After more than 32 years serving as president of the Baptist College of Florida, where he “influenced multiple generations of pastors and church leaders,” Thomas A. Kinchen is retiring Dec. 31, 2022.
Kinchen, whose tenure is the longest of any person serving as president of the same Southern Baptist institution of higher education, said that the highlight of his three-decade stint at the helm “has been seeing our graduates render stellar service to our Lord and His church literally around the world.”
Reflecting on Kinchen’s leadership, Tommy Green, Florida Baptist Convention executive director-treasurer, said, “I am grateful for the substantive ministry of Dr. Kinchen at the Baptist College of Florida. He has led with integrity and skill over these past 32-plus years. He has balanced the role of pastor and president in serving our students and Florida Baptists. On behalf of Florida Baptists, I extend heartfelt gratitude to Tom and his wife Ruth Ann for their faithful service.”
Founded in 1943, the college trains and develops Christian leaders for the church and marketplace through offering 19 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The college is a cooperating ministry of the Florida Baptist State Convention, and it operates campuses in Graceville and Central Florida, with plans to establish a third campus in Miami.
In 1990 when Kinchen was called to lead the college, “he inherited an organization experiencing declining enrollment and with the mandate that if things did not change, the college would likely close within 18 months,” according to a resolution adopted by messengers to the 2022 Florida Baptist State Convention annual meeting in Pensacola.
“When I arrived, I thought that the first two words in the name of the school were ‘Poor Old,’” Kinchen recalled.
“When I bragged about what was going on, I was cautioned not to brag on a poor little school in a tiny town in rural Florida. What folks did not recognize was that I was bragging on a mighty God in heaven who had initiated and supported this unique school.
“I have sought to face the challenges by never letting the school be defined by what we are not but by what we are.”
The school did not close; instead, it has grown tremendously over the decades of Kinchen’s leadership.
Describing Kinchen’s leadership as “visionary … Christ-centered … and courageous,” Mike Orr, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Chipley, said, “I do not think anyone could’ve imagined the growth of the school and the impact made through the college these past three decades.”
Kinchen “worked tirelessly to expand access to the college through multiple locations, distance learning, high school dual enrollment opportunities and has expanded the scope of degree offerings, including the addition of master’s level degrees,” the 2022 messengers’ resolution stated.
As he contemplates his days in retirement, Kinchen and his wife Ruth Ann plan to live on a small farm in Graceville, where he will fish, hunt, carpenter and farm. He vows that although his “heart will be tied to the school,” his “eyes, ears, mouth and hands will remain off of it.”
Stepping into his role as seventh BCF president on Jan. 1, 2023, Clayton Cloer is grateful for the legacy created by his predecessor.
“Tom Kinchen has sown more into the harvest across Florida in the past 32 years than anyone. His influence on multiple generations of pastors and church leaders through The Baptist College of Florida will continue long after his retirement,” Cloer said.