David S. Dockery has been elected 10th president, and Southern Baptist leader O.S. Hawkins was elected to the new role of chancellor during the spring meeting of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary board of trustees on Wednesday (April 19).
The unanimous elections of Dockery and Hawkins to their new roles come nearly seven months after their elections as interim president and senior adviser and ambassador-at-large, respectively, in a special-called trustee meeting, Sept. 27, 2022, following the resignation of Adam W. Greenway.
“Dr. David Dockery is God’s man for Southwestern Seminary in this hour,” trustees chair Danny Roberts told trustees. “Our seminary’s at a critical juncture in this 115-year history, and in God’s providence, He has already provided the man to lead our seminary during this time.”
Roberts said trustees did not need to “look further for our next president” based on Dockery’s “impressive performance as interim [president] providing stability and healing, his long track record of outstanding Christian leadership in higher education, with the current needs of the institution.”
Although a presidential search committee would be typical, “Southwestern’s current challenges are best faced with clarity in the Office of the President as soon as possible and for the future,” he said, noting that it’s not the first time a president of Southwestern was elected without a search process, referring to the seminary’s second president, L.R. Scarborough.
“We have settled today who our leader is, and we may move forward as we continue to seek God’s favor on Seminary Hill as we equip men and women of the next generation of ministers to the calling that God has given them,” Roberts said.
Dockery said he was “deeply humbled and genuinely grateful for the privilege and responsibility to serve” as Southwestern’s 10th president. “I am truly thankful for the overwhelming support from the board of trustees as well as for the faithful encouragement and prayerful support from the faculty, staff, colleagues and students. What an honor it will be to continue to serve side-by-side with O.S. Hawkins, a dear friend and person that I greatly admire and from whom I have learned much in recent months.”
Roberts expressed gratitude for Hawkins’s willingness to accept the new role of chancellor in which he “will continue to offer his experience as statesman and influence in this seminary and in this community. There are really few leaders in Southern Baptist Convention life who have the impeccable leadership credentials of Dr. Hawkins has with the sterling track record of 25 years as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, among other places of service.”
Hawkins would continue to serve as a volunteer, Roberts noted, and will report to Dockery by providing “counsel, offer support and guidance, develop contacts, raise funds, and bring his influence, credibility, and good will and gravitas to our seminary community. This change in title will greatly aid his efforts in supporting the seminary. And we are blessed that this Southwesterner is willing to serve our seminary at this strategic moment in our history.”
Dockery, who earned the master of divinity from Southwestern Seminary in 1981, joined the seminary faculty in 2019 when he was named distinguished professor of theology and theologian-in-residence for the B.H. Carroll Center for Baptist Heritage and Mission. He also served as special consultant to the president. Later, he was named editor of the Southwestern Journal of Theology, the seminary’s historic academic journal.
From December 2020 to February 2022, he also served as interim provost at Southwestern. Additionally, he serves as the inaugural director of the Dockery Center for Global Evangelical Theology, which was named in his honor by the board of trustees at their spring 2022 meeting.
After a lengthy career in Christian higher educational leadership at Trinity International University, Union University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in 2019 Dockery was invited to assist with the founding of the International Alliance for Christian Education. He has also served as president of the Evangelical Theological Society and board chair of Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Christian College Consortium, and Consortium for Global Education.
A native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Dockery has had a distinguished career as a theologian and educator. In addition to his degree from Southwestern Seminary, he holds degrees from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (B.S.), Grace Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Texas Christian University (M.A.), and the University of Texas at Arlington (Ph.D.). Dockery was named a distinguished alumnus by Southwestern Seminary in 2002.
In 1995, Dockery was elected president of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Under his leadership, enrollment more than doubled, net assets more than tripled, and Union sprang to a place of national leadership in Christian higher education. In September 2022, he was among the first honorees to be inducted into the university’s hall of honor.
In 2014, he was installed as Trinity’s 15th president and served in that role for five years, then transitioned to the role of chancellor. At Trinity, he brought guidance to an institution that had previously experienced more than a decade of significant enrollment decline and an array of institutional challenges. He led processes to strengthen the Trinity board and enhance denominational relationships. New academic programs were introduced, and four new academic centers were established.
Dockery is a sought-after speaker and lecturer and former consulting editor for Christianity Today, and has authored, edited, or contributed to nearly 100 books. As an author, he is best known for his works in the areas of Baptist studies, biblical interpretation and Christian higher education. He served as the New Testament editor for the 40-volume New American Commentary Series, as general editor of the 15-volume Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition Series, and is co-editor of the multi-volume Theology for the People of God series. He is general editor of the forthcoming New English Translation Study Bible.
He has been married to Lanese for more than 47 years, and they have three married sons and eight grandchildren.
Hawkins, who retired in March 2022 as the president and CEO of GuideStone after leading the Southern Baptist entity for 25 years, is a two-time alumnus of Southwestern Seminary, holding the master of divinity (1974) and doctor of philosophy (2020) degrees from the institution. Additionally, the Fort Worth native holds a bachelor of business administration degree from Texas Christian University and honorary doctorates from Liberty University, Dallas Baptist University, Southwest Baptist University and Criswell College. Hawkins received the distinguished alumni award from Southwestern Seminary in 2000.
Immediately prior to assuming the presidency at GuideStone, Hawkins was the senior pastor of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas, leading the downtown Dallas church from 1993–1997. Hawkins also served as the pastor of First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale, Florida (1978–1993), First Baptist Church of Ada, Oklahoma (1974–1978), and First Baptist Church of Hobart, Oklahoma (1972–1974).
Hawkins has authored more than 40 books. Among them is the best-selling “Code Series” books, with the proceeds and royalties benefitting Mission:Dignity, a ministry of GuideStone started under Hawkins’s tenure that assists retired ministers and their widows who are in need.
Hawkins has been married to his wife, Susie, since 1970. The Hawkins have two married daughters and six grandchildren.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by SWBTS staff and originally published by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.