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NOBTS honors Nelson Price for N. Ga. campus leadership


DECATUR, Ga. (BP)–A $1 million endowed chair of leadership has been named in honor of Nelson Price of Marietta, Ga., at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s North Georgia Campus. When fully funded, the Nelson L. Price Chair of Leadership will be the first endowed chair at the seminary’s Georgia campus, as well as the first endowed faculty position at any extension center.
Currently more than $170,000 has been received through cash and pledges toward completion of this endowed position for a full-time professor of leadership at NOBTS’ North Georgia Campus, following a dinner held in Marietta, Ga., in Price’s honor March 29. An “endowed chair” is the term used in the academic world to describe a faculty position that is funded by an endowment outside of the institution’s regular budget. The interest earned from the endowment is used to pay a professor’s salary and expenses.
Price, pastor of the nearly 9,000-member Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, was the driving force in 1979 behind the establishment of what is now NOBTS’ largest extension center campus. The NOBTS North Georgia Campus, with nearly 500 students, is now larger than many accredited seminaries.
“At NOBTS we are committed to making theological education as accessible as possible to as many people as possible,” said Chuck Kelley, NOBTS president. “The creative vision of Dr. Nelson Price gave birth to our North Georgia Campus and this endowed chair will secure its future. We are delighted with the opportunity to recognize the magnificent ministry of Dr. Nelson Price by naming this chair in his honor.”
Landrum Leavell, NOBTS president emeritus, said, “The honor of having a chair of leadership named for Nelson Price at the NOBTS North Georgia Campus is fitting in every way.” Leavell was president of NOBTS when the extension center was created.
Originally housed in the education building of Price’s church, NOBTS extension center classes were held at Roswell Street Baptist Church until December 1994, when the school relocated to Decatur, Ga., after members of Columbia Drive Baptist Church voted in September 1994 to give their 6.5 acres of land and three-story worship complex to the seminary for extension center education. The former pastor of Columbia Drive Baptist Church, Don Aderhold, is the current director of the NOBTS North Georgia Campus and has been a professor of New Testament for that extension center since 1979.
“The establishment of this chair shows in a powerful way the commitment and dedication New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has to preparing God-called men and women for service through Southern Baptist ministries in Georgia and surrounding areas,” said Jim Lee, NOBTS vice president for development.
Price, who taught one of the first classes to be offered at the NOBTS North Georgia extension center, said, “It has been such a joy to watch this program mushroom and meet the needs of students preparing for ministry, students who might not have had another opportunity to do so.” His primary subjects over the past 20 years have been courses in leadership and administration.
“I originally thought of the concept of extension center classes when I was a student at New Orleans Baptist Seminary,” said Price, who is from the rural farming community of Osyka, Miss. In record time he completed the bachelor of divinity degree (what is now called the master of divinity degree), with a major in homiletics in 1956, after earning a bachelor of science degree with a double major in horticulture and biology in 1953 while on a basketball scholarship at Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, La.
Price was called into the ministry while he was a college student and planned on becoming a bivocational minister, working as a county agent during the week. His leadership skills were obvious to his fellow students, who voted him president of the SLU student body, president of SLU’s Baptist Student Union, president of the Gleaners Club, chief justice of the SLU judicial board, state president of the Louisiana Baptist Student Union and two-time recipient of the national collegiate Who’s Who award.
“I first met Nelson Price when he was a student at SLU,” said Leavell, who was a doctoral student at NOBTS when Price was in college. “I was preaching a youth revival at First Baptist Church, Hammond, where Price was a member. He was impressive even then, not only because of his height, but also because of the glow of spiritual commitment on his face.”
Price’s first pastorate was a little church less than two hours from the seminary, Mount Pisgah Baptist in Franklinton, La. Soon he was called to a larger church, Oak Park Baptist in New Orleans, where he served nine years before he was called to direct the ministry of an even larger church, Roswell Street Baptist in Marietta, Ga., where he has been pastor for a remarkable 34 years, since Nov. 1, 1965.
Roswell Street Baptist Church has been among the top five churches in Georgia in Cooperative Program giving every year for many years. Some of the ministries Price has led his church to establish include a Christian radio station, WFTD 1080 AM; a Christian preschool and kindergarten; the second-largest worship center in the southeastern United States, seating 4,000; “Come Alive,” a weekly television ministry; and Love Life, Inc., which includes a women’s pregnancy center offering alternatives to abortion and the Clay Home, a residence for unwed mothers.
At the same time, he had a passion all along for preparing others for Christian service. His dream since seminary days of making theological education more accessible and affordable for students was beginning to take shape in the late 1970s. Creative methods of distance learning, a phenomenal concept at the time among accredited seminaries, began to consume his thoughts.
“I saw many capable young men and women in the area who could not make the break” to travel to one of the six established SBC seminaries, Price said. Local pastors who had plunged into ministry without preparation had talked to Price, along with seminary-trained denominational leaders and potential students who were interested in the possibilities of NOBTS-sponsored classes in the Atlanta area. He approached Leavell, then president of NOBTS, and leaders at the Georgia Baptist Convention about his idea.
Being the leader that he is, Price persevered with what he believed to be a worthy goal, and soon was conducting one of the first classes, a course in leadership, when the NOBTS North Georgia Extension Center began its first academic year in August 1979 in the educational facilities of Roswell Street Baptist Church. Response was so positive that NOBTS began offering a full cycle of courses at the extension center in the fall of 1982, and within 10 years the NOBTS North Georgia extension center, still meeting at Roswell Street Baptist Church, had as many students as many accredited seminary campuses.
“Our congregation was invigorated by the presence of the faculty and students in our buildings,” Price said, adding that the church members voted never to charge NOBTS for rent or utilities. Additionally, the Roswell Street congregation provided not only classroom and library space, but also an immediate site for practicing what the students were learning in their classes. They also offered scholarships for church members who wanted to take classes.
A denominational leader for many years, Price was on NOBTS’ board of trustees for 16 years and was vice chairman of the NOBTS presidential search committee which unanimously chose Leavell as the seminary’s seventh president in 1974. He was president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, 1982-83, and president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference in 1987. He was one of three candidates to run for president of the SBC in 1992 when the convention met in Indianapolis.
Price is married to the former Trudy Knight of Bogalusa, La. They have two daughters and four grandchildren.
Additional contributions or pledges for the Nelson L. Price Chair of Leadership may be sent to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Development Office, 3939 Gentilly Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70126-4858; or call Jim Lee, NOBTS vice president for development, at 1-800-NOBTS-01, ext. 3252, for more information.