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Dr. Kenneth Coley Retires, Handing off a Flourishing EdD Program

Dr. Kenneth Coley Retires, Handing off a Flourishing EdD Program
BY CHAD BURCHETT   06/29/2022

After twenty-five years of faithful service as the Director of EdD Studies and Professor of Christian Education at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), Kenneth Coley is retiring in July 2022.


“Ken Coley has left a legacy at Southeastern that will be felt for decades,” noted Danny Akin, President of SEBTS. “He is a classroom favorite because of his gifts and skills in the classroom. His pioneering of the Doctor of Education degree was visionary. It has also been global in its impact. Ken has taught, mentored, and deployed graduates around the world to fill strategic leadership positions. I honestly have watched in amazement at all God has done through this man for his glory. Ken embodies the Great Commission passion of Southeastern. I dearly love and appreciate this colleague, brother, and friend.” 

Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, Coley received a Bachelor of Arts in English at Wake Forest University before pursuing a Master of Education in Educational Administration at the College of William and Mary. While a student in Virginia, Coley began developing his pedagogical skills as a middle school and high school English teacher. Upon graduating, Coley then pursued a Doctor of Education at the University of Maryland while serving as the principal of Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Maryland. 

Coley came to SEBTS in 1996 and designed the Doctor of Education (EdD) program under Paige Patterson’s supervision. Combining research in leadership, education, and academic administration with a passion to train teachers, Coley has distinguished himself as a model teacher of teachers. “Coley taught me that there are no small encounters when investing in the spiritual lives and ministry of people,” noted Sean Simonton, one of Coley’s doctoral students and an alumnus of the EdD program at SEBTS. “Coley wanted every student to succeed in ministry, so he provided an encouraging and supportive environment for learning and sent the students out with practical tools for ministry and the know-how to use them.” 

Coley taught me that there are no small encounters when investing in the spiritual lives and ministry of people.

The opportunity to teach at Southeastern brought me full circle from my college dreams,” Coley shared. “I have been able to coach up and cheer for students who are ‘God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which he prepared in advance.’ I have been privileged to accomplish this by engaging each student in the teaching-learning process. My class motto is ‘the one doing the work is the one doing the learning.’” 

“Dr. Coley has led one of the most strategic and influential doctoral programs among all North American evangelical theological institutions,” commented Keith Whitfield, Provost of SEBTS. “The EdD program at Southeastern has equipped high school and college teachers as well as administrators in educational institutions at all levels. In addition, dozens of church leaders have received their EdD under his leadership. His contagious passion for transformative teaching challenges everyone who had the privilege of being around him. His legacy at Southeastern is reflected in the EdD program but also felt just as much by his colleagues. We are all better because of his passion and faithfulness to the ministry of teaching.”  

Coley and his wife Kathy have been blessed with a growing family of grandchildren, whom they look forward to spending more time with once Coley retires. In his retirement, Coley will continue using his gifts in various teaching ministries at his church, Richland Creek Community Church in Wake Forest. Coley will also continue teaching occasional classes at SEBTS and coaching EdD students in the dissertation process.  

Tate Cockrell, Associate Professor of Counseling and Director of DMin Studies, will become the Director of EdD and DMin Studies at the beginning of the 2022-2023 academic year. “This move allows us to build off the strong and reputable program that Dr. Coley has built,” noted Whitfield. “Dr. Cockrell will assume this role with tremendous recruiting experience and knowledge of our EdD program.” Kristin Kellen, Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling and alumna of the EdD program, will assume the role of Assistant Director of EdD Studies. 


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