NEW ORLEANS (BP)–When they married in the late 1800s, George Washington and Corra Berry Leavell had no way of knowing how God would use their descendents in his Kingdom. However, they knew what God expected and they committed their marriage and family to the Lord. The Leavells diligently raised their nine boys based on Christian principles and the Word of God. The results have been remarkable.
Eight of the Leavells’ nine sons went on to serve in some type of vocational Christian ministry. These eight men participated in almost every imaginable ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention, and many were innovators in their areas of service. Their ministries changed the face of the convention and spread the message of Christ across the world.
On Jan. 28, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary paid tribute to the legacy left by George and Corra Leavell and their descendents with the dedication of Leavell College, formerly known as the College of Undergraduate Studies.
“As we thought about the mission of our College of Undergraduate Studies, our trustees made the determination that they wanted the college to be renamed Leavell College in honor of this wonderful family,” said Chuck Kelley, NOBTS president. “The [Leavell] boys became a tremendous force in the Kingdom of God. They literally gave shape to the Southern Baptist Convention in the early and middle years of the 20th century.”
In addition to the college dedication, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the opening of a museum containing memorabilia from the family. The museum, once housed in the seminary’s chapel, was moved to the Hardin Student Center nearer the Leavell College classrooms.
NOBTS President Emeritus Landrum P. Leavell II, George and Corra’s grandson, was on hand for the event along with approximately 30 other Leavell descendents. The former president’s 20-year tenure is indicative of the ongoing legacy of the Leavell family.
“By any standard or means of measurement, Dr. [Landrum] Leavell is one of the greatest presidents that this seminary has ever had,” Kelley said. “On behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention and NOBTS, we want to thank you and the Leavell family for the rich harvest through lives well-lived and a family well-developed.”
During Leavell’s presidency, the seminary experienced growth in student population and endowment. He also began an extension center system across the Southeast, which allows ministers to obtain theological education while remaining in their current ministry positions. Compressed interactive video (CIV), which connects classrooms in different cities for real-time video and audio interaction, was first utilized under his leadership.
Landrum Leavell also was a driving force in establishing and strengthening what is now Leavell College. When it started, the school had only 25 to 30 students. Now with more than 1,000 students enrolled, Leavell College offers a foundational bachelor of arts degree in Christian ministry but also has certificate-level classes for laypeople, a diploma program for those without high school diplomas or GEDs and fully accredited associate and baccalaureate degrees.
The first Leavell to serve as NOBTS president, however, was George and Corra’s son Roland. A noted evangelist, he led the evangelism department at the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board) before coming to the seminary.
“Roland Q. Leavell was one of the greatest presidents in the history of our seminary,” Kelley said. “He moved our campus from its Uptown location to the present location. We would not be the seminary we are today if that move had not been made.”
Among the other brothers was Frank, who pioneered Southern Baptist student work, serving as a longtime Baptist Student Union leader; Landrum, who was the first director the Baptist Young Peoples Union and worked at the Sunday School Board (now Lifeway Christian Resources); James, an evangelist and pastor who served churches across the Southeast; Leonard, a pastor in the Southeast and father of Landrum P. Leavell II; George and Ullin, who served as missionaries in China; Clarence, who served on the Arkansas state mission board; and Arnaud, who served as a dentist in Hollywood, Calif.
“It’s our heart’s desire that every graduate of Leavell College and New Orleans Seminary would go on to have the kind of world-shaping impact that these nine boys and their descendents had on the Southern Baptist Convention,” Kelley said.
George and Corra Leavell and their descendents embody the principles the Southern Baptist Convention is seeking to encourage through its “Kingdom Family” initiative. On June 16, at the Pastors’ Conference of the SBC, the SBC Council on Family Life will unveil a convention-wide strategy calling for Southern Baptists to commit to themselves to develop “Kingdom families.” The goal of this initiative is to strengthen Christian families and help them actively participate in fulfilling the Great Commission.
“I hope and pray, ladies and gentlemen, as you are here preparing for ministry that you understand that a very important part of your ministry is the time you spend with your spouse and your children,” Kelley told the seminarians at the dedication. “You may find out that perhaps the greatest legacy is going to be not in what you do, but in what your children do.”
The book is not closed on the Leavell legacy. Several of George and Corra’s great-great-grandchildren attended the dedication of Leavell. Only in their teens, who knows how God will use the next generation of Leavells?
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BACK ON CAMPUS.