Office of the President


Dr. Eric A. TurnerEric Turner was named president-elect on July 20, 2018, by the Southwest Baptist University Board of Trustees. He began his service as president-elect on Aug. 6, 2018, and assumed the presidency on Sept. 1, 2018. 
He comes from Black River Technical College (BRTC), where he served four years as president. Prior to this, he served 17 years in various administrative capacities at ‎Williams Baptist University. 
Under his leadership at BRTC, the college developed new community educational partnerships and collaborative efforts, launched three new academic programs and constructed the 39,000-square-foot Health Science Complex and Fire Drill Tower. Additionally, Turner rectified long-standing issues related to finance, accreditation and academics. 
During his time at Williams, Turner's work focused primarily on fundraising and accreditation. He and his team secured the largest planned gift in institutional history, along with numerous gifts earmarked for scholarships, capital construction, and renovations. 
He and his wife, Barbara, have a 16-year-old daughter, Emma.

President's Update

In early June, I commented to colleagues, “Summer is about over, and by the time Independence Day rolls around, summer is over.” The incredulous glances and teasing about my statement probably were well-earned. Even so, in the ebb and flow cycles of semesters and summer breaks, July typically entails a mad dash before students return in August—hence my statement.
Faculty and staff have invested thousands of hours planning for the re-opening of Southwest Baptist University for the fall semester. This summer has been no exception; indeed, COVID-19 complexities have exacerbated the frenetic race to the fall semester. The Bearcat Blueprint, released yesterday, reflects these efforts to reopen the University.
For the near future, how we “do” University looks differently. Social distancing, altered schedules, and mask wearing are all features of this. While some might think these measures are unnecessary to the point of being oppressive, present realities of documented cases suggest otherwise.

We aim to offer a top-drawer SBU experience as always, but for us to accomplish this, we have to be a bit more careful to contain the spread of COVID-19. It is incumbent upon on all of us to make good choices, practice good hand-washing habits, and wear a mask.

These are odd times for sure, but we will get through this together.

Shaping our story together,

I am so terribly heartbroken over recent and historic acts of racial injustice. These acts remind us so painfully of the prevalence of racism, hatred, and fear in our society. Romans 12:15 tells us to “weep with those who weep.” Southwest Baptist University joins with other Southern Baptists in being committed to the equality and dignity of all races of people. We grieve the senseless misuse of force toward George Floyd and many others before him.
At SBU, we believe all humankind – regardless of race – is created in the image of God. I pray for a campus climate whereby people from all ethnic backgrounds thrive at SBU. I pray you feel accepted and included on our campuses and in our communities. As a society, as a church, as a University, and as individuals, we can and must do better.
In conversations with friends and colleagues of African descent, I have been moved to tears more than once—one colleague said, “Eric, we can’t just ‘mission trip’ this,” suggesting change must occur beyond the short term rhetoric. I could not agree more.
The University is the place for ideas and conversations to occur—at SBU, we will not simply “mission trip this,” but aim to move forward with love and open and honest conversation. To begin to get us there, we will be facilitating campus dialogue this fall for a better understanding of an appropriate Biblical response to societal dynamics.
As a Christian higher education institution, we will be a caring community where people of all ethnic backgrounds feel welcomed, loved, and challenged to be true examples of Jesus.
We must continue to pray. We must pray for the Lord to have mercy on us and heal the pain dividing us. As big as the racial divide feels in our society right now, nothing is bigger than the power of the Gospel. Go forth, Bearcats, and “act justly, reflect mercy, and walk humbly with our Lord” (Micah 6:8).

Shaping our story together,


Springtime at SBU traditionally is full of receptions to honor retiring employees, but such gatherings are not possible this spring. To honor our retirees this year, Human Resources is collecting cards for each retiree. If you would like to send a card, you may send it to:

SBU Office of Human Resources
1600 University Ave.
Bolivar MO 65613

This year’s retirees are:

  • Donna Depeé — Assistant Professor of Education and Mountain View Campus Director
  • Maggie Kluthe — Media Services Technician
  • Linda Maberry — Executive Coordinator for the Provost
  • Suzanne Powers — Director of Career Services and External Studies
  • Joe Wooderson — Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Chair of the Department of Kinesiology

When others ask me to tell them about SBU, I immediately begin to describe our people, their fierce commitment to Christ-centered biblical worldview education, and their love for students.

In my short time at SBU, Donna, Maggie, Linda, Suzanne, and Joe have made an enormous impression on me — I am going to miss each of them dearly. We wish each of them the very best as they begin this new chapter of their lives.

Shaping our story together,

Since I began to observe, reflect, and study the leadership of academic presidencies in particular, and developed aspirations of my own some 20 odd years ago, I have given much thought to how various crises might affect higher education. The magnitude of disruptions caused by a global pandemic did not make the top 10 potential issues I had anticipated.

SBU’s pandemic response began with a decision to move course instruction online for one week after Spring Break. With the quick progression of global events, a week later, we decided to move course instruction online for the remainder of the spring semester. This single decision, made in the interest of protecting the health and safety of our campus community, triggered a multitude of further mission-critical decisions.

Even in this time of disruption, SBU continues its daily operations to the fullest extent possible, but we need you. We continue to need your prayers, encouragement, and financial support.

People comprise the fabric of SBU. I am so proud of the remarkable contributions being made by our Bearcats — students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends — during this global pandemic.

The month of March has been consumed by the University's response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. I cannot say enough how grateful I am for the way our Bearcats — faculty, staff, students, and alumni — have responded to this unprecedented global disruption.

If you have not already seen it, please watch this video recorded on March 26.

For many among the SBU family, the WinterFest term in January is a busy time for travel, particularly for students, faculty, and staff on mission.
We have been recognized as and continue to be a leader among Southern Baptist colleges and universities in mobilizing students on mission. SBU sends about 300 students — and faculty and staff — on mission each year. In sharing the SBU story, I love to see eyes widen when I tell people about the heartbeat Bearcats have for a lost and dying world. As I often state, our institutional mission statement is not simply something we say — it is the embodiment of who we are.

We have great global connections happening among our student body. Our new SBU Global initiative aims to be more deliberate in our efforts to accomplish the "global society" component of our mission. In the weeks ahead, the team leading SBU Global will present the strategic plan to the broader University. This initiative is part of the much broader "Shaping our Story Together" strategic plan.
As the spring semester begins, let's keep focused on accomplishing our mission, particularly keeping Christ at the center of all we do.
Shaping our story together,

To overstate the obvious, life is busy. There seems to be no shortage of opportunities and options on how we spend our time. Families, work, church, community, volunteerism, and academics — in and of themselves, these are good things. Even so, if we are not careful, the busyness of life can consume and overwhelm, causing us to lose sight of why we engage in such activities.

The life of the University is no exception — semesters, finals, committee work, departmental meetings, student advising, professional advising. All good things ...
It is important to pause and reflect on the why and how. This past year, the University has been doing precisely this. The Statement of Faith Workgroup has been diligently working to develop a revised and robust statement. The Governance Document Workgroup has just begun its work to align the University charter and bylaws with the Missouri Baptist Convention. The board approved our new strategic plan, Shaping Our Story Together. In each instance, these activities have been deliberate in asking the hard “why” and “how” questions in a measured and focused pace.
Lest we become too consumed with all that has occurred in the past year, along with the promise of 2020, please do not forget to pause and to consider the Advent of Jesus, His redemption for us as Christians, and our collective efforts to do Kingdom work. To God be the glory.
Shaping our story together,

As Thanksgiving draws near, I reflect on the many good things that have happened this semester at Southwest Baptist University. In the midst of denominational controversy, the Lord is working in a mighty way in the hearts and lives of our faculty, students and staff. For that, I am thankful.

Students are accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior and many others are growing deeper in their Christian walks. When we had a brief power outage recently during a chapel service, students quickly pulled out their phones to light up the room as we continued in corporate worship.

We take our commitment to Biblical worldview education seriously, and we continue to take positive steps in clarifying who we are and always have been as a university. As long as SBU has been in existence, Scripture has reigned as the supreme authority for how we teach and how we learn.

I am thankful for you — our Bearcat family — and your efforts and prayers toward fulfilling our mission.

May the Lord bless you, and may He bless Southwest Baptist University.

Shaping our story together,

It is hard to believe mid-terms are looming around the corner; after all, we just started the academic year!
As we develop strategies together to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of the University, the SBU Global Initiative is an effort gaining momentum. Dr. Kelly Malone has been quite busy in developing the needs assessment and plan to prepare SBU-Bolivar to receive more international students.
Right before the academic year began, Dr. Amos Gichamba and Dr. Tim DeClue traveled to Kenya on a recruiting trip. From this trip, 90 direct inquiries about SBU occurred and nine applications were received. We are excited about the possibilities with this venture.

Earlier this month, Mr. Dwayne Walker, Dr. Lee Skinkle, and I traveled to Cuba to meet with pastors and educators associated with the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention and the Eastern Cuba Baptist Theological Seminary. The focus of our time there was to work through details together whereby we can provide master’s level curriculum to equip pastors and lay workers to better serve their constituents via deaconship programming. SBU faculty from various disciplines will prepare these students through four intensive learning encounters over the span of 18 months with the intention of the program becoming self-sustaining thereafter. Additionally, we will send SBU students to engage in ministry opportunities. We anticipate the work of our faculty, staff, and students will have an impact on Cuba for generations to come. International travel always has a transformative effect on me—this Cuba trip and the kingdom-centric opportunities we have as a University is no exception.
At the end of September, Dr. Kevin Patterson, Dr. Lee Skinkle, and I will be in Singapore to attend the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) Asian Roundtable. This effort is intended to begin building relationships with K12 administrators whereby we can recruit K12 faculty into our online graduate programs and also recruit residential undergraduate students to the SBU-Bolivar campus.
I am grateful for the broad institutional interest and enthusiasm as we continue to develop our strategy to accomplish the “global society” element of our institutional mission in a meaningful and deliberate manner.
Shaping our story together,

The 142nd academic year is under way at Southwest Baptist University, and I am excited to share what is happening as the University continues to move forward to accomplish its kingdom-centric mission:

Spiritual Vitality

As I shared in my inaugural remarks, we aim to build on the vibrant faith community of SBU. Throughout much of the summer, we worked on programming designed to enhance and enable spiritual vitality for students, faculty, and staff. We now are focusing efforts on athletics, residence halls and chapel.

We are equipping coaches and residence life staff to be more deliberate and effective in their discipleship efforts with students under their purview. We are piloting this program with four of our coaches, all of whom are excited about this new endeavor.

The first, and most important, strategic goal we have developed is “to ensure every SBU student has the opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel.” We continue to convene chapel services twice weekly and recognize that this corporate worship is a vital piece of institutional identity. For two hours a week, we are unified in our worship of our Lord Jesus. This week’s chapel services were focused on “Sin” and “The Good News.” I am pleased to share that there was a profession of faith this week in Chapel, and we rejoice as a University.

Bearcat Global Initiative

Professor Dr. Kelly Malone has been employed part-time to lead the Bearcat Global Initiative, splitting his time between his teaching responsibilities and this work. The initial efforts are aimed at preparing the institution for receiving international students in terms of our programming, infrastructure, and systems. Dr. Malone brings significant international experience to this role, including years spent as an International Mission Board missionary in Japan. We are thrilled and grateful for his leadership in this area.

Please join me in praying for SBU as we continue to build upon our vibrant faith community and expand global partnerships.

Shaping our story together,

Oftentimes, I am asked what my summer looks like. I invariably respond, “Busy, but a different kind of busy.” This summer proves to be no exception. Like many of you during the school year, I hang on for dear life, trying to keep up with the pace, and bemoan having only 24 hours.

Several years ago, former USC president Steven Sample provided his 70/30 Formula for Leadership in his book, “The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership.” The Formula postulated under ideal conditions, a 30 percent of a president’s time could be spent on a contemplative thought and moving the University forward, while the other 70 percent of time should be spent on the ephemeral. Time and again, his observation resonates. While I aim for the 30 percent, there have been times when I have considered 1 percent to be a victory for the day. In my time serving as a president for the past five years, summertime has typically been a time devoted to the sometimes elusive 30 percent.

This summer, substantive conversations are occurring related to implementing our strategic goals shared last spring. Much of the dialogue I am having focuses on developing and leveraging new and existing resources dedicated to the spiritual health and vitality of the University. I am excited about how things are developing and look forward to sharing more with you once the school year commences in August.

Shaping our story together,

For me, commencement has always been bittersweet. While we celebrate the accomplishments of graduating students, the campuses become extremely quiet following commencement exercise. Summer is great time to tie up loose ends on projects and initiatives along with some time away, but once July 4 rolls around, I am ready for the school year to get under way.

In reflecting on the completion of all the “firsts” as your president of Southwest Baptist University, I cannot help but consider my first presentation of the “Life Beautiful” Awards. Established by career missionary Rosalee Mills Appleby, the recipients, who exemplify a “life beautiful” through their character and scholarship, are chosen by the faculty. The 2019 recipients of SBU’s Life Beautiful Awards are Sylvia Ofori-Yeboah and Tyler Dickenson.

In reading about the impact Sylvia and Tyler have had on the SBU community and beyond, these two outstanding young people exemplify our endeavors to provide a transformative educational experience within a vibrant faith community.

In seeking to forge the next chapter of SBU, let us be mindful of the eternal investment we make in the lives of students. This is why we do what we do.

Shaping our story together,

From my perspective, this has been a very busy year for Southwest Baptist University. We have accomplished a great deal together already—thank you for welcoming our family into the SBU family with open arms. We are indeed grateful for the Lord bringing us to this special place.

In reaching the midpoint of the current planning process, there are some strategic initiatives necessary to begin developing now. I shared a couple of these with you last week during my inaugural address:

  • Development of the initial SBU globalization team
  • Facilities master planning

Dr. Allison Langford will develop the globalization team initially. This team development will begin after the spring semester is completed. The charge of this team is to begin preparing SBU-Bolivar for receiving international students in the most-effective manner possible. In short, we want to ensure our support systems and infrastructure are at the necessary levels to accomplish this strategic goal.

As I shared with you on Friday, we have also employed a new architectural firm, N-Form Architecture from Springfield, for the primary purpose of developing a facilities master plan. Their work will begin next week with in-depth campus tours. We are excited about having this firm join the SBU team as we seek to ensure our facilities reflect the transformational and holistic work accomplished at SBU.
Shaping our story together,

Earlier this month, the University recognized Dr. Ed Clark for establishing the Ed and Theo Clark Endowed Chair of Accounting Excellence. At the reception, I could not help but notice the many lives influenced by the godly influence of Dr. Clark‎ during his long tenure at SBU. Accounting and non-accounting majors alike shared stories of how he influenced lives both in and out of the classroom. We are grateful for the example set by Dr. Clark.

SBU is a special place because of so many individuals like Dr. Clark who have an eternal perspective.

Thank you for what you do.

Shaping our story together,


Earlier this week, the University hosted a programmatic accreditation site visitor for the Bachelor of Social Work program. Typically, visits begin and end with an interview with the president, provost, and dean of the respective academic area. This visit was no exception. In our initial interview, we three answered questions related to the program and its complement to the University mission. As I listened to Dean Schriver, I was heartened to hear that our faculty equip our students to do kingdom work throughout the region. As the initial interview wrapped up, we were hopeful the site visit would go well.

Then the exit interview came …

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) organized the reviewer’s comments. To say he was complimentary of Southwest Baptist University and its faculty, staff, and students would be an understatement. Regarding the comments, perhaps one of the most gratifying, but not surprising, items mentioned was the clear observation that our students and faculty exude and exemplify the University mission by their words and deeds. As I have said on many occasions, we live like we believe. As your president, I have not had a prouder moment since being at SBU than when I heard this observation.

Thank you to our faculty, staff, and students for a job well done.

Shaping our story together,


The start of a new semester brings exciting news with it — earlier this month we were approved by the Missouri State Board of Nursing to begin offering the pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing on the Bolivar campus. I am grateful for the countless hours our faculty, staff, and administration have invested into this project.

This is an important milestone for the University as we endeavor to be the shining example of a Christian university to a hurting world — the hands and feet of our Lord.

SBU now has nursing programs on three of our four campuses. Each program is unique to the community it serves. This is significant because it shows that we are being market sensitive when considering new academic offerings. This approach is crucial as we strategically focus our efforts towards the future of SBU.

Shaping our story together,


For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving has been one of my favorite holidays. This Thanksgiving is particular meaningful to me. Throughout our first semester at SBU, several things have been underway:

Strategic Planning Launch

Thank you to everyone who has already participated in a Strategic Planning Listening Session. If you have not yet had a Listening Session for your area, I encourage you to attend when the time comes.

Fall Tour Events

In addition to the Missouri Baptist Convention, Homecoming, and the multiple games and concerts we have attended this fall, we continue to host Fall Tour Events throughout Missouri. I am continually encouraged by the stories I hear from hundreds of Bearcat alumni and friends, and I am grateful to be a Bearcat.

Turner Family

I am most excited that my wife, Barbara, and daughter, Emma, will be moving to Bolivar within in the next few days. Emma will begin school at Bolivar High School the week after Thanksgiving.

I look forward to spending much more time with my family, sitting in “my” chair once again, and enjoying life together. I am excited for the “girls” to love and appreciate the SBU I have grown to love in a very short time.

Thank you for your continued prayers for SBU and for my family as we complete our transition to Bolivar and SBU.

Shaping our story together,


Greetings, Bearcats! Since the last update, the Executive Team has been quite busy in organizing the strategic planning effort. The initial organizational meeting occurred in September, and we are beginning a year-long effort to focus on mapping out a strong future for SBU.

Strategic planning team

First, we needed to expand the planning team beyond the Executive Team to include representation from a cross-section of SBU constituencies. We have assembled an 11-member planning team that includes representation from faculty, staff, students, trustees, alumni and multiple campuses.

Listening sessions

We are already working on developing venues for listening sessions from all University constituents, with the intention of asking two primary questions: "What should never change about SBU?" and "What should we change about SBU?"

Next steps

Now that the planning team has been recruited, an initial kick-off meeting will occur very soon. Initial task assignments will be made, and a definitive timeline will be established to include the following:

  1. Data collection/analysis timeline
  2. Review sessions — listening sessions with the same constituents to review the emergent themes resulting from the initial data collection
  3. A mid-term report for the board of trustees (April Board meeting)
  4. Finalized plan submitted to the board of trustees in October 2019

We have much to do, but we are excited to be working toward the next chapter of SBU's history. To echo the words of our founders, "By God's grace, we will succeed."

Shaping our story together,


Wow! The last six weeks have been a whirlwind. We have crisscrossed our campuses in Bolivar, Springfield, Mountain View and Salem, and traveled beyond to listen to the SBU story and to tell the SBU story. My wife, Barbara, and I consistently walk away impressed with the fierce loyalty to the University. I am humbled to lead an institution with such a stellar history of impacting students’ lives for the kingdom of Christ.

A question continually posed to me as I interact with Bearcats across the country is, “Where are we headed as a University?” For several weeks now, I have stated that it is my desire for SBU to be the Christian university of choice throughout the Midwest and beyond. For us to achieve this, however, we must do this together. We must define what being the University of choice means for SBU. We also must chart our course by developing strategies and tactics to achieve this vision.

As we look toward celebrating the SBU sesquicentennial in 2028, we already have begun our planning effort by asking two simple questions of our SBU family:

  • "What are things that should never change about SBU?" and
  • "What should we change about SBU?"

In moving forward, these President’s Updates will keep you up-to-date on information of particular interest to you in the life of the University, as well as the progress of our strategic planning effort.

Shaping our story together,

Eric A. Turner