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Office of the President

President Melson smiling while standing in front of globe water sculpture

Richard J. Melson, Ph.D., President

Read President's Updates

Richard J. Melson, Ph.D., was elected the 26th President of Southwest Baptist University by the Board of Trustees on Aug. 19, 2021, and began his service as President on Sept. 7, 2021. SBU celebrated his inauguration on March 2, 2022.

Dr. Melson brings more than 25 years of transformational leadership to SBU’s administrative team. He has a passion for equipping the next generation of servant leaders to impact the world for Christ.

He joins SBU from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, where he served as Vice President for Advancement and Associate Professor of Business Administration since July 2016. Accomplishments while at Cedarville University include:

  • Leading a $125 million comprehensive campaign, the most ambitious fundraising effort in Cedarville University's history
  • Securing the largest gift commitments in Cedarville University history, including a $12 million lead gift for a Welcome Center and Liberal Arts Building and a $10 million lead gift for a new Business Building
  • Raising more than $95 million, more than the previous 15 years of giving combined

He also served on the President’s Cabinet and enjoyed teaching leadership to Cedarville’s students in the School of Business Administration, speaking in chapel and mentoring students across campus.

Dr. Melson served as the Vice President for Advancement and External relations at Houghton College in Houghton, N.Y., from 2012-2016. Accomplishments at Houghton College include:

  • Providing leadership to the institution's $70 million campaign
  • Leading the college to experience the highest giving in college history
  • Raising more than $34.1 million in four years, more than the previous seven years of giving combined
  • Leading his team to raise more than $1.1 million in one day, with 1,737 donors giving during a One Day Giving Challenge, garnering national recognition
  • Serving as President and CEO of the Willard J. Houghton Foundation

Dr. Melson has served in senior leadership positions in business, healthcare, higher education and ministry, including serving on the pastoral staff with John Piper at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn., and at the Resurgence and Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wash. He served previously as Director of Admissions and Student Recruitment with Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Matthew, Hannah, Tammy, Rick, Marisa and Jon MelsonHe earned his doctoral degree in leadership studies from Dallas Baptist University. Dr. Melson holds a master’s degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a bachelor of arts degree from Murray State University. He also has completed post-doctoral studies at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education in educational management and advancement leadership.

Dr. Melson is happily married to his high school sweetheart, Tammy, of 33 years. They have three children. Son and daughter-in-law, Jon and Marisa, live and work in Los Angeles, Calif. Daughter Hannah is a staff nurse at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City. Son Matthew is in high school and loves all things sports and science.

Dr. and Mrs. Melson enjoy opening their home, mentoring students, and attending athletics, theater and other events on campus. They enjoy spending time with their family, traveling, working out, reading, and outdoor recreation. They are passionate about equipping the next generation of servant leaders to impact the world for Christ and are called to serve in a Christ-centered, caring academic community.

Inauguration Recap

President's Updates

The 2022–2023 academic year is off to a roaring start and I am excited about what God has in store for us at SBU! There are a lot of new things to highlight this month—new students, new faculty, new staff, new programs, new meal options, newly renovated spaces, new vision for chapel and discipleship—so many things to celebrate! God has been kind to us.

In coming newsletters we’ll mention more about these great new things, but I want to focus this newsletter on our vision for this year.

Strength for Today, Bright Hope for Tomorrow

In the summer of 587 BC, Jerusalem was overtaken by the Babylonian army. The holy city, home to God’s king and to the temple where God’s earthly presence rested, lay in utter ruins. The prophet Jeremiah looked out over the destruction and reflected on the pain and confusion of God’s people. While the defeat seemed in the moment like God’s abandonment of his people, Jeremiah looked back with confidence to God’s promises:

“But this I call to mind and, therefore, I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, great is your faithfulness” (Lamentation 3:23).

Jeremiah is calling to mind what God had said of himself in Exodus 34:6. On Mt. Sinai, God passed before Moses, and declared his name, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” In a time of unparalleled difficulty, Jeremiah looked back to God’s self-revelation for strength for the present and hope for the future.

Many of us are familiar with the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” a reflection Lamentations 3:21–23. This stanza has particularly struck me this summer:

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside

Great is Thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

The last several years have been challenging for our campus community. I believe that the Lord intends to mend the brokenness and strengthen us for the mission to which he has called us. Mended brokenness is a powerful way in which God shows his mercy, kindness, and faithfulness. And that mending comes about when we look to him for strength for today and hope for tomorrow.

Four Initiatives for 2022–2023

And that’s what we are committed to doing this year. Here are four initiatives we are committed to in the 2022–2023 academic year:

  1. Create a Christ-Centered Culture United Around the Baptist Faith and Message, 2000 (BFM2000): For over one hundred years, Southwest Baptist University has been a confessional institution. Our university charter emphasizes our robust commitment to historic, orthodox Christianity in the Baptist tradition. The BFM2000 is the concise summary of that doctrinal commitment. Rather than ignoring or minimizing this theological foundation, we want to press into it, together—deepening our understanding and the kind of alignment that shared convictions bring about. We’re committed to making these important convictions clear in every stage of our hiring process for faculty, staff, and administration. And we’re aiming to show the beauty of biblical fidelity and personal holiness through chapel and new discipleship initiatives.
  2. Strengthen SBU and Assure HLC Accreditation: SBU was placed on probation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), our regional accreditor, in 2021. Through the excellent work of our faculty and staff, we are already well on our way to addressing the concerns raised by the HLC. We have also contracted a HLC specialist who is working with our university team and HLC liaison to ensure that our assurance argument will satisfy the HLC’s visitation team. The chairman of SBU’s Board of Trustees, Dr. Eddie Bumpers, and I are working closely with our board members to clarify board responsibilities and provide a more meaningful and forward-looking experience for the great group of men and women who give of their time to serve our university. Additionally, a group of faculty, staff, and administration are collaborating on a document that will clarify SBU’s form of shared governance. We are also engaging a service offered by the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) to review all of our institutional policies. Each of these steps will strengthen our university and prepare it well for a bright future.
  3. Develop a Strategic Plan for Institutional Flourishing and Sustainability: A third focus for the 2022–2023 Academic year is planning for the future. With the rapid pace of change, it is easy to fall into the rut of simply reacting to things around us. Our last strategic plan was developed prior to the massive disruptions of COVID. After much discussion, we have decided to start a new, comprehensive planning process that will result in a new strategic plan. This plan will include master planning for academic programming, athletics, enrollment, and campus improvements. We believe that the best days of SBU are ahead and we are eager to work together to plan for an exciting, innovative, and flourishing future—God helping us. 
  4. Communicate Boldly: Finally, we are doubling down on our commitment to clear and collaborative communication. I’ve put together a new senior leadership team that includes representatives from faculty senate, staff council, athletics, student life, student activities and our campus pastor in addition to our executive cabinet. We will be working together to make sure that every area of our university understands where we are going and how we are getting there. Additionally, I will be regularly attending various leadership meetings across the university to report on progress and to be available for feedback and questions. We’re also planning to send out this monthly newsletter as well as developing new multi-channel communications.

As we move into the new year, together, let’s ask for God’s blessing on SBU. We have been given a great mission. May God equip us even more to be a Christ-centered, caring, academic community preparing students to change the world for the glory of Jesus Christ.

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