Baylor Mourns the Passing of Texas Baptist Leader, Dean Emeritus of Truett Seminary Paul W. Powell

  • Paul W. Powell memorial graphic
  • Paul W. Powell Chapel
    The Paul W. Powell Chapel at Truett Seminary is named in honor of the Texas Baptist pastor and leader who served as dean of the seminary from 2001 to 2007. (Matthew Minard/Baylor Marketing & Communications)
Dec. 29, 2016

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WACO, Texas (Dec. 29, 2016) — Baylor University is mourning the passing of Dr. Paul W. Powell, the Texas Baptist pastor and leader who served as dean of Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary and former chair of Baylor University’s Board of Regents. Powell died Dec. 28 in Tyler at the age of 83.

“Paul Powell was a wonderful, dedicated servant of God whose contributions to Baylor and Baylor’s Truett Seminary were immeasurable. It was an incredible honor to serve with and learn from him when he was dean of the seminary,” said Baylor Interim President David Garland, who succeeded Powell as dean when he retired in 2007.

Visitation will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 1, at Stewart Family Funeral Home, 7525 Old Jacksonville Hwy in Tyler. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 2, in the chapel at Green Acres Baptist Church, 1607 Troup Hwy in Tyler.

In January 2001, Powell, the retired president and chief executive officer of the Robert M. Rogers Foundation of Tyler, Texas, and the retired president and CEO of Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (now GuideStone Financial Resources), was appointed to serve as dean of Truett Seminary. During his six-year tenure, Truett Seminary's enrollment more than doubled to 381 students, while the seminary's endowment increased to more than $38 million. The seminary also opened its Baugh-Reynolds campus at Baylor in 2001, beginning classes in January 2002. The seminary’s 550-seat chapel is named in honor of Powell.

Powell retired on June 1, 2007, but continued to serve as a special assistant to the dean and Truett’s Dean Emeritus.

“Although the Baylor University family and the Truett Seminary community are deeply saddened by the news of Dean Emeritus Paul W. Powell’s death, we were greatly gladdened by the quality of his well-lived life,” said Todd D. Still, Ph.D., the Charles J. and Eleanor McLerran DeLancey Dean of Truett Seminary and holder of the William M. Hinson Chair of Christian Scriptures.

“To be sure, his passing leaves a large shadow in which and broad shoulders upon which to stand. His sincerity, courage, wit, generosity, fortitude and integrity endeared him to so many, including myself. Indeed, it might be fairly said that Paul Powell was appreciated by most but respected by all. He was a pastor’s pastor, a leader’s leader and a Bear’s Bear. For me, he was not only a father-like figure, but he was also a beloved friend and ardent supporter. I will miss him, but this I know – the impact of his life is both inestimable and eternal. What was true for Paul of Tarsus was no less true for Paul of East Texas – ‘For [him] to live [was] Christ and to die is gain,’” Still said.

“No one since George W. Truett has better borne the title 'Mr. Texas Baptist' than Paul Powell,” said Joel C. Gregory, Ph.D., professor of preaching and holder of the George W. Truett Endowed Chair of Preaching and Evangelism at Truett Seminary. “His influence and legacy were already legendary during his life and will only grow in stature and significance now that he has entered the life beyond. He towered over generations with unequalled leadership. A giant oak has fallen and his place in the horizon of our lives will not be filled again with his like.”

Upon his retirement, Powell said in March 2007: “Being dean of Truett Seminary has been a wonderful way to cap off my career. I came to help give a clear identity to the school, to help people realize that we are a Christ-centered, Bible-based seminary committed to our historic Baptist principles. Our mission is to train the next generation of ministers and missionaries. Our vision is to be the premiere Baptist theological seminary of the world. I feel we have helped to clarify our identity and made the seminary more church-centered with a strong emphasis on preparing ministers for the local church. While older and more established seminaries are in decline, Truett is emerging as the seminary choice among true Baptists.”

Randall O’Brien, Th.D., former provost and executive vice president at Baylor, said of Powell when he retired: “I would say of Paul Powell what (former Houston Oilers football coach) Bum Phillips once said about Earl Campbell: ‘He might not be in a class by himself, but it surely doesn’t take long to call the roll. Paul Powell has carved his name into the Baylor University Hall of Fame, where he will stand forever as a giant on the George W. Truett Seminary landscape.”

Powell earned a B.A. from Baylor in 1956, lettering in basketball in 1954, and an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1960. He received honorary degrees from Baylor, East Texas Baptist University, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Campbell University and Dallas Baptist University. He is an Alumnus by Choice of Truett Seminary.

A native of Port Arthur, Powell served as pastor at Texas Baptist churches in Tyler, Belfalls, Troy, Taylor and San Marcos. He served for 17 years as pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler and was a much sought-after speaker at churches throughout Texas. He also served as a member of Baylor’s Board of Regents from 1994-2001 and also served a term as chair.

The author of dozens of books, Powell was honored as a Distinguished Alumnus by the Baylor Alumni Association in 1988, and also received the Herbert H. Reynolds Award for Exemplary Service to Baylor in 1999 and BAA’s George W. Truett Distinguished Church Service Award in 2005. In 1990 he was selected as Distinguished Alumnus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He was a member of Baylor’s Endowed Scholarship Society and was honored as a member of the Medallion Fellowship with the James Huckins Medallion for his philanthropy and service to Baylor.

Four scholarships at Baylor and Truett Seminary honor the Powells: The Paul W. and Cathy A. Powell Endowed/Scholarship Fund, Paul W. and Cathy A. Powell/George W. Truett Theological Seminary Endowed Scholarship Fund, Paul W. Powell and Cathy A. Powell Endowed Church Related Vocation Scholarship Fund and Truett Faculty/Paul W. Powell/George W. Truett Theological Seminary Endowed Scholarship Fund.

Powell also served in numerous offices with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, including a term as president from 1985-87, and as president of Texas Baptist Leadership’s Board of Advisors.

He was preceded in death by son, Kent Powell.

He is survived by his wife, Cathy, a 1956 Baylor graduate; son, Mike Powell; daughter, Lori Gropper Powell; and three grandchildren, Jordan, Katie and Matthew.

In accordance with the Powell family’s wishes, Baylor University has set up the following link for those wishing to honor Dr. Powell’s legacy of service and Christian witness. Gifts made in Dr. Powell’s honor will be used to create the Paul W. Powell Preaching Fund at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT GEORGE W. TRUETT THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary provides theological education leading to the Master of Divinity, the Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, the Master of Theological Studies or the Doctor of Ministry degrees that are centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ and consistent with historic Baptist commitments to prepare persons to carry this gospel to the churches and the world. Within the M.Div. degree program, students can choose concentrations in Biblical Studies and Theology, Christian Education, Ministry Leadership, Missions and World Christianity, Worship Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Sports Ministry and Youth/Family/Student Ministry. Truett Seminary also offers four Dual Degree programs – an M.Div./MSW and MTS/MSW through a partnership with Baylor’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, an M.Div./Master of Music through a partnership with the Baylor’s School of Music, an M.Div./MBA through a partnership with Baylor's Hankamer School of Business, and an M.Div./J.D. degree through a partnership with Baylor Law School. Visit www.baylor.edu/truett to learn more.

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