New Orleans Seminary alumni visit alma mater while attending SBC
Tuesday, Jun 19, 2001
By Shannon Baker

NEW ORLEANS (BP)--Flooded not by water, but by the multitudes of alumni who visited their alma mater, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary held its annual alumni luncheon on the campus grounds June 13. NOBTS President Chuck Kelley reported on record-breaking enrollment and continued growth of seminary programs and honored five distinguished alumni, including one pastor who will serve as a chairperson for Phase I of the seminary's 20-year fundraising campaign to revitalize its campus and provide for a multitude of student needs.

More than 1,200 alumni visited the New Orleans campus, marveling over the seminary's recently renovated Bunyan classroom building, equipped with a baptistry, Lord's Supper table and the latest educational technology; the newly renovated choral classroom in the Sellers Music Building; the newly renovated John T. Christian Library; the Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health, and its demographic profiling capabilities; and the Hardin Student Center, which houses the Center for New Testament Textual Studies and the Compressed Interactive Video (CIV) classrooms linking the New Orleans campus with extension centers across the southeast.

In a special ceremony in the seminary's Leavell Chapel following the luncheon, Kelley expressed his gratitude to the seminary's president emeritus, Landrum P. Leavell II, for his foundational work in leading the seminary into the 21st century. Building upon his efforts, Kelley shared about the decisions to remain in New Orleans, acknowledging its place as a laboratory for doing ministry; to revamp the seminary's curriculum to teach classes that are church-focused and competency-based; and to revitalize the aged campus, which has been under attack by destructive Formosan termites and is need of repair.

"We are going to pay the price it takes to offer outstanding accredited theological education for anybody God has called to receive it," Kelley said, later explaining about the New Horizons: Equipping Leaders to Change the World capital campaign, a four-phase project that will span over two decades. The campaign officially kicked off in March 2001 beginning with the trustees, faculty and staff portion of the campaign. The alumni portion, to be led by Don Wilton, will officially kick off at the next Southern Baptist Convention to be held in St. Louis, Mo., after regional alumni leaders have been enlisted across the nation.

Wilton was presented with a Distinguished Alumni Award as was David E. Crosby, Kermit D. McGregor, Thomas S. Messer and Mary Wheeler Messer. Expressing grateful appreciation for their faithful commitment to the Lord and to the seminary, Kelley presented plaques to the award recipients.

Calling him "a great friend of the seminary," Kelley recognized Crosby, who has served as pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans since 1996 after serving in several Texas churches. A regular chapel speaker at NOBTS, where he received his master of divinity degree in 1981, Crosby supports the seminary by holding an annual "Seminary Day." He and his wife, the former Janet Rose Hamilton, have three children, Rachel, Rebekah and Joshua.

McGregor, described by Kelley as a wonderful denominational servant and an outstanding local church pastor, has served as pastor of various Mississippi churches, most recently at First Baptist Church, Mendenhall, Miss. He received his bachelor of divinity degree from NOBTS in 1963.

Honorees Thomas Messer and his wife, Mary Wheeler Messer, attended the Baptist Bible Institute in uptown New Orleans, beginning in 1943, before the seminary was renamed and moved to its current location. A former professor at Southeast Missouri State University, Messer, who is also a NOBTS Foundation Board member and former pastor of churches in Mississippi and Louisiana, received his master of theology, graduate of master of theology and doctor of theology degrees from NOBTS. Mary Wheeler Messer, who served as a BSU director at Southeast Missouri State University, received her master of religious education degree from NOBTS in 1947.

During 2000, the Messers gave a replica of Codex Vaticanus, a precise copy of the oldest and most complete manuscript of the Bible in existence, to the seminary's Center for New Testament Textual Studies. In addition to this gift, the Messers have a scholarship endowment that assists a number of students each year in the pursuit of their Christian higher education degree.

Wilton, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., has served as associate professor of evangelistic preaching at NOBTS. He is on the faculty of the Billy Graham School of Evangelism and has taught at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove in North Carolina. Having received his master of divinity and doctor of theology degrees at NOBTS, Wilton has led more than 500 revivals and crusades in Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, England and other parts of Europe.

Vice President for Development Jerry W. Pounds, Sr., said, "As a student, alumnus, professor and friend to the seminary, Don Wilton will serve as a wonderful example to our alumni in our New Horizons campaign. Because of his heart for the seminary, he is not just in another honorary leadership position, he will work to stir the passion of all alumni who love NOBTS."

Wilton, who will be traveling with Pounds to visit alumni across the United States, said of his opportunity to serve: "I am a product of the faithfulness of God's people, and I have come to the point of where I am because the people before me, some of whom are no longer with us, chose to invest in this School of Providence and Prayer."

Also, the 2001-02 national alumni officers were elected: president, Dan Nelson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Camarillo, Calif.; president-elect, Murray Wilton, pastor of Southside Baptist Church, Huntsville, Ala.; secretary, Merlin Liverman, minister of senior adults, Parkview Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, La.; and treasurer, Jerry Nance, pastor of Central Baptist Church, Olympia Fields, Ill.
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