Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will dedicate the William R. Marshall Center for Theological Studies, in a service set for Sept. 11 at 10:30 a.m., at Parkhills Baptist Church, 17747 San Pedro Avenue (on Highway 281, just south of Loop 1604 in San Antonio). Mr. Marshall and his family will be honored during the service, and speakers include Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson, San Antonio Baptist Association Director Charles Price, and Dean Rudy González. The public and media are invited.
Last fall, the trustees of Southwestern Seminary named the seminary’s extension center in San Antonio the William R. Marshall Center for Theological Studies, and appointed Rudy González as its dean.
Marshall is a well-known, beloved educator and Baptist leader, whose leadership has made an impact in his native South Texas. According to Jack Terry, vice president emeritus at Southwestern Seminary, Marshall’s contribution to theological education in Texas cannot be overstated.
“Bill Marshall has been the shepherd of Southwestern Seminary’s San Antonio program from its inception in 1976,” Terry said. Terry is “good friends” with Marshall, and worked with him during the years when Marshall was the seminary’s development officer for San Antonio and South Texas.
The Story of Bill Marshall: Baptist leader and educator
William Richard Marshall was born on July 23, 1929, in San Antonio. He was the third of three children of George William Marshall Sr., a retired military officer and civil servant, and Jeffie Mae Robertson Marshall.
Called “Bill” by his family and friends—“I don’t think anyone knows me as ‘William,’” he said—Marshall grew up in San Antonio, except between the ages of three to six-years-old when the family lived in Cheyenne, Wyo.
Marshall graduated from San Antonio’s Harlandale High School in 1947. During his senior year, Marshall’s training and interest in electronics earned him a job as a radio engineer with a local radio station, KMAC. His abilities quickly drew the attention of the station’s management, and soon he was an on-air talent, as well.
In all, Marshall was with the radio station for 10 years, eventually working his way up to news director. He looks back on those years fondly, and not entirely for professional reasons. During his first year there, he met Nell Ruth Pedigo, the young woman who would become his wife.
“Nell went to Brackenridge High School and was in a Radio Dramatics class,” Marshall recalled. “She came with her class to the station, and that’s where I first met her ... We probably would not have met otherwise because we went to different high schools.”
“He was tall and handsome,” Nell Marshall added. “All the girls noticed him.”
Marshall, laughing, said, “My voice was quite a bit deeper in those days.”
He and Nell married in 1953. Nell gave birth to two daughters: Susan Gayle and Angela Ruth.
While working at the radio station, Marshall obtained an associate’s degree from San Antonio College, and a bachelor of science and a master’s degree in education from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University). During his master’s degree studies Marshall taught at Morrill Elementary School.
At the age of 30, Marshall was appointed principal of Huff Avenue Elementary School, and worked in elementary school administration for the next 10 years. He was 40-years-old when the Harlandale Independent School District hired him to become superintendent of curriculum. He spent 15 years in that role.
Marshall has always been an active member and leader in Southern Baptist churches, and deeply committed to Southern Baptist life and ministry in Texas.
In 1955, Marshall was ordained as a deacon at Harlandale Baptist Church. For the past 30 years, he has served as a deacon at the First Baptist Church of San Antonio, including serving as chairman of deacons. He served on the executive boards of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the San Antonio Baptist Association. He has taught Sunday School for more than 60 years.
Bill Marshall teams up with Southwestern
One of Marshall’s overriding passions is for the advancement of theological education, particularly for Hispanic pastors. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has shared that passion, offering post-graduate theological education in San Antonio continuously since 1976.
In the mid-1980s, Marshall became the director of Southwestern Seminary’s San Antonio Extension Center. He brought his characteristic zeal and good humor to the task of developing a top-notch theological training program and making it accessible to preachers in South Texas who might not be able to afford to go to Fort Worth.
“In conjunction with Dr. David Fite—Southwestern’s director of off-campus programs—Bill Marshall developed, organized and produced a program in San Antonio which led to offering the finest theological education possible to pastors there,” Terry said.
“We had pastors come from as far away as Laredo,” Marshall said. “I remember one man who would catch the bus at 4 a.m., study on the way in, and arrive in time for his 8 a.m. class. Having an education is a priority for Hispanic pastors, and so it is just as important that we provide a high quality education somewhere they don’t have to travel too far to get.”
Marshall helped Southwestern Seminary take on the operations of the Hispanic Baptist Theological School from 1982-1989; the “school” became a “seminary” during those years.
According to Terry, up to that time HBTS only offered bachelor’s degrees. By bringing HBTS under the umbrella of Southwestern Seminary, HBTS graduates had the opportunity to continue seamlessly into their master’s degree studies.
After Southwestern Seminary handed back operations of HBTS to the Baptist General Convention of Texas in 1989, Marshall continued to be the liaison for Southwestern Seminary’s master’s degree extension center when it moved to the First Baptist Church of San Antonio.
Marshall continued to advance the work of Southwestern Seminary in San Antonio until retiring in 2000. Even in retirement, Marshall promotes Southwestern Seminary’s program in San Antonio. Terry said Marshall’s unique and loyal efforts on behalf of the seminary’s work in San Antonio were the reason why the center was named for him.
“Bill Marshall has been Southwestern Seminary’s liaison through all the changes, and even more so after 1989 as the program was housed at First Baptist Church, and more recently at Parkhills Baptist Church,” Terry said.
San Antonio son Rudy González appointed dean
The Marshall Center’s new dean, Rudy González, grew up, trusted Christ for salvation, met his future wife and got married in San Antonio. After the Lord called him into full-time ministry as a young man, González got his bachelor’s degree from Criswell College, his master of divinity degree from Southwestern Seminary, a master of theology degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a doctorate from Baylor. From 2004-2006, he was Southwestern Seminary’s vice president for student services.
“We are so excited that Dr. González has been appointed dean,” Marshall said. He added that Gonzalez’s roots in the community combined with his top-notch education make him “perfect” to lead the Marshall Center.“I don’t deserve to have the center named after me, but I am very proud of the fact that they have chosen us to do this,” Marshall said. “There is a need for access to theological education in our churches down here. Education is the background for everything we do. And among the Hispanic community, having a good education speaks positively of pastor ... San Antonio is key to the border and a corridor to Mexico; it’s the hub of Southwest Texas. Southwestern Seminary’s commitment to San Antonio is very important to developing solid preachers and teachers of the gospel in the area.”