Benson of Hannibal; Mark Boley, pastor of Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Wyaconda; Charles Brazeale of Paris; Daniel Hale, pastor of First Baptist Church in Millersville; Archie Hayden of Hannibal; Vinita Henry of St. Charles; Robert Ingram of Bowling Green; Mitch Jackson, pastor of Miner Baptist Church in Sikeston; Jerry Sheridan of Leawood, Kan.; Tim Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ewing; Matt Tanner, associational missionary for the Cane Creek Stoddard Baptist Association in Poplar Bluff; and Sonia Vicars of St. Charles. Benson will serve as the chairman, with Jackson as vice chairman and Baumgardner as secretary.
Brian Koonce is a staff writer for The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.