FORT WORTH—President David S. Dockery gave a positive report of hopeful “indicators of what the Lord has been doing,” including in the areas of enrollment and finances, during the Oct. 18 regularly scheduled fall meeting of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary board of trustees.
Chairman Jonathan Richard told trustees he was “thankful for the unity that has existed in this place the last few days,” and he believed “we are moving forward in a unified way and in a unified direction.”
Richard, pastor of First Baptist Church of Estancia, N.M., said the dinner between the board and faculty showed that morale seemed “higher than this time last year.” He also observed the “hopefulness” that “is resting within our trustee body” for which he offered God praise.
All votes of the board were unanimous.
At the beginning of his report, Dockery noted the 30th anniversary of the inauguration of R. Albert Mohler Jr. as president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Southwestern Seminary sends heartiest congratulations to President and Mrs. Mohler, and the Southern Seminary community,” he said. “We are grateful for Dr. Mohler’s leadership at Southern Seminary, in the world of theological education and across the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Dockery told trustees that student headcount for the 2022-2023 academic year was 3,574, which reflected an increase of 171 students over the previous year. He also noted that full-time enrollment (FTE) was 2,317 students, which also showed an increase of 94 students.
“FTE is formed and shaped by the number of credit hours that are taught,” Dockery said, noting that credit hours taught in 2022-2023 were 34,835, an increase of 1,582 hours over the previous academic year. He cautioned that while the numbers would have a “positive impact on the SBC FTE” the impact would be “small because the SBC FTE is not a one-year snapshot,” but rather is “built on a three-year rolling average.”
Commending the “wonderful” work of Jack D. Terry, interim vice president for institutional advancement, and O.S. Hawkins, chancellor, Dockery reported that unrestricted giving was “outstanding” as more than $3 million was contributed to Southwestern Seminary during 2022-2023.
Dockery also highlighted the “improved morale across the campus” and the “evidence of collaboration,” which he said has been a “great source of encouragement.” He noted in particular the work and service of the seminary’s leadership team, including W. Madison Grace II, provost and vice president for academic administration and dean of the School of Theology; Travis Trawick, vice president for institutional effectiveness and strategy; Chandler Snyder, vice president for enrollment and student services and dean of students; Adam Dodd, vice president for campus technology; Dale Ford, interim vice president for financial services; and Terry.
Dockery said Southwestern’s leadership has been “encouraged by the fact that our credit hours are again up 488 over last fall” to 15,824 credit hours taught in the fall 2023 semester. He added “even after last year’s improvement that means we continue to take steps forward.”
“We are grateful to God for at least small markers, indicators of positive steps in terms of both enrollment and giving,” Dockery said, adding FTE numbers for the current fall semester increased by 23 students over last fall while total giving in the first two months of the fiscal year was more than $1.6 million, which “is a bit ahead of last year.”
Dockery also observed the “hopeful spirit across the campus,” which has been “manifest in so many ways throughout the fall semester, particularly in prayer gatherings.” He highlighted the weekly times of prayer, the Oct. 14 Day of Prayer, and the Oct. 17 time of prayer during the seminary’s chapel service when students, faculty and staff gathered to pray for the board’s decisions and unity. He added that God has “certainly answered those prayers yesterday and for that we give thanks to Him.”
He asked the trustees to join him in “trusting the Lord to help us be a joyful, prayerful, and thankful community,” reflecting the 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 theme verse for the 2023-2024 academic year.
Dockery also shared facts from the unaudited financial report for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, noting “the cash position has increased from $1.7 million to $2.8,” and total assets increased while total liabilities decreased which has resulted in “a difference of about $2.9 million increase in total net assets.”
“That’s a hallelujah and a wonderful thing for which we say thanks be to God for His kindness to us,” Dockery added. He noted that the Business Administration Committee has been encouraged by financial controls that are “being put in place and that expenses are being monitored carefully as we move into the year.”
Dockery highlighted that during the 2022-2023 academic year, revenue increased while operating expenses measurably decreased, resulting in a significant step forward. While the year-to-year improvement is quite significant, he cautioned that “it does not mean that we have reached what we desire for it to be. We still have a long way to go.”
Dockery said the seminary’s leadership was “looking forward and trusting the Lord” for the impending sale of the Carroll Park property, which he said they hope “will happen in the next 45 days.” He said the first phase of the sale has been completed, with five acres sold to the Presbyterian Night Shelter, and the second phase includes the remaining 15 acres of the property sold to the City of Fort Worth.
Addressing the warning given to the seminary in June by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), Dockery announced the enlistment of two consultants, Ralph Enlow, past president of the Association for Higher Biblical Education, and Carla Sanderson, provost of Chamberlain University in Addison, Ill., to assist in the areas of board governance and accreditation, respectively.
About the warnings, Dockery said “it is important that we seek to address those” adding that “this is not probation, but it is a serious sanction.”
Despite the seminary’s challenges, Dockery said, “I want you to know that the main thing that happens on this campus is still being done well,” noting the “commitment to teaching” and “what takes place in the classroom in terms of student learning.”
He commended the work of the Southwestern faculty as “their efforts toward scholarship are all taking steps forward.” He said he believes “what we’re doing in the classroom,” including on campus, online, and in hybrid situations “continues to get better.”
Dockery highlighted the spring 2023 chapels which were a “unifying factor for the campus as the faculty preached through the book of Philippians.” He added the fall 2023 chapels have been “excellent” with a focus on missions and evangelism, with plans for faculty to preach through 1 and 2 Thessalonians during the spring 2024 chapels.
Dockery announced the appointment of two task teams.
A board task team, chaired by trustee Joshua Allen, lead pastor of Parkway Hills Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, will work on the board policy manual, while the institutional task team for campus utilization, co-chaired by Trawick and trustee Mike Bussey, executive pastor of WALK Church in Las Vegas, will “think about how we use the assets we have for the good of the future of this institution,” Dockery said.
He explained the board task team would report to the board of trustees and will “bring recommendations with the authority of the board” while the institutional task team is comprised of board members and seminary employees and will “bring the recommendation to the administration to bring back to you.”
The board approved three recommendations from its executive committee, including a change in bylaws regarding two committees. The board voted to change the name of the Academic Administration Committee to become the Academic and Technology Committee and to create the Enrollment, Retention, and Student Services Committee.
Additionally, the board approved an executive committee recommendation to amend the seminary’s bylaws to clarify that the seminary’s president cannot be elected as a board member and to remove the president as an ex-officio member of the board. Vice-Chairman Robert Brown noted these changes were made at Dockery’s request.
The board also approved a corporate resolution that the president and officers of the seminary, including Dockery, Ford, Grace and Trawick, are authorized with appropriate signature authority on behalf of the institution.
Additionally, the board approved a $34.5 million revised budget for the academic year and that 50 percent of the remaining proceeds of the Carroll Park sale would go to a board-designated endowment while the remaining 50 percent would go to cash reserves. The board also authorized the administration to make revisions to the 2023-2024 capital needs budget with approval of the Business Administration Committee.
The board approved the appointment of Dean Sieberhagen, interim dean of the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, to the Charles F. Stanley Chair for the Advancement of Global Christianity; Andy Jennings to the rank of assistant professor of philosophy of religion and apologetics; and renewed the presidential appointment of Dietmar Schulze as associate professor of missions.
The recipients of the B.H. Carroll and L.R. Scarborough awards were also approved by the board, as were the candidates for fall 2023 graduation.
The next board meeting is scheduled for April 8-9, 2024.