NOTICE: Classes canceled today due to weather conditions. Check Blackboard for communication from your instructors.
Southwest Baptist University celebrated the inauguration of Richard J. Melson, Ph.D., as the 26th president with a week of events and festivities, including the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday, March 2, 2022.
Thank you, Pastor David. Thank you to the presidential search committee, and the Board of Trustees for a unanimous call to serve as the twenty-sixth president of Southwest Baptist University. Tammy and I are truly humbled. We are incredibly honored to lead SBU for such a time as this.
As I mentioned in my winter commencement, “When you see a turtle on top of a fence post, chances are he didn’t get there on his own.”
My life has been filled with extraordinary men and women who have invested in me and who have helped mold me into the person I am today. My wife, Tammy, who is my closest confidant, greatest cheerleader, and partner in ministry. My children, Jon and his wife Marisa, Hannah, and Matthew, they’re a gift from the Lord and encourage me to be my very best. My parents who led me to Christ and instilled biblical truth, my grandmother who was a prayer warrior and modeled sincere piety, and my grandfather who taught me how to share the Gospel. My high school band director who instilled in me the importance of excellence in all I do, my childhood pastors and ministry leaders who helped me develop my character and gave me opportunities to serve and to lead. My college voice teacher who helped me discover my true voice, my seminary professors who helped me articulate my convictions and grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ. My first boss, who is here today to pray over me Dr. Doug Walker, who believed in me and gave me opportunities far beyond my age and experience. He was also the first person who planted a seed in me, nearly thirty years ago, that I could one day be a university president. My seminary president who instilled in me the importance of biblical truth, the sufficiency and authority of Scripture, and the conviction to lead. Notable pastors with whom I served who instilled in me the priority of expository preaching, the Sovereignty of God, and the understanding that the Chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. My dear friend, Charlie Waldburger, who has been a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He’s walked this journey with me each step of the way. A university president, Dr. Rick Mann, who has mentored me for over a decade and helped shape my thinking more than any person about the role of president. Dr. Jerry Gillis, who has encouraged me and my family, who pastored us and has been with us on this journey. I am, by God’s grace, the sum of all these parts.
Like the turtle on the fence post, I did not get here on my own.
One of my favorite verses from Scripture is Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” It is a life verse for me it also reflects John Piper’s statement, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” It is also the inspiration for my signature line, “For His Glory and our exceeding joy.” You may have noticed that every event of this inauguration week has centered on the themes of God’s glory and our joy. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
For 143 years Southwest Baptist University has been a Christ-centered, caring academic community preparing servant leaders to impact the world for Christ in a global society.
At SBU, we stand unapologetically as a Christ-centered university. We are not merely an academic institution comprised of Christian faculty, staff and students; rather, we are a Christ-centered institution rooted in biblical orthodoxy and scholarly orthopraxy and committed to the holistic development of every student. SBU is uniquely positioned as a caring academic community to support students in a partnership of transformational learning, growth in the context of biblical truth, intentional discipleship committed to equipping graduates to become those biblical servant leaders who glorify God and make him known. They go out and make an impact in the world for Christ.
One of the things I like to say is, “we are making world-changers at SBU!” and I absolutely believe that.
Over the past four centuries we have seen too many Christian colleges and universities drift away from their historic Christian identity. History tells us that Christian institutions who are not tethered and anchored to biblical convictions and confessional identity will naturally drift from the faith. As Christian institutions face cultural headwinds and external pressures, many will be tempted to waiver in their Christian commitments. At Southwest Baptist University we will stand unapologetically for our biblical convictions. We are a Christ-centered, transformational institution.
Research indicates that many Christian families choose universities based on the perception of cost, brand strength, and job placement, but few have really fully considered the consequences of this choice. If they choose a modern-day secular university they will find it’s a humanistic institution. It’s designed to deconstruct who we are, what we think, what we believe, what we feel, and what we do. In contrast, at SBU we exist to glorify God by integrating faith, learning, and service. We provide academic rigor and institutional and intentional discipleship. We’re committed to developing and equipping servant leaders who do go out and make an impact in the world for Christ. They become global citizens and we’re preparing and equipping them.
As the new president, I have had the privilege of meeting many of our alumni, many of our friends during the past six months. I have met alumni from every decade since the 1940s, we were Southwest Baptist College at that time. We had several hundred students. Today we are Southwest Baptist University, we have thousands of students and more than 30,000 alumni. We have outstanding alumni living and serving worldwide from big cities to small towns. I have been delighted to hear the stories. Their unique experiences that unite them as the SBU family. Every alumni story has one common theme – the meaningful relationships with faculty, staff, and students who made a transformational impact on your life that created a lifelong bond to the SWBC/SBU Bearcat family. This is the outcome of a Christ-centered, caring academic community. Each of those alumni have been pointed to Christ by fellow students, by faculty and by staff.
Abraham Kuyper, founder of the Free University of Amsterdam in 1880 and Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1901-1905, remarked in his Inaugural Address at the founding of the university, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” It is all Christ, every square inch. At Southwest Baptist University, we are committed to preparing and equipping servant leaders with a biblical worldview, who will go out and impact the world for Christ. In whatever sphere of life you are called to, we are equipping students to serve and to lead.
SBU alumni are leading and serving around the world in every sphere of society from healthcare to finance, from the pulpit to the halls of justice, from social work to the legislature, from the classroom to the boardroom, and everywhere in between—each one of them are on mission to know Christ and to make Him known. The “Great Commission” sculpture in the University forum that you will see as you walk out of this chapel is a visual representation of this commitment. The gift by the Board of Trustees of the Divine Servant sculpture. That Pastor Brown shared about will create a legacy on SBU’s campus of our mission as a Christ-centered, caring academic community. We are preparing servant leaders. When Jesus gathered with his disciples in the upper room, he didn’t bring a whiteboard and a plan to conquer the Roman Empire. As Pastor Jerry shared he came with a basin and a towel and he set an example for each of us to follow. His disciples changed the world as servant leaders. They went out and made a difference, because Jesus set the example for us. As a memento for this historic occasion each person today will receive a servant towel it’s a reminder to live out Christ’s example as the divine servant found in John chapter 13. As followers of Jesus Christ, let us be about the glorious work of making much of Jesus Christ as servant leaders in whatever sphere of life God has called us so that we might let the world know that Jesus Christ is Lord. That we would let them know that Jesus Christ is coming again. That we will serve them where they are for His glory and for our exceeding joy. Let us make Him known.
While the landscape of higher education may be rapidly changing around us, our mission and our vision has not changed! We will stand unapologetically for the inerrant, infallible, sufficient, authoritative Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We will lead with courage, we will serve with humility, we will hold to our biblical convictions, and we will “earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3b).” We will continue to fulfill our mission as a Christ-centered, caring academic community preparing servant leaders to impact the world for Jesus Christ in a global society.
So today SBU family let us rise to the challenges before us. Let us take hold of the opportunities that await us, and let us lead SBU to its greatest days ahead.
All for God’s glory and our exceeding joy.