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Southwestern’s distinguished alums to be recognized June 16 in Atlant

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–They’ve preached from hundreds of pulpits and led crusades around the world. They’ve served as pastors and ministers of music and education in churches big and small and worked as administrators and educators for the Southern Baptist Convention and Southern Baptist seminaries.
The five Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary alumni named as 1999 distinguished alumni of the Fort Worth, Texas, school, have served nearly 200 years in a wide variety of ministries. They will be honored during Southwestern’s annual national alumni luncheon June 16 at the SBC’s annual meeting in Atlanta.
This year’s distinguished alumni are Charles Bryan, retired missionary and administrator at the SBC’s former Foreign Mission Board; Robert Hamblin, pastor, evangelist, professor and administrator at the former Home Mission Board; Guinell Freeman, longtime education director at First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla.; Felix Gresham, Southwestern’s first dean of students and a vice president for student affairs; and Jack Terry, former Southwestern dean of the school of religious education and current vice president for institutional advancement.
Bryan first served as a missionary in Costa Rica in 1950 and later became field representative for the northern republics of South America and the Caribbean, helping to begin work in five Caribbean nations. He also served as area director for Middle America and the Caribbean and finished his career with the then-Foreign Mission Board as senior vice president for overseas operations from 1980-87 and as senior vice president for the office of the president from 1987-88.
“Missions was very much a part of the curriculum here at Southwestern, but I thought my calling was to be a pastor,” said Bryan, who earned a bachelor of divinity degree (1950), a master of theology (1966), and a master of divinity (1973).
At a missions emphasis chapel, God clarified Bryan’s calling.
“The Lord dealt with me so intensely during the service that my white shirt was visibly moving, beating on my chest,” Bryan recounted. By summer, he and his wife, Martha, were on the mission field.
Bryan retired from the FMB in 1988 and became mission partnership consultant for Virginia Baptists, leading in the establishment of seven new mission partnerships, until his second retirement in 1998.
In his 49th year of service, Bryan continues to minister through missions in local churches and in occasional partnership missions efforts. “It makes me shudder that I could’ve missed [God’s call],” Bryan said. “God had to make my heart pound.”
Hamblin, who graduated in 1954 with a bachelor of divinity and earned a doctor of theology in 1959, has been first and foremost an evangelist, crediting his Southwestern education with helping to prepare him.
“There was very definitely a spirit of evangelism there,” he said, reflecting on the emphasis to preach the gospel that had been instilled by the seminary’s second president, L.R. Scarborough.
Hamblin’s ministry has included seven years as vice president for evangelism at the HMB and, earlier, serving as pastor of Harrisburg Baptist Church in Tupelo, Miss., as vice president and president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, as a Southwestern trustee and as an evangelism professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition, Hamblin’s evangelistic crusades have taken him to nearly every continent and across the United States and to nearly every continent.
Hamblin has also been an active recruiter for Southwestern, said Bill Tanner, former HMB president and executive director emeritus of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. “During those years in the pastorate and at the HMB, he encouraged young adults called to Christian service to come `west’ and study at Southwestern,” Tanner said.
Freeman has served as educational director at First Baptist, Jacksonville, for 45 years. During her ministry, First Baptist’s Sunday school department has grown from 1,100 in 1954 when she began to 6,600. She retired June 6.
Leading a large Sunday school in one of the largest Southern Baptist churches was not what Freeman thought the Lord had in store for her during her years at Southwestern. “I always thought I would work in a small church,” she confided.
At 23, Freeman, a Hickory, N.C., native began attending seminary. Right before her graduation in 1954, Homer Lindsay Sr. offered her the educational director position in Jacksonville, which she prayed about and then accepted.
Calvin Carr, high school director at First Baptist, has been influenced by her since he was just a few months old. “She is one of the most committed Christians I have ever met. There is no question that she is completely sold out to Jesus Christ,” Carr said.
Freeman said her ministry has not always been easy. The secret, she said, “is staying on your knees in prayer.” She added, “There is a common denominator of W-O-R-K in the ministry. You can’t have a successful ministry without hard work.”
Gresham earned a master of theology from Southwestern in 1942, serving briefly as a pastor before becoming a chaplain during World War II. After the war he served as director of the Baptist Student Center at Tarleton State College in Stephensville, Texas, and then as pastor of First Baptist Church, Stephensville. In 1955, he returned to Southwestern to serve as the first dean of students.
In 31 years of service, Gresham developed the financial aid program for students, helped students get ministerial and secular jobs, served as “foreign student” adviser, counseled students, scheduled chapel speakers and, early on, administered student discipline.
He has been called “a one-man preview of what is now the student services division.”
Former professor T.B. Maston once said of Gresham, “He is gentle in spirit, optimistic in perspective, a source of encouragement and hope to many.”
Gresham estimates that God has helped him help more than 15,000 students — students like Russell Dilday, the seminary’s sixth president; Mark Brister, president of Oklahoma Baptist University; and Clyde Glazener, Gresham’s pastor at Gambrell Street Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
Terry was elected professor of foundations of education in 1969. He was the seminary’s third dean of the school of religious education (now the school of educational ministries) from 1973-95. Since 1995, he has served as vice president for institutional advancement, overseeing Southwestern’s fund-raising, alumni and public relations efforts.
Terry earned a master of religious education in 1962 and a doctor of education in 1967. He served as minister of education and music at several Texas churches and as interim pastor at a Baptist church in Germany.
During Terry’s tenure as dean, the religious education school expanded its curriculum and faculty, added 23 new courses in the late 1970s, added concentrations in theology and communication arts and courses for church business administrators.
Fellow professor and fellow Louisianan William Tolar described Terry as “a worthy and dedicated servant of the Lord. He’s given himself to students and the seminary. He relates to church people and embodies what the seminary’s about.”
Daryl Eldridge, the current dean of the school, said his predecessor “was a visionary, a forecaster of what education was going to be.”
Terry said he prays his most significant accomplishment at Southwestern is that he is “an influence in the hearts and minds of students to become the finest ministers of education in the churches.”
Eldridge said Terry has succeeded in that task, crediting Terry’s leadership for making the school of educational ministries “kind of the Cadillac of Christian education ministries.”