LOUISVILLE, Ky.?Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary welcomed more than 250 alumni and friends to its annual alumni luncheon during the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting, June 24. The seminary honored a Baptist state paper editor with the Distinguished Alumnus Award in addition to hearing a president’s report and electing alumni association officers.
Southwestern presented Gary Ledbetter, communications director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, with the 2009 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Ledbetter received his master of divinity from Southwestern in 1981.
“As I have gotten further away in years from my time at Southwestern, I have become more aware of the impact that it made on my life,” Ledbetter said.
“I live in gratitude for those who added to my life and prepared me for ministry at Southwestern. Even the ones that I would not want to be professors at Southwestern today added something to my life.”
Ledbetter also expressed appreciation to the churches, faculty and graduates who have invested in Southwestern and subsequently invested in his life.
“It’s the alums of Southwestern who make a Southwestern degree worth having,” Ledbetter said. Ledbetter also thanked his friends and co-workers at the SBTC, including Jim Richards, the convention’s executive director.
Ledbetter earned a doctor of ministry (D.Min.) degree and served as vice president for student development at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1995 until 2001. He spent 25 years in student ministry, serving in churches in Arkansas, Texas and Indiana. While in Indiana, he served as the state convention’s director of communications and student ministry and was editor of the Indiana Baptist from 1989 to 1995.
Ledbetter recently published a book titled “The Day of Small Things: A History of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, 1998-2008.”
President Paige Patterson shared with alumni what God is doing in and through Southwestern. Despite difficult economic times, he praised God that the institution remains debt free and is able to keep tuition rates from increasing when many institutions have been forced to do so.
“In the process of all of this, we have not only been able to keep the doors open but (we have) a thriving situation in which we continue to grow,” Patterson said, adding, “We have the most students in the history of the institution that have begun the process of matriculating at Southwestern Seminary.”
Patterson noted two seminaries around the world with which Southwestern is partnering. In 2005, Southwestern adopted Bibelseminar in Bonn, Germany, as an extension center to provide a master’s level program in theology for the institution.
Southwestern is also part of an effort to establish a school in the Central Cathedral in Seville, Spain. The former monastery became the center of the Protestant Reformation in Spain when a series of pastors read the Scriptures, were converted to Christ, and became expository preachers. Many of the writings of these pastors, including some on the issue of expository preaching, have remained untranslated since that time, but Southwestern has joined the efforts to translate them into English.
“What an exciting time to be at Southwestern Seminary,” Patterson said.
In election of national alumni officers, Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, Ill., was elected president and Hayes Wicker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fl., was elected vice president.