Terry brings decades of service, commitment to the goals of Southwestern


With more than 54 years of uninterrupted service on the faculty and in various senior academic and administrative leadership roles at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jack Terry, interim vice president for institutional advancement and senior professor of foundations of education, believes the Lord still has a calling on him to continue serving on Seminary Hill until He decides otherwise.

Born into a Catholic family in Louisiana, Terry mostly grew up in Groves, Texas. While his family were not evangelical Christians, many of Terry’s friends in high school were.

“A good friend of mine was a Southern Baptist kid and he introduced me to Christ and shared the Gospel with me,” Terry said. “He was my best friend and he led me to trust in the Lord. I became a Christian, was baptized, and began to attend church there at First Baptist Church in Groves.”

Jack D. Terry (far right) served as dean of what is now known as the Jack D. Terry School of Educational Ministries from 1973 to 1996. Terry has served Southwestern for 54 years of uninterrupted serviced. J.M. Price (center) founded the Department of Religious Education at Southwestern in 1915. The department was elevated to a school in 1921, with Price serving as the first director. Joe Davis Heacock (left) served as the second dean of the School of Educational Ministries from 1956 to 1973. Terry followed Heacock as the school’s third dean.

After graduating high school, he attended East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas. While in college, he earned his Bachelor of Arts with a major in English and a minor in music. Terry was influenced by a high school teacher to study in those areas.

“My teacher, Mrs. Rogers, was a very strong influence in my life to teach,” Terry said. “I trained in English because Mrs. Rogers was an English teacher. After I graduated, the minor in music helped me as I went into music and education ministry.”

After graduating college, Terry attended Southwestern Seminary where he earned his Master of Religious Education and then began pursuing a Doctor of Education degree. He then became a professor at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas.

While on faculty at Hardin-Simmons, Terry was introduced to Robert E. Naylor, fifth president of Southwestern Seminary.

“I ended up being invited to join the faculty at Southwestern in 1969 as professor of principles of teaching and philosophy and history of education, and I’ve been on faculty ever since then,” Terry said.

After assuming the role of vice president for institutional advancement at Southwestern in 1996, Terry was followed by Daryl R. Eldridge, the fourth dean of what is now known as the Terry School.

From 1973 until 1996, Terry served as the dean of what was then called the School of Religious Education, now known as the Jack D. Terry School of Educational Ministries, as it was renamed in Terry’s honor in 2009. Beginning in 1996, he began serving as the vice president for institutional advancement, a role he held until 2007 when he began serving in other capacities, including as vice president of institutional advancement emeritus.

In October 2022, President David S. Dockery named Terry interim vice president of institutional advancement as part of the initial Seminary Leadership Team he gathered to lead the seminary during its transitional period.

Noting Terry “embodies so many of the best aspects of Southwestern Seminary,” Dockery said that the long-time professor and administrator’s “years of dedicated service to Southwestern and his reputation for integrity and faithfulness have created much trust among the Southwestern constituencies.”

Dockery said Terry and his wife “continue to love this institution” and when “we were thinking of ways to reconnect Southwestern with the seminary’s friends and supporters, we knew that Jack Terry was the one person who could do so.”

“Moreover, everyone at the seminary loves and respects Jack and Barbara Terry,” Dockery added. “We are grateful to God for their ongoing commitment to Southwestern.”

As Terry has served on faculty since 1969 and was a student in 1956, he has either studied or served under seven of the seminary’s 10 presidents. He said that he has remained through so many presidents because his calling is to “serve the Lord through Southwestern, not to a particular president.”

Since the fall of 2022, Terry has served Southwestern as the interim vice president for institutional advancement. However, the legacy of theological education Terry helped advance through the Terry School has continued through Robert H. Welch (left), dean emeritus who served as dean from 2004 to 2008, and Chris Shirley (right), who has led as the dean of the Terry School since 2022.

During his time at Southwestern, Terry has taught many classes and semesters. His favorite class that he has taught was Jewish Educational History.

“It was a Ph.D. course … and it would examine all of the teaching styles from Abraham to the Apostle Paul,” Terry said. “I would go through all of the training situations that were used in the Old and New Testament and would even cover the teachings of Jesus and His methodology. I really enjoyed it.”

While teaching is no longer his main priority, Terry said that he was an “interactive” professor when he taught.

Many of his former students serve on faculty at Southwestern, including Chris Shirley, dean of the Terry School, professor of educational ministries, and occupant of the Jack and Barbara Terry Chair of Religious Education.

“He was always fun and entertaining during class,” Shirley said. “The one thing I remember most about his classes was the wealth of stories he had. All of them related back to his experience as a minister of education and he would always be able to illustrate what he was teaching with an actual story.”

Shirley added that it is “quite interesting” serving as the dean of the school named after Terry himself.

“The gravity of the role was increased the year they named it the Terry School because the heritage of this school is now tied to his heritage,” Shirley said. “As I approach my own responsibilities here, I find myself thinking, ‘What would Jack Terry do in this situation?’”

Another faculty member who has been impacted by Terry is Karen Kennemur, professor of children’s ministry.

“He has always been encouraging to me, as a professor, encouraging me to listen to the Lord’s will for my life,” Kennemur said. “Through the ups and downs of being a professor at Southwestern, Dr. Terry has helped me to follow God’s calling.”

Kennemur added that she has known of Terry’s reputation in the world of academics since she “was a child” and that serving in the school that is named in his honor is an honor in and of itself.

Terry’s current role with Southwestern is recruiting businesses, churches, and individuals to financially support the seminary so that the school can operate at full capacity.

“I spend most of my days either traveling or welcoming people into my office to talk to them about donating to the school,” Terry said.

Outside of work, Terry enjoys spending time with his wife, Barbara, and his children, Douglas and Patricia. He said that his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are “always fun to be around.”

Terry and his wife have attended and served at First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas, now known as Cross City Church, since 1994. During that time, the couple has led mission trips and different educational trips across the world, including over 30 trips to Israel.

Terry said that he “used to love to play golf” when his body would let him, but that teaching people how to teach has always been his greatest passion.

Terry has served Southwestern Seminary faithfully for 54 years and does not have a specific end time set. While presidents change and students graduate, Terry remains committed to the goals of Southwestern Seminary and to furthering the institution’s reach to students, churches, and to the ends of the earth.