O'Brien Named 22nd President of Carson-Newman College

July 8, 2008
News Photo 4514Dr. J. Randall O'Brien

Dr. J. Randall O'Brien, who has served Baylor University for 17 years as a faculty member and administrator, was introduced today as the 22nd President of Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn. For the past three years, O'Brien has served as Baylor's Executive Vice President and Provost. He will leave this position effective Aug. 1.

In his capacity as Baylor's chief academic officer, O'Brien has worked closely with Baylor President John M. Lilley during a period of tremendous progress at Baylor.

"Randall has served Baylor admirably in a variety of positions over a period of nearly two decades," Lilley said. "I have deeply appreciated the important role he has played as Executive Vice President and Provost, overseeing our academic programs and helping to lead the university as we've confronted a variety of opportunities and challenges. Baylor has benefited enormously from Randall's talent and dedication over a number of years, and the university has prospered as a result of his efforts."

"Baylor is flourishing under the leadership of President John Lilley," O'Brien said. "It has been my privilege to serve alongside President Lilley and to work daily to continue our forward progress in every area of university life. By almost every objective measure, Baylor is on a powerful upward trajectory. We are seeing the bold vision of Baylor 2012 come to pass, and the university's prospects for future success couldn't be brighter."

A popular choice of students, O'Brien's academic courses were often oversubscribed, and he has been honored by Baylor students with numerous teaching awards. He also has been active as a scholar, publishing four books and more than 70 scholarly articles. O'Brien also has retained his love for preaching, currently serving as interim pastor of Trinity Baptist Church of San Antonio, while also preaching at conferences, conventions and universities across the United States and abroad.

Currently, Lilley is consulting with officers of the Board of Regents, his Executive Council, the Dean's Council and the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate regarding the choice of an interim appointment to succeed O'Brien. He is expected to make an announcement within the week. In addition, Lilley will be naming a representative search committee to help with the selection of a new Executive Vice President and Provost, and he will launch a national search immediately.

Statement from Randall O'Brien

Dr. Randall O'Brien described his sentiments about his move and his appreciation of Baylor University in the following, which he has asked to include in this statement:

    "Baylor University has been good to us. For 17 wonderful years Baylor has been home. Our children have grown up here. We have loved Baylor and Baylor has loved us. We have been a part of each other, family you might say, and in a very real sense we always will be.

    "Furthermore, Texas has been home. We have served 15 Texas Baptist churches as Interim Pastor. Some of our dearest friends are in those churches and in the Baylor family. So, as you might know, it is hard to say goodbye to friends and family you love.

    The only thing harder than saying goodbye to family and friends is saying no to God, a sure recipe for misery. Thirty-two years ago, as Kay and I stood at our marriage altar, we clearly understood ours to be an 'Abrahamic Call,' wherein like Abraham and Sarah in Scripture, we were called to serve God wherever that call might lead us. Over these 32 years - nearly 33 - we have followed God's leading to six cities in five states, for service in missions, in churches and in universities. The journey has been rich, deeply fulfilling and meaningful.

    "Someone has said that God's other name is 'Surprise!' Well, God has, indeed, surprised us once again, this time with a call to become the 22nd President of Carson-Newman College (Jefferson City, Tenn.). Carson-Newman College, founded in 1851, is a Baptist college whose mission statement promotes open intellectual inquiry and deeper spiritual maturity. A top-tier Masters-level university, Carson-Newman's vision is to be a Christ-centered college with a worldwide impact.

    "We have prayerfully accepted God's call upon our lives and Carson-Newman's call to become President of the College. We will begin the transition into the presidency Aug. 1, 2008, and formally begin our service there on Jan. 1, 2009.

    "Kay and I would like to express our abiding gratitude to our Baylor family for the privilege and joy of serving for 17 wonderful years in this place. President Herbert Reynolds brought us to Baylor, President Robert Sloan gave me my first administrative appointments as Chair, Dean and Executive Assistant to the President, Interim President Bill Underwood appointed me to a Vice Presidency and Provost cabinet-level post, and President John Lilley named me Executive Vice President and Provost. I owe a debt greater than I can repay to these senior statesmen and presidents for their confidence in me and for their mentoring of me. Without the blessings of these leaders in Christian higher education I would not be standing where I am today as the newly elected President of Carson-Newman.

    "In addition to the Presidents with whom I have been privileged to serve, my colleagues in the Department of Religion have patiently taught me how to be an administrator. They have always been kind to me and supportive of me, and most affirming over the past 10 years of my administrative journey. I am deeply grateful for their encouragement and support.

    "I must thank the Council of Deans, the Faculty Senate, our Chairs, the Executive Council, our Vice Provosts, my administrative assistants and our Board of Regents for their valuable investment in my professional life. Without the support, patience, encouragement and help of these dear friends and colleagues, my administrative journey would have ended long ago.

    "No Provost has had a more competent and fun team of Vice Provosts and associates than I, and I will dearly miss them!

    "The finest collection of professionals and the closest-knit group of Executive Council members with whom I have been honored to serve are presently in the President's Cabinet. I will miss each one of them!

    "Kay and I would particularly like to thank President Lilley for his trust in me, for the privilege of serving with him and Mrs. Lilley, and for his tireless work and inspirational love of Baylor. Tremendous achievements across the board star the university in bright lights. May God continue to bless Baylor and through Baylor as all, in one accord, work to fulfill Baylor's marvelous mission and magnificent vision. To God be the glory!

    "Please know that as Kay and I transition into the presidency of Carson-Newman, and look forward with excitement to becoming a part of our new Carson-Newman family, our love and prayers will always be with Baylor and with each of you, our dear friends and sisters and brothers in Christ.

    "May God bless you all!"

    - Dr. Randall O'Brien -

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