About 1,000 students, alumni, staff and friends of SBU gathered March 30 in SBU’s Mabee Chapel to honor the life of Judy Taylor, wife of SBU President Dr. C. Pat Taylor. Together, they are the longest-serving president and first lady in the University’s 138-year history. She passed away Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Bolivar, leaving behind a legacy of dedicated service to the kingdom and the University.
The celebration of life service included remarks from speakers such as Dr. Bob Agee, who was president of Oklahoma Baptist University during the time that the Taylors lived in Oklahoma and served at OBU. He recalled fond memories of Judy and how she lived her life with joy and enthusiasm and reminded attendees that the Gospel brings hope amid grief.
"I have had to remind myself frequently in recent days that I am not to grieve like those who have no hope, and that's tough, but the more I look at that verse, the more I realize that He did not say ‘do not grieve,’” Agee said. “In fact, I think the tears that we shed in this moment are really simply expressions of love and care and the exposure of our own humanity to the realities of pain and sadness. The difference is the verse says there really is a right way to grieve. We don't grieve as those who have no hope. We shed our tears, but with a reality that death is not the end. For Judy, this is a new beginning, and she liked new beginnings."
Remarks were also made by people whose lives were touched by Judy, including Stephanie Rovenstine, who served as her caregiver during her final years and whose testimony was read by Dr. Pat Baker, as well as her goddaughter Robin Parrish McAlister, who fondly recalled Judy’s caring and vivacious personality.
“I count myself among the lucky ones to have been a daughter of Judy,” McAlister said. “Humor, kindness, wisdom, grace, joy and Southern charm: these are the virtues she embodied and exuded.”
Judy’s faith and great love of music was celebrated through congregational renditions of songs such as “Crown Him With Many Crowns” and “Victory In Jesus,” the performance of which was led by Dr. James Tarrant, SBU professor of music and director of choral studies, featuring the SBU combined choirs and orchestra. They also performed classical works such as “Hallelujah from Christ on the Mount of Olives” and the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.”
Dr. Charles Graham, a music evangelist who attended SBU who is photographed at right, sang several songs in Judy’s honor, including “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb” and “I Bowed on My Knees.” He also shared about her impact on the SBU campus and throughout the community.
“The reason we loved her so—and we love her so—is because she knew the Lord, the Savior which she served,” Graham said. “And out of that relationship, she lived, she loved, and she gave. What an amazing example of Christ in the earth and in our lives. And for that, I am forever grateful.”
Additionally, Dr. Bill Brown, who retired in 2015 as provost of SBU, performed a selection of songs on the piano, including “Moonlight Sonata” and a Gospel medley.
The Rev. Billy Russell, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Bolivar, shared about Judy’s great love and passion for God, life, her family and others as he preached from her favorite passage of Scripture, I Corinthians 13.
“She was gifted to do so many things, and it pleased God—it was His will and good pleasure—that in the many different roles that she played in our church, our community and our University we were allowed to see the Spirit of God at work in a person’s life,” Russell said.
He also explained that her joy and love for others flowed out of her relationship with the Lord and were rooted in His great eternal love.
“Brothers and sisters, let us embody this love,” he said. “Let us practice and pursue this kind of love because it lasts, and that’s why Judy’s memory will outlast her life.”