FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–A vision for continuing education that began nearly 30 years ago became reality when the first phase of the Ralph M. Smith Leadership Development Complex was dedicated May 12 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
“As we dedicate this building to you, we dedicate not the mortars and the bricks but we dedicate the men and women who will pass through these walls, dear Father, having been influenced by your leadership, by your guidance that they will truly leave Southwestern Seminary to touch the world, impact eternity,” said Keith Kline, director of Southwestern’s Center for Leadership Development, in his prayer of dedication.
In his opening statements, Southwestern President Kenneth S. Hemphill said, “I doubt that there will ever be another building in any place that will have the kind of eternal impact that this facility will have.”
About 200 people — including most of the people instrumental in the development of the facility — were on hand to see the dedication of the Ray I. Riley Alumni Center and the Lucille Loyd Meadows Visitors Center.
The first phase, which has 32 guest rooms including four suites and a business center, is part of a 130,000-square-foot complex that when completed will have as many as 96 guest rooms and conference facilities for 1,200 people. Phase two, with 25 guest rooms, meeting rooms of various sizes, English garden, dining area and banquet facilities, is scheduled to open in spring 2001.
Invited guests included J. David Fite, Southwestern’s longtime director of continuing education who originally had the vision for the facility; Harold E. Riley, who has given or pledged $6 million toward the complex; Ralph M. Smith, the former pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, for whom the entire complex is named; and Eloise Meadows Rouse, daughter of Lucille Meadows, who made one of the first large contributions to the complex.
For Riley, this was an opportunity to thank his father, who while a college student preparing for the ministry, taught Riley, then a teenager, the importance of faith. When Riley asked his father how the family could survive without anyone working, his father told him that when God calls, God provides.
“From that lowly beginning in that family with no one working, where our money would run out and God would provide,” Riley said, “I learned firsthand the importance of believing.”
Rouse recalled that her mother, who graduated from the seminary in 1923 when she was 20, also relied on God’s provision throughout her education.
“She, too, went through her education with nothing and telling us all of our lives how when she was down to nothing she would say, ‘Lord, I believe this is where you want me to be, and if it is, I know you’ll provide,'” Rouse said, adding that God always provided.
When Meadows made her donation to the center, Rouse recalled, “She held her check up and she said, ‘Now I’m giving you this money and this building ought to be on this campus and you just go out and get the rest of it.'”
The dedication ceremony included a proclamation from the city of Fort Worth designating May 12 “Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Day” and a ribbon-cutting. Following the ceremony, guests toured phase one and phase two, which is under construction.
When completed, the LDC will provide facilities for events ranging from seminary-sponsored conferences to church staff retreats. Guest rooms will also be available for family and friends visiting students or for anyone visiting the campus or the Fort Worth-Dallas metro area.