WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary celebrated its 60th year during the fall meetings of the Board of Trustees and the Board of Visitors at the Wake Forest, N.C., campus.
Trustees and BOV members as well as friends and guests of Southeastern also attended the installation of the Johnny Hunt Chair of Biblical Preaching.
In trustee business sessions, two new deans and two professors were officially elected to their posts.
Sixty years after its founding, Southeastern has more students than at any other time in its history, with nearly 2,700 students in its graduate and undergraduate programs.
“We are grateful to God for his faithfulness to Southeastern during 60 years of ministry,” SEBTS President Daniel Akin said. “What is truly encouraging is that even as we celebrate the past, we look forward to God doing an even greater work through Southeastern in the years to come.”
An increasing number of students are studying online, in hybrid format classes and on campus, Akin also noted.
To celebrate its milestone, Southeastern students, staff, faculty, friends, trustees and BOV members gathered the evening of Oct. 11 on the lawn for a barbeque dinner, along with games and live music.
During the Oct. 12 chapel service, Akin announced the completion of the fully funded Johnny Hunt Chair of Biblical Preaching, a $1-million endowed chair which will provide growing, annual salary support for a professor of preaching to the enhance the training of students to preach the Gospel around the world. Akin announced that Greg Heisler, associate professor of preaching and speech, will be the first to hold the chair.
Hunt, an alumnus of Southeastern, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church of Woodstock, was honored for his legacy, which inspired his congregation and friends to donate funding for the endowed chair.
“We love and appreciate Johnny Hunt, and his blessed church of First Baptist Church in Woodstock,” Akin said. “There is no greater evangelist for Jesus, and there is no greater evangelist for Southeastern.”
Hunt said the chair of preaching is especially gratifying, as the gift will continue funding the professorship in perpetuity. He said his hope is that future generations will be trained and equipped to share the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and he has no greater joy than to be associated with such an endeavor.
Hunt also said it was humbling to note how far Southeastern has come since he was a student in the 1980s, when moderate-to-liberal theology dominated the campus and chapel attendance was measured in tens of students, rather than hundreds.
“A few of us would go up to the top of the chapel after the services and lay down on our faces and ask God to change this school,” Hunt said of his time as a student at Southeastern. “If you believe in something, stick by it and trust God to change it. Now, students are literally all over the world, from this institution, preaching the Gospel.”
During the service, Hunt focused on the value of preaching the Word of God, speaking from the text of Psalm 126 — the same psalm he preached on as a student in 1981.
“The only hope for this country, the only hope for this world is the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Hunt said. “Preach the Word. As far as I’m concerned, I know of nothing a preacher needs to do more than preach the Word of God. It still changes lives.”
While trustees were on campus, they voted to elect several new positions. On Oct. 12, the board elected and welcomed Ken Keathley as senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the faculty. Keathley had stepped into the role on a temporary basis after David Nelson, former dean, left the position in February of this year. Keathley had been serving at Southeastern as professor of theology and dean of graduate studies since 2006.
The board also elected Mark Liederbach as vice president for student services and dean of students. Liederbach, who has been serving in the capacity since June 1, was the unanimous recommendation for the position to succeed Alan Moseley.
Also, Michael Travers, professor of English, and Greg Welty, associate professor of philosophy, were elected by the trustees to the faculy.
Trustees received the resignation of board member Stephen Batts and approved the appointment of Joe Forrester, a businessman and active member of Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, Ga., to fill Batts’ position on an interim basis.
Lauren Crane is a writer for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.