FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) – Christian higher education leader David S. Dockery was elected 10th president and Southern Baptist leader O.S. Hawkins was elected to the new role of chancellor during the spring meeting of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary board of trustees, April 19.
The unanimous elections of Dockery and Hawkins to their new roles come nearly seven months after their elections as interim president and senior advisor and ambassador-at-large, respectively, in a special-called trustee meeting, Sept. 27, 2022, following the resignation of Adam W. Greenway.
“Dr. David Dockery is God’s man for Southwestern Seminary in this hour,” Chairman Danny Roberts told trustees. “Our seminary’s at a critical juncture in this 115-year history, and in God’s providence, He has already provided the man to lead our seminary during this time.”
Roberts said trustees did not need to “look further for our next president” based on Dockery’s “impressive performance as interim [president] providing stability and healing, his long track record of outstanding Christian leadership in higher education, with the current needs of the institution.”
Although a presidential search committee would be typical, “Southwestern’s current challenges are best faced with clarity in the Office of the President as soon as possible and for the future,” he said, noting that it’s not the first time a president of Southwestern was elected without a search process, referring to the seminary’s second president, L.R. Scarborough.
“We have settled today who our leader is, and we may move forward as we continue to seek God’s favor on Seminary Hill as we equip men and women of the next generation of ministers to the calling that God has given them,” Roberts said.
Dockery said he was “deeply humbled and genuinely grateful for the privilege and responsibility to serve” as Southwestern’s 10th president. “I am truly thankful for the overwhelming support from the board of trustees as well as for the faithful encouragement and prayerful support from the faculty, staff, colleagues, and students. What an honor it will be to continue to serve side by side with O.S. Hawkins, a dear friend and person that I greatly admire and from whom I have learned much in recent months.”
He added, “We recognize that we stand on the shoulders of so many who’ve gone before us. I love this institution and the best aspects of its history. We will, with God’s help, seek to carry forward in the future the best of Southwestern’s heritage and the Southwestern’s spirit.”
Dockery said he trusts in the “Lord’s favor and blessings to rest on Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College in the days to come. We invite Southwesterners representing various generations to join us in this shared effort to advance the Southwestern mission for the good of this institution and for the glory of our great God as we seek to prepare well the next generation of students to take the Gospel to the nations.”
Roberts expressed gratitude for Hawkins’ willingness to accept the new role of chancellor in which he “will continue to offer his experience as statesman and influence in this seminary and in this community. There are really few leaders in Southern Baptist Convention life who have the impeccable leadership credentials of Dr. Hawkins has with the sterling track record of 25 years as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, among other places of service.”
Roberts said Hawkins would continue to serve as a volunteer and will report to Dockery by providing “counsel, offer support and guidance, develop contacts, raise funds, and bring his influence, credibility, and good will and gravitas to our seminary community. This change in title will greatly aid his efforts in supporting the seminary. And we are blessed that this Southwesterner is willing to serve our seminary at this strategic moment in our history.”
As a two-time graduate, Hawkins said that his service to the seminary is in gratitude for what the institution has meant to him.
“I have loved Southwestern since the first day I attended classes in January 1970, and I feel a sense of indebtedness to all those who invested so much in my own journey to the M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees on this hill,” Hawkins said. “While I will be serving alongside Dr. Dockery in the new role of chancellor, I will be volunteering my time and whatever gifts and talents God has given me to prayerfully advance the school into what we hope and prayerfully expect to be a brighter tomorrow. We are calling on all Southwesterners to join us on this journey.”
Dockery, who earned the Master of Divinity from Southwestern Seminary in 1981, joined the seminary faculty in 2019 when he was named distinguished professor of theology and theologian-in-residence for the B.H. Carroll Center for Baptist Heritage and Mission. He also served as special consultant to the president. Later, he was named editor of the Southwestern Journal of Theology, the seminary’s historic academic journal. From December 2020 to February 2022, he also served as interim provost at Southwestern. Additionally, he serves as the inaugural director of the Dockery Center for Global Evangelical Theology, which was named in his honor by the board of trustees at their spring 2022 meeting.
After a lengthy career in Christian higher educational leadership at Trinity International University, Union University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in 2019 Dockery was invited to assist with the founding of the International Alliance for Christian Education. He has also served as president of the Evangelical Theological Society and board chair of Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Christian College Consortium, and Consortium for Global Education.
A native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., Dockery has had a distinguished career as a theologian and educator. In addition to his degree from Southwestern, he holds degrees from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (B.S.), Grace Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Texas Christian University (M.A.), and the University of Texas at Arlington (Ph.D.). Dockery was named a distinguished alumnus by Southwestern Seminary in 2002.
In 1995, Dockery was elected president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn. Under his leadership, enrollment more than doubled, net assets more than tripled and Union sprang to a place of national leadership in Christian higher education. In September 2022, he was among the first honorees to be inducted into the university’s hall of honor.
In 2014, he was installed as Trinity’s 15th president and served in that role for five years, then transitioned to the role of chancellor. At Trinity, he brought guidance to an institution that had previously experienced more than a decade of significant enrollment decline and an array of institutional challenges. He led processes to strengthen the Trinity board and enhance denominational relationships. New academic programs were introduced, and four new academic centers were established.
Dockery is a sought-after speaker and lecturer and former consulting editor for Christianity Today, and has authored, edited or contributed to nearly 100 books, including Renewing Minds: Serving Church and Society Through Christian Higher Education, Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal and Theologians of the Baptist Tradition. As an author, he is best known for his works in the areas of Baptist studies, biblical interpretation and Christian higher education. He served as the New Testament editor for the 40-volume New American Commentary Series, as general editor of the 15-volume Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition Series, and is co-editor of the multi-volume Theology for the People of God series. He is general editor of the forthcoming New English Translation Study Bible.
Dockery has received numerous awards, including the Herschel H. Hobbs Distinguished Service Award from Oklahoma Baptist University, M.E. Dodd Denominational Service Award from Union University, Holman Christian Standard Service Award from Lifeway Christian Resources, the Land Distinguished Service Award from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and the John R. Dellenback Global Leadership Award from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.
Dockery has spoken on more than 80 campuses. He served churches in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Birmingham, Ala. and Dallas as well as serving as interim pastor for several congregations in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas.
He has been married to Lanese for more than 47 years, and they have three married sons and eight grandchildren. Their travels have taken them to the various regions of the United States and Canada, as well as to Europe, Latin America, Asia, Africa, Australia and the Middle East.
Hawkins, who retired in March 2022 as the president and CEO of GuideStone after leading the Southern Baptist entity for 25 years, is a two-time alumnus of Southwestern Seminary, holding the Master of Divinity (1974) and Doctor of Philosophy (2020) degrees from the institution. Additionally, the Fort Worth native holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Texas Christian University and honorary doctorates from Liberty University, Dallas Baptist University, Southwest Baptist University, and Criswell College. Hawkins received the distinguished alumni award from Southwestern Seminary in 2000.
Immediately prior to assuming the presidency at GuideStone, Hawkins was the senior pastor of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas, leading the downtown Dallas church from 1993-1997. Hawkins also served as the pastor of First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (1978-1993), First Baptist Church of Ada, Okla. (1974-1978) and First Baptist Church of Hobart, Okla. (1972-1974).
Hawkins has authored more than 40 books, including the 2021 B&H Academic release, In the Name of God, which details the relationship between George W. Truett, who pastored the First Baptist Church of Dallas (1897-1944), and J. Frank Norris, who pastored the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth (1909-1952). Hawkins is also the author of the best-selling “Code Series” books, with the proceeds and royalties benefitting Mission:Dignity, a ministry of GuideStone started under Hawkins’ tenure that assists retired ministers and their widows who are in need.
Hawkins has been married to his wife, Susie, since 1970. The Hawkinses have two married daughters and six grandchildren.