Baylor Breaks Ground on Truett Seminary Campus

Feb. 2, 2000

by Lori Scott Fogleman

A jubilant crowd of more than 300 supporters witnessed what was once a dream become reality, as Baylor University broke ground Feb. 2 on the new $17 million, 64,000-square-foot George W. Truett Theological Seminary campus.

"Friends of Truett," administrators, regents, faculty, staff and students gathered under a tent on the site of the new complex - the corner of M.L. Cooper Drive and Dutton Avenue across from Russell Hall on the Baylor campus.

"This is a day many of us have imagined, discussed, dreamed about and prayed for," said Truett Seminary Dean J. Bradley Creed. "But we've now come to the stage in the life of this young seminary where having facilities of our own on the Baylor campus is no longer just a dream or a nice idea. It is an absolute necessity."

And it was entirely appropriate, Creed said, that Truett chose to break ground on Feb. 2, an historic date in Baylor's history. On the first Founders Day of the new century, the university celebrated the 155th anniversary of its charter and also presented one of Baylor's most prestigious awards - the Founders Medal - to Chancellor Herbert H. Reynolds, a driving force behind the establishment of Truett Seminary.

"The entire day was a very meaningful experience, and the groundbreaking for Truett Seminary was superb," Reynolds said. "As we sang 'Holy Ground,' I became more emotional than I had planned. I really felt the presence of the Lord, which was certainly appropriate as we sustain and grow our seminary."

Dr. Russell Dilday, distinguished professor of homiletics at Truett and former two-term president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, also commended Reynolds for his service to Baylor and praised First Baptist Church Waco for allowing Truett the use of its facilities from day one.

"Today was a big day, starting with the recognition of [Dr.] Reynolds, and now his dream and fulfillment [of that dream] has been demonstrated at today's groundbreaking. I think this makes a complete cycle," Dilday said. "The experience at the church has been wonderful and we thank the people at First Baptist Waco for the facilities. And I think there's something symbolic about our early beginning and meeting at the church, like B.H. Carroll had when he began the seminary there at the beginning of last century. Here we are now at the beginning of another century, beginning another school, and that's exciting."

The seminary complex will feature a 550-seat chapel, funded by a $2.5 million gift from the Robert M. Rogers Foundation of Tyler and named for Dr. Paul W. Powell, a current member of the Baylor board of regents and president and chief executive officer of the Rogers Foundation; a Great Hall; a 100-foot by 100-foot landscaped, enclosed courtyard; a teaching chapel named in honor of Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr., who was Truett Seminary's founding dean; classrooms and meeting rooms; and faculty and administrative offices. The proposed chapel spire, towering at more than 100 feet, will be visible from Interstate 35, adding a new dimension to the Baylor skyline. Fundraising for the seminary complex began in November 1997 with a $5 million lead gift from John and Eula Mae Baugh of Houston. Construction is expected to begin later this year.

Among those participating in the groundbreaking ceremony were President Sloan; Chancellor Reynolds; Dean Creed; board of regents chairman W. Fred Cameron and other members of the board in attendance; Powell and representatives of the Rogers Foundation; the Baughs; current president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas Clyde Glazener and several former BCGT presidents, including Dilday, Milton Cunningham, Winfred Moore and Phil Lineberger; and all current and former pastors in attendance.

"This building is needed to accommodate the growth of our program and rising student enrollment and to make room for many, many more students who will come here for their ministry preparation," Creed said. "Today is a time of celebration to not only thank those who have made this project possible but also to give thanks to God as we remember the sacred responsibility we have in training a new generation of Christian leaders."

A great enrichment for Truett Seminary and for its programs, President Sloan said the new facility on campus will reach all of Baylor, as well. "It's so much a part of our Christian mission and Baptist heritage for us to have a professional school like Truett Seminary," he said. "This is very much in keeping with identity of Baylor."

During the ceremony, Creed remarked about the seminary's architectural design and its impact on the campus as a whole.

"Scan the horizon of the campus for just a moment and observe that none of the familiar buildings makes an architectural statement about the distinctive identity of this university," Creed said. "The construction of this facility, with its resplendent chapel crowned by a spire that arches heavenward, will change that.

"A place of our own is also important for the entire experience of formation that is central to the enterprise of theological education. I firmly believe in a spirituality of place, which means that our destinies are shaped and formed not only by the people, ideas, and special circumstances of our lives but also by the distinctive places where we live, work, study, pray, and live in community with each other," he said. "The expert human craftsmanship of this building will also be an affirmation of the goodness of creation and the integrity and beauty of creative work pursued for God's glory."

However, Truett's dean said no one should imply that the construction of a building, however magnificent, is what makes a seminary.

"The seminary project has already begun and is well underway, and even when the last brick in this structure is secured with the mason's mortar and the ribbon is ceremoniously cut, the seminary will still be under construction. This is an ongoing project, a work in progress," Creed said. "It is only the lives of the women and men down through the ages who establish Christ as their firm foundation and enroll in Truett Seminary who will bring honor and blessing to this place. They are God's field, God's building, God's servants working together."

Truett's director of student services, René Maciel, said students are looking forward to being on campus and also having a very visible seminary. "We're excited about the new building and the new grounds on campus and also about being right here on the interstate, about the accessibility for people to see us from there," he said.

Eraina Sloan, a Baylor graduate and first-year Truett student, has watched the seminary grow from a vision to the brink of construction. "It's been fun for me because I've gotten to see it from the beginning," she said. "For us students, it's exciting and it will be great to have a building, but it's such a good community already that I almost got sad the other day telling someone we were going to have a groundbreaking day."

Much has occurred since the first opening convocation service for Truett Seminary on Aug. 28, 1994, in the worship center of First Baptist Church Waco. When seminary classes officially began on Aug. 31, 1994, there were 51 students registered. Since then, Truett Seminary's enrollment has quadrupled to more than 200 students (194 are currently enrolled for the spring semester; 207 were enrolled last fall), while 92 students have received their master of divinity degrees from Truett. With 12 full-time faculty members, the seminary also continues to grow academically with the addition last year of a doctor of ministry degree, a joint master of divinity/master of music degree in conjunction with Baylor's School of Music, and a joint master of divinity/master of social work degree in conjunction with the School of Social Work.

While many wait for the completion of Truett Seminary's permanent home, Creed said the work it has been called by God to do, of preparing men and women in Christ for the task of ministry, continues.

"To think that this seminary campus with its beautiful buildings might produce another George W. Truett is an inspiring thought, but what this seminary will produce is a host of gospel ministers laboring without notoriety or public recognition, ministers who will make an eternal difference in the lives of perhaps millions of people for the sake of God's Kingdom," he said. "When the vision of the impact of this seminary captures our minds and hearts and commands our courage and deepest commitments, then no price is too high and no cost is too great for the completion of these facilities. There is goodness and glory in this work that we share and support together.

"Today, we stand on the cusp of Canaan. Not too far ahead in the distance we foresee a building, temple-like, set on a hill. It won't be much longer until Truett Seminary has a permanent street address. But we will always be a pilgrim people on our journey of faithfulness to Christ," Creed remarked. "On this historic occasion, under this tent, I hope that we have faith enough to see once more that it is the students of Truett Seminary, the tabernacle people of God's field, who are God's promise to Baptists in Texas and beyond. With great confidence in the rightness of our task and bright hope for tomorrow, we will complete this project through the dedication of our very best efforts.

"But we look to God to build the seminary."

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