Trustees elect new professors, approve degree program, campus master plan changes

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by Lauren Crane

During the bi-annual meeting of the Board of Trustees of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, held April 11-12, trustees promoted two professors and elected three professors, approved an updated campus master plan and approved changes to a degree program.

Nathan Finn was promoted from assistant professor of church history and Baptist studies to associate professor of historical theology and Baptist studies, while Daniel Heimbach was promoted from professor of Christian ethics to senior professor of Christian ethics. The trustees also approved the election to the faculty of Jeremy Evans, associate professor of philosophy, Tony Merida, associate professor of preaching, and Larry Purcell, associate professor of leadership.

With the exception of Merida, each of the other men has been serving the kingdom of God through their teaching and mentorship at Southeastern and will continue to do so. Merida, a new face around campus, will be coming from Hattiesburg, Miss., where he has been serving as the teaching pastor of Temple Baptist Church. In addition to his election to the faculty of Southeastern, Merida is the founding pastor of the new church plant, Imago Dei Church, in Raleigh, N.C.

Academically speaking, the trustees also looked at the proposed changes for the Master of Arts in Bible Translation degree and approved it. The degree program prepares students to serve as translators and as field supervisors for Bible translation teams, taking the word of God to people around the world.

This curriculum will serve the church and help fulfill the Great Commission by preparing students to translate the Bible, into languages that now are without access to God’s word. The curriculum will prepare them in particular to translate the Bible from its original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. With access to God’s word in their own languages, whole people groups will have access to the gospel, and believers will be able to study the Bible for themselves.

Trustees also approved an update to the campus master plan, a strategy for the future of the institution that is revisited every four to five years. The updated plan is a list of priorities and estimated costs for various campus needs, including structural as well as aesthetic. In conjunction with surveys and suggestions from the students, staff and faculty, the campus planning committee submitted a plan that includes approximately 35 million dollars worth of upgrades and renovations to Southeastern’s campus.

The committee identified the most urgent needs as a new student center and renovations to the current Ledford Center for additional recreation and fitness facilities. The plan also includes renovations to Simmons Hall and shifting of other housing facilities to free up Lolley Hall for offices and a welcome center. Additionally, trustees approved renovations of Stealey and Appleby Halls, as well as the Denny Library, as part of the new master plan.

The trustees also approved the recommended budget increase of 4.21 percent to a 2011-2012 operating budget of $21.6 million. Because Cooperative Program giving continues to lag behind previous years, the budget increase will require a raise in tuition for students, many of whom, Southeastern’s president, Daniel Akin, said, appear to be struggling already with paying their tuition.

Akin said although enrollment numbers are at a record high of 2,689, the number of hours of classes being taken has not significantly increased, and in fact, reflects class load amounts equal to those in 2006. These numbers indicate that although more students are taking classes, they are taking fewer classes, likely due to economic concerns. Akin urged the Board of Trustees to encourage their local churches to give to the Cooperative Program, which supplies about 40 percent of funds for Southeastern’s annual budget. Akin said in order for students to graduate without school debt, more financial support must be given to supplement the increased operating costs and budget.

“I’d encourage you to pray God will raise up more partners for annual giving and endowment,” Akin said. “God is doing great things here, and we want to see that financial increase for the glory of God.”

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