Skip to Page's ContentSkip to Main Site NavigationSkip to Section NavigationSkip to Site Utility NavigationSkip to Site Search

History of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and its undergraduate school, The College at Southeastern, affirm the Bible as the authoritative Word of God. We covenant to teach in accordance with and not contrary to the Abstract of Principles and the Baptist Faith & Message. We further affirm the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is an institution of higher learning and a Cooperative Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention. The College at Southeastern is a school of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the College at Southeastern are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate, baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the College at Southeastern.

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is accredited by The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (10 Summit Park Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15275-1103: Telephone 412-788-6505).

The seminary has been accredited by ATS since 1958 and by SACS since 1978.

Call Us
Switchboard phone
(919) 556-3101
Stay in Touch
stay in touch

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary became a reality on May 19, 1950, by a vote of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Chicago, IL. To house the seminary, the Convention purchased the campus of Wake Forest College in Wake Forest, N.C., recognized then and now as one of the most beautiful in the southeastern United States. But more than beauty, the campus claimed a Baptist heritage. The property was originally obtained in 1832 by the Baptists of North Carolina in order to build a college for educating ministers.

Trustees, elected by the Convention, secured a charter and adopted the Abstract of Principles as the seminary's articles of faith. Next they elected the seminary's first president, Dr. Sydnor L. Stealey.

In the fall of 1951, Southeastern began classes. Opening day, Sept. 12, was attended by 85 students and three faculty members. The seminary met in the classroom building now known as Appleby Hall on the Wake Forest campus. At first, the seminary offered only a basic theological program leading to a bachelor of divinity degree.

In 1956, when Wake Forest College moved to its new location in Winston-Salem, N.C., Southeastern inherited the rest of the Wake Forest campus which covered 500 acres and consisted of more than 12 major buildings. The number of faculty members and students grew and plans to remodel and renovate buildings were initiated. In 1957, Southeastern instituted a summer school session.

In 1958, the seminary achieved recognition from the American Association of Theological Schools, now known as the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.

In 1963, after 13 years of devoted service, Dr. Stealey retired and Dr. Olin T. Binkley was elected president. Enrollment stood at 575 and the school had 28 faculty members.

Under Dr. Binkley's leadership the seminary continued the renovation program begun by Dr. Stealey. Four outdated buildings were removed, and 13 new buildings were constructed and paid for during Dr. Binkley's 11-year administration.

Dr. Binkley also guided major academic changes: the general curriculum was revised; the Bachelor of Divinity degree became the Master of Divinity degree; the Master of Religious Education and the Doctor of Ministry degrees were implemented, bringing the total number of degree programs to seven. He also inaugurated the annual Alumni Giving Program before his retirement in 1974.

Southeastern's third president, Dr. W. Randall Lolley, was elected in 1974. Enrollment had reached 663 with 24 elected faculty members. His was an era of growth for the seminary. The Certificate of Theology was restructured in 1976 and became the Associate of Divinity degree. In 1977, the Emery B. Denny Building, which houses the library, was modernized and enlarged. And, in 1978, Southeastern received accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

To meet the needs of an ever-increasing married student population, the seminary constructed 100 townhouse-style apartments in 1979. Renovation of Lea Laboratory, now known as Broyhill Hall, was begun in 1980. In 1982, the ground floor of Binkley Chapel was transformed into classrooms.

Seminary enrollment reached 1,392 in 1983 with a faculty of 36. The modernization of Adams Hall in 1984 provided the seminary with more classrooms, seminar rooms, an auditorium and a photography darkroom. The Ledford Center, a $2.5 million complex completed in 1986, provided a gymnasium, snack bar, lounges, meeting rooms, book store, sauna and exercise rooms.

Dr. Lolley resigned in the Fall of 1987 and was succeeded in 1988 by Dr. Lewis A. Drummond. The Drummond presidency marked a transitional era for Southeastern. Student enrollment declined and a major turnover occurred within the faculty.

Nevertheless, Dr. Drummond led in an administrative restructuring of the seminary in 1988 and in the establishment of the Center for Great Commission Studies in 1991. Reconstruction of the perimeter rock wall, replacement of the brick walkways and a major refurbishment of administrative and faculty offices also were begun.

Southeastern's commitment to biblical inerrancy and to historic Baptist theological principles was made clear during the Drummond years. Several new defining documents such as the seminary's faculty profile and revised statements of purpose and mission were finalized and adopted in 1992.

For the academic year, 1990-1991, the enrollment stood at 784 with 27 elected faculty members. President Drummond retired in the spring of 1992.

Trustees elected Dr. L. Paige Patterson as the fifth president of the institution in 1992. The Patterson presidency was marked by rapid growth. Southeastern's enrollment grew from 623 in the 1991-1992 school year to more than 2,000 in 1999-2000. Curriculum revisions in 1994 brought about a more traditional theological degree plan for most seminary students.

In the fall of 1994 Southeastern Baptist Theological College was established by the trustees of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Classes in the baccalaureate program began in January 1995. In addition, the Associate of Divinity program became part of the College curriculum. In April 2000, by action of the Board of Trustees, the name of the college was changed to Southeastern College at Wake Forest. Peter R. Schemm, Jr., was elected as dean of the college in the summer of 2006.

Innovative new seminary programs in counseling and church planting were begun in 1995. A Doctor of Philosophy degree was inaugurated in 1995. The academic emphasis, however, has not overshadowed the renewed focus on missions and evangelism. In 1998, new programs in women's studies and advanced biblical studies were added, as well as an expanded undergraduate program. In 1999, three more programs were added: Christian school administration, North American church planting and an advanced degree in theological studies.

In July 2003, Dr. Patterson stepped down as Southeastern's president. Vice President of Institutional Advancement Bart Neal was elected by the Board of Trustees as interim president as the board conducted a worldwide search for Southeastern's sixth president.

That search ended on Jan. 15, 2004, when the board unanimously elected Dr. Daniel L. Akin as president. Dr. Akin, who previously served at Southeastern as assistant professor of theology and dean of students from 1992-1996, was vice president for academic administration and dean of the school of theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Akin’s vision for Southeastern is to wed the head, heart and hands of young ministers of the Gospel and prepare them for a lifetime of faithful service to the Lord as they preach and teach His Word.

In February 2005, Southeastern hosted its first annual 20/20 Collegiate Conference, an event that annually draws over 1000 college students.

The L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture was launched June 1, 2006, to lead the way in responding to controversial cultural issues and equipping churches to do the same. Through the center, Southeastern sponsors annual lectureships, conferences and forums; supports an apologetics website; and provides intensive mentoring in worldview, ethics and apologetics for Southeastern students. A number of annual conferences at the center will assist local churches in equipping their members to address important cultural issues from a Christian perspective.

Bush, the longtime dean of the faculty, stepped down to oversee the center named for him. David Nelson was chosen as the new senior vice president of academic administration and dean of faculty.

In a commitment to carrying on the torch of past presidents, Akin has led Southeastern on a path of growth. In 2006, faculty and staff examined the degree programs in the seminary, as well as in the college. The faculty drafted five Core Competencies for the college and seminary programs: Spiritual Formation, Biblical Exposition, Theological Integration, Christian Leadership and Ministry Preparation. The curriculum changes are designed to develop these competencies in every Southeastern graduate.

Also in 2006, Southeastern adopted a new mission statement: “Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission.” (Matt. 28:19-20)

In an effort to accommodate the school’s increasing enrollment and to house the Center, trustees approved construction of a new academic building at their October 2005 meeting. Since its completion in 2008, Paige and Dorothy Patterson Hall is now the flagship academic building on the campus and the anchor structure of the west end of campus. Patterson Hall houses the Center for Faith and Culture, The College at Southeastern, and the school’s doctoral programs.

Also in 2008, Southeastern launched an official faculty blog titled “Between the Times.” During Akin’s tenure, Southeastern has added five additional endowed chairs: the Richard and Gina Headrick Chair of World and Missions (2007), occupied by George Robinson, the Johnny Hunt Chair of Biblical Preaching (2010), presently held by Tony Merida, the Dr. M.O. Owens, J. Chair of New Testament Studies occupied by David Black (2013), the Dr. Ed Young Sr. Chair of Preaching, presently held by Daniel Akin (2013) and the John Leadley Dagg Chair of Systematic Theology in Honor of Andy Davis occupied by John S. Hammett (2013).

In 2009, Southeastern entered into an ongoing partnership with 9Marks Ministries to host a series of annual conferences promoting gospel renewal and local church health. 2013 marked the fifth consecutive conference with almost 1000 pastors, students, professors and guests in attendance.

After a twenty-five year run, Faith and Mission was disbanded in 2008 and was replaced in 2010 with a new refereed scholarly journal titled “Southeastern Theological Review.”

During Akin’s tenure, non-residential education opportunities have been significantly expanded to include online, extension, and hybrid course offerings in almost every degree program. Akin has also announced an initiative for Southeastern to partner with at least one hundred local church “equipping centers” by the year 2015. Students will be able to receive a significant portion of their seminary education through local church internships and creative course delivery systems.

In part because of Southeastern’s Great Commission priorities, the seminary has been at the forefront of advocating a Great Commission Resurgence in the SBC. This movement, championed by Akin and recent SBC president and Southeastern alumnus Johnny Hunt, intends to build upon the theological renaissance of the previous generation by prioritizing evangelism and church planting among unreached people groups in foreign nations and underserved regions in North America.

In fall 2010, Southeastern Seminary had a total enrollment of almost 2700 students. Thousands of Southeastern graduates serve as pastors and other staff in Southern Baptist churches and other types of congregations. Approximately five hundred Southeastern students and graduates currently serve as foreign missionaries, the vast majority through the International Mission Board. Dozens of graduates serve as North American church planters in urban centers such as Boston, Chicago, Tampa, Atlanta, Richmond, and Nashville, as well as underserved rural areas in the Midwest and New England.

Over 140 students have been awarded the Doctor of Philosophy and now serve in seminaries, colleges, pastorates, and denominational leadership positions all over the world. Hundreds of Southeastern students participate annually in short-term mission trips sponsored by the seminary or local churches. Numerous Southeastern professors regularly lead mission trips or teach short-term in overseas settings.

2014 will mark the 10th anniversary of Dr. Akin serving as the president of SEBTS. Enrollment is currently over 3,000 students including the College at Southeastern and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

God has been very gracious to Southeastern. Should the Lord tarry, may there be many more years of “equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission.”

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Post Office Box 1889
  • Wake Forest, NC 27588
  • Phone: (919) 761 - 2100
Our Mission
  • Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission.
Copyright © Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary | Design and Development: Beacon Technologies
print logo