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Dean pick catches seminary off guard

Jan. 19, 2001

Committee member says new Truett head was not on 1st list



The appointment of Dr. Paul W. Powell as the new dean of George W. Truett Theological Seminary Wednesday by President Robert B. Sloan Jr. came unexpectedly to both Truett faculty members and students.

Neither faculty nor students were involved in Powell's selection, and few knew he was even a candidate. Dr. A. J. Conyers, chairman of the original search committee, said the committee never considered Powell.

One of the criterion the original search committee used was that candidates have an earned doctorate degree. Powell has received honorary degrees from five institutions including Baylor, but he has not earned a doctorate degree.

'We were looking for someone who had experience in higher education, so he doesn't fit the criteria that way,' Conyers, a theology professor, said. 'But, we were also looking for someone who had some acquaintance with and some influence with Texas Baptists, and he does meet that criteria.'

Powell visited the seminary campus Thursday afternoon to meet with members of Baylor administration and Truett faculty for the first time since Sloan contacted him about the position in December. The late-afternoon, closed-door meeting was the first opportunity most faculty had to meet with the new dean. Some faculty members, however, are familiar with Powell's role as a Texas pastor and active supporter of Truett Seminary.

'Here is someone who is the best known and best loved Baptist pastor in Texas,' said Dr. David Garland, professor of Christian Scriptures at Truett. 'I am amazed that he is willing to come.'

Powell's visit to campus did not include any meetings with students, many of whom were unaware of his appointment before they arrived on campus Thursday morning. Powell said he does not have any plans to meet with students before he takes office on Feb. 26. However, he said he would be willing to return to meet with them if asked.

'I am a little concerned that he didn't meet with students while he was here,' Wes Keyes, a second-year seminary student, said. 'I would say that the invitation from students to meet with him is open. We need to be open about it and have dialogue.'

Students also voiced concern about the process of choosing a new dean, which began after Sloan announced the reassignment of Truett's previous dean, Dr. Brad Creed, to a full-time teaching position last May.

'At the first part of the process we felt very included, which we were surprised by, but we felt like that was a very positive move because we feel like our voice is important,' Jamie Allen, a third-year seminary student, said. 'We want to be heard because Truett is very important to us, not only now but in the future.'

Second-year seminary student Jennifer Bashaw said that students are not upset with the selection of Powell as much as they are with the process of choosing a new dean.

Bashaw felt Truett students were not included in the search for Powell and that students' views on the three finalists presented by the faculty search committee late in the fall semester were not considered.

One of three finalists, Dr. Howard Batson, declined the nomination, and neither of the other two candidates were asked to fill the position, said Dr. Donald Schmeltekopf, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

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