A “humbled and grateful” David S. Dockery, distinguished professor of theology and director of the Dockery Center for Global Evangelical Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was inducted into Union University’s bicentennial hall of honor during events held Sept. 23-24 at the Jackson, Tennessee, campus.
Dockery, who served as Union’s fifteenth president from 1995-2014, said “when one considers all of the significant people who have made lasting contributions to Union University over 200 years, it is extremely meaningful to be included among that number.”
The honorees are the first to be inducted into the Tennessee-based university’s hall of honor. Honorees were nominated earlier this year and selected based upon criteria that included embodying the values and mission of the university; an affiliation with the university as an alumnus, former employee, or member of the Board of Trustees; honorable contributions to the university through dedication and achievement that have significantly affected the university; and providing support and mission advancement through leadership to alumni, students, or the Union community.
Dockery’s time as Union’s leader accounted for almost ten percent of the school’s history, during which time the university saw several advancements.
“The Lord's blessings rested upon our time at Union for nearly two decades,” Dockery explained. “We were blessed to see enrollment increases, the development of a very strong faculty, important connections with Baptist life, and the opportunity to rethink and rebuild major sections of the campus. It was rewarding to watch a team of people work together and pulled together in the same direction to work toward these ends.”
When Union University celebrated Dockery’s decade of leadership in 2005, he was one of only 27 percent of university presidents who remain in the leadership position for 10 years. Though he ultimately served Union for 19 years, he said longevity and stability in the presidential role aid in success as it creates a sense of belonging, shared identity, institutional stability, multiple planning cycles, and an overall sense of trust, “all of which are essential for healthy institutions.”
Though the Union University honor was given to Dockery, he observed the successes at Union under his leadership were due to the Lord’s blessing and the team he led.
“The key to those years was not an individual,” Dockery said. “The ultimate reason for the success of those years was God's kindness and favor. From a human standpoint, it was a team. I was privileged to be a part of a great group of people, men and women, who had remarkable gifts that complemented one another and worked together well, with the shared goal of advancing a common mission. It was the most joyful years of my life.”
Dockery concluded he is “grateful for the opportunity that was given to me by the Board of Trustees in December of 1995 to serve one of the most significant Baptist institutions in the country. I'll always be grateful for that privilege.”
Dockery, who holds a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Seminary, began serving at the Fort Worth institution in 2019. From December 2020 until February of this year, he served as interim provost and vice president for academic administration at Southwestern. In addition to his teaching and administrative roles, he serves as the editor of the Southwestern Journal of Theology, the oldest theological journal continually published by a Southern Baptist seminary.
A prolific author and editor, Dockery has served as editor of Southern Baptists and American Evangelicals, Southern Baptists, Evangelicals and the Future of Denominationalism, Christian Higher Education in the Evangelical Tradition, and New Dimensions in Evangelical Thought. Earlier this year he co-edited the Seminary Hill Press publication, The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture. Additionally, the Southern Baptist statesman has given major addresses on evangelicalism at leading evangelical universities and seminaries.
In addition to his degree from Southwestern Seminary, the Alabama-native holds degrees from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Grace Theological Seminary, Texas Christian University, and the University of Texas system.