Southern honors two institutional presidents at SBC luncheon

Communications Staff — June 14, 2007

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary honored the presidents of two Baptist institutions as Distinguished Alumni, June 13, during the seminary’s luncheon at the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention.

Noting that the annual award typically goes to a pastor or missionary, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern, said the seminary chose to take a different path this year in honoring Phil Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Gary Cook, president of Dallas Baptist University.

Roberts, who graduated with a master of divinity from Southern in 1976, has served as president of Midwestern since 2001. Previously, he served for seven years as vice president for the strategic cities strategies group for the North American Mission Board.

“It is a joy to present this award to one of my colleagues who shares in the work of leading our seminaries,” Mohler said.

Cook, who also earned his master of divinity from Southern in 1976, began as president of Dallas Baptist in 1988. Mohler noted that in Cook’s time as president the institution has increased in enrollment from 1,859 students to more than 5,000. Two things stand out in Cook’s record at Dallas Baptist, Mohler said.

“First, his university has ended every year of his presidency in the black. That in itself is a significant accomplishment in the world of higher education,” he said. “Second, the fact that he has been president there for almost 20 years in the world of higher education today is itself an almost singular achievement. Very few presidents serve more than five years in one place.”

Mohler also reviewed Southern’s 2006-2007 academic year. He noted that the seminary’s enrollment is at an all-time high, with more than 4,100 students taking classes at Southern and Boyce College in the last academic year.

“Size has never been our goal,” Mohler said. “We had better be right before we become big. And we had better be marked by excellence, not by size. We got things right before people started to come.”

Southern instructed 1,680 master of divinity students in 2006-2007. Average student fees at Southern Seminary for 2005-2006, according to an ATS report, were $3,750 – among the lowest in the nation among evangelical seminaries. Mohler said several factors contribute to Southern’s affordability.

“This (affordability) speaks to the effectiveness of the Cooperative Program and the effectiveness of our administration in handling our budget,” he said. “Your (alumni) giving to Southern Seminary also makes a huge difference in the lives of students. Your giving enables students to be able to afford a full-time load of classes.”

In a testimonial, master of divinity student David Schrock, supervisor of student life at Southern, said God has used the seminary to prepare him for ministry now and in the future.

“The Bible says be prepared to give an answer for the hope that you have in Jesus Christ,” he said. “For the last three years at Southern Seminary, God has used that institution to better equip me to give that answer for the hope that I have in Jesus Christ.”

Mohler closed the luncheon by noting the prime importance that confessional fidelity plays in the life of Southern Seminary.

“We have learned that the sacrifice of confessional fidelity means the sacrifice of the integrity of this institution,” he said. “We are going to hire those who are best-equipped to train the next generation of pastors and missionaries. The witness of Southern Seminary has never been more needed than now.

“If we begin to say that we need to minimize our discussion of theology then we are forfeiting the soul of this convention and we are forfeiting the soul of this institution. Yes, we must be responsive to the needs of the new generation and the needs of the culture we are in. But if we are not careful, we will give away what so many gave their lives to reclaim. It is time for people to give themselves to the task of proclaiming why these things are necessary.”

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