NEW ORLEANS (SWBTS) -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary recognized former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and retired pastor Tommy French as distinguished alumni at its annual Alumni & Friends Luncheon during the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans, June 20. Both were honored for their commitments to the Lord and contributions to the church and the world.
Before campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, before serving as governor of Arkansas, and before hosting a number one rated show on the Fox News Channel, Mike Huckabee was a young student at Southwestern Seminary. Upon receiving his distinguished alumnus award, he explained how God used his time at Southwestern to heal his brokenness and prepare him for the future.
“I’m truly honored, and few things that I have ever received in my life have meant more to me,” Huckabee said. He explained that when he and his wife Janet arrived at Southwestern, they were financially broke and spiritually broken. Janet was recovering from cancer treatments, which had taken a toll on her physical strength as well as the young couple’s emotional strength.
“What wonderful days,” Huckabee recalled of his time as a student on campus. He remembers going to chapel regularly, where he heard President Robert Naylor quote long passages of Scripture and other speakers challenge students “not just to be intellectually prepared but to be on fire.” He said friends at other seminaries used to refer jokingly to Southwestern as the “three-year camp meeting.”
“I considered it a badge of great honor,” Huckabee said. “[Southwestern] was known as a hotbed of evangelism and missions.”
Huckabee completed more than half of the required hours for a Master of Divinity degree before leaving seminary to pastor churches in Arkansas for 12 years. During that time, he also became the youngest ever president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
Huckabee was elected as lieutenant governor of Arkansas in a 1993 special election, and he then served as governor of Arkansas from 1996-2007. The following year, he campaigned for the Republican nomination for U.S. President. Afterward, he formed the HuckPac to help Conservative Republicans running for office nationwide.
Huckabee has authored nine books, including three New York Times best sellers. He hosts the hit show HUCKABEE on the Fox News Channel and the Cumulus Media Networks’ syndicated radio program, The Mike Huckabee Show. He is also heard three times each day on The Huckabee Report, which is syndicated on nearly 600 stations.
Despite his successes, Huckabee remembers his days at Southwestern as an unknown.
“I was a nobody,” Huckabee said. “Many were the times when I would go to chapel and then afterward go to the prayer room, which was down in the basement. My heart would be so filled with what I had heard in chapel, and I would go to that prayer room and say, ‘God, if there is a place for me, use me.’”
“I think that prayer is answered every time we ask God to use us, and He chooses to use us in very different ways.”
“The one lesson I learned at Southwestern was to love the Word of the living God, to believe that it is absolutely, 100 percent true, and then to believe that the purpose for reading it was not for what we have up here [pointing to his head] but for what we would do from here [pointing to his heart] out there in the world.”
Tommy French, pastor emeritus of Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., pastored the church for 50 years until his retirement in 2009. During that time, he also served as president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and chairman of the board of trustees at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS). Today, he serves as a trustee at Louisiana College.
“Southwestern gave me a set of tools with which to work, they gave me that evangelistic fervor that everybody needs when they go out into the world to tell people about the Lord Jesus Christ, and then they gave me a set of principles by which to live,” said French.
After 50 years of pastoral ministry, French said, “I found that what Southwestern had prepared me to do helped me get it done along with the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In addition to his faithful service in the local church, French also established the Mary French Pricilla Scholarship at Southwestern in honor of his late wife Mary, who, he says, made his ministry possible and effective. French has also set up a similar scholarship at NOBTS.
In addition to the presentation of awards, President Paige Patterson updated alumni and guests on the many exciting things going on at Southwestern.