Southwestern honors alumni, provides updates at SBC luncheon in Indianapolis


INDIANAPOLIS — Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President David S. Dockery recognized three distinguished alumni and provided an update about the seminary for alumni and other supporters during the Alumni and Friends Luncheon held June 12 in Indianapolis, Indiana, during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

O.S. Hawkins, chancellor and senior professor of pastoral ministry and evangelism, offered the opening prayer and thanked alumni for supporting the seminary. That support is “a tremendous encouragement to all of us at Southwestern who are seeing new life blow through that hill in south Fort Worth.”

Southwestern A Cappella, a select ensemble comprised of students from the School of Church Music and Worship at Southwestern Seminary, sang two selections of songs during the Southwestern Alumni and Friends Luncheon on June 12 in Indianapolis. Southwestern A Cappella and Cowden Hall Band led worship alongside Dean Joseph R. Crider during the 2024 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

Southwestern A Cappella music ensemble performed while lunch was being served. Along with Cowden Hall Band, the group helped lead in worship during the SBC annual meeting as Joseph Crider, dean of the School of Church Music and Worship, served as music director for the annual meeting.

Dockery expressed appreciation for Crider and the student musicians, “Thank you for blessing us here.”

Dockery honored three Southwestern graduates who “have made a significant difference in the cause of Christ.” The distinguished alumni recipients were announced April 28 but were presented with their awards during the luncheon.

Two-time Southwestern Seminary alumnus, Stanton “Stan” Norman, was honored with the distinguished alumni award from Southwestern during the seminary’s Alumni and Friends Luncheon at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. Norman serves as the president of Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas.

Stanton “Stan” Norman
Norman, president of Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, earned Master of Divinity (1990) and Doctor of Philosophy (1997) degrees from Southwestern. In his introduction, Dockery said Norman has “distinguished himself in the field of Christian education.” Dockery added that he “had the privilege of meeting him 40 years ago when he walked into the first class I ever taught.”

“So that tells you how old I am,” he added with a smile.

Norman said he had been looking for a seminary and didn’t know where to go until he walked into Dockery’s office, adding that Dockery told him Southwestern Seminary would prepare him well for ministry. And it was true, Norman said.

“I am honored beyond words,” Norman said in accepting the distinguished alumni award. He said his life was shaped by his time at the seminary, adding, “I am a Southwesterner through and through.”

Jarrett Stephens, senior pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, earned a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern in 2006. During remarks made after receiving his distinguished alumni award, Stephens said he was honored by the accolade.

Jarrett Stephens
Stephens earned a Master of Divinity degree at Southwestern in 2006 and currently serves as the senior pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston. He said he was honored to be named a distinguished alumnus of the seminary.

“I am a product of the places I have been,” he said. In addition to his studies at Southwestern, Stephens served under Jack Graham—a two-time graduate and distinguished alumnus—at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.

Stephens said he would not be the pastor, nor the man, that he is today without the seminary or Graham.

Dockery said he is “grateful for how [Stephens’s] ministry is being multiplied,” and noted that Stephens, Norman and fellow awardee Darin Wood are members of the seminary’s newly formed Board of Reference.

Darin Wood, a two-time Southwestern Seminary graduate, has pastored First Baptist Church of Midland, Texas, since 2016. In his remarks honoring Wood as a distinguished alumnus of Southwestern Seminary, President David S. Dockery said First Baptist Midland has provided 49 scholarships for Southwestern students this is year and is poised to to provide more scholarships next year.

Darin Wood
Wood is a two-time graduate of Southwestern Seminary, earning a Master of Divinity in 1993 and a Ph.D. in 2006. He has served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Midland, Texas, since 2016.

Dockery noted that Wood “grew up in the shadow” of the seminary and has a special relationship with it. He said First Baptist Midland had provided 49 scholarships for Southwestern students this year and is poised to do more next year.

“Friends, I am humbled,” Wood said when accepting the award. He told the audience that his grandmother lived near the Fort Worth campus, adding that they often would walk on the campus to go to church. The proudest day of his grandmother’s life was when he enrolled in the seminary, he said.

Of the scholarships his church provides, Wood told the audience, “So when you go to fill up your tank with gas and the price is high, comfort yourself with the knowledge that part of that money is going to scholarships.” The remark drew laughter from attendees.

Provost and vice president for academic affairs, W. Madison Grace II, interviewed Master of Divinity student Dillon Dunk about his experience as a student at Southwestern Seminary. Dunk said an attitude of accessibility, humility, and welcoming “permeates all of Southwestern.”

Student interview
As the luncheon continued, the focus turned to students.

“Our students are the reason we exist,” said Madison Grace, provost, vice president for academic administration, and dean of the School of Theology. “Student focused” is one of the six core values of the seminary, he noted.

Grace spoke with Dillon Dunk, who recently finished his first year in the M.Div. program at the seminary. An Oklahoma native, Dunk said he felt God calling him into ministry during his senior year of high school. After earning his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma, Dunk said he was at first drawn to Southwestern Seminary because it was close. While attending the seminary’s Preview Day, however, he felt the Lord calling him to the school.

Dunk said he unknowingly met President Dockery during that Preview Day visit. He recalled that he was having breakfast when a man came up and started talking to him. When the man eventually got up to leave, Dunk asked him his name. The man shook his hand and said, “‘I’m David,’” Dunk said, adding he didn’t realize he was the president until Dockery was introduced when the event began.

That attitude of accessibility, humility, and welcoming “permeates all of Southwestern,” Dunk said.

Dockery report
In his report, Dockery acknowledged the “realities of our challenges and where we are.” While the seminary continues to deal with accreditation, financial, and legal issues, Dockery said he sees a spirit of unity moving through the campus.

“It has been so fun to watch,” he added.

Dockery also shared some highlights, including faculty publications, enrollment growth, and an improved financial situation. He pointed to a recent Association of Theological Schools survey in which Southwestern was the only Southern Baptist seminary to place in the top 10 in the categories of total number of graduates, enrollment, credit hours taught, and total endowment.

He cautioned that while the seminary is now in “a place of financial stability,” it is not yet in a place of financial health.

Dockery expressed gratitude for prayers for the seminary and asked that those prayers continue.

In closing, Dockery thanked SBC President Bart Barber, a two-time Southwestern graduate, for his leadership of the SBC. He also thanked Kenneth Hemphill, the seventh president of Southwestern Seminary, and his wife for attending the luncheon.

After Crider and A Cappella led the audience in singing the seminary hymn, Chandler Snyder, vice president for enrollment and student services and dean of students, appealed for student referrals and financial support from the attendees to conclude the luncheon before offering the benediction.