Dr. Billy Smith announces his intention to retire from his role as dean of the College of Biblical Studies; Dr. Mark Blackwelder, current head of the graduate program in Bible, is transitioning into that role.
Henderson, Tennessee (July 11, 2018)--Dr. Billy Smith, dean of the Freed-Hardeman University College of Biblical Studies, has announced his intention to retire from the leadership position he has held for 25 years, effective Aug. 10, 2018. Smith will continue to teach at the university as a Distinguished Professor of Bible.
“Dr. Smith, or Bro. Billy as so many call him, always enters his classroom with a smile and walks down the hall offering hugs,” FHU President David Shannon said. “He has also been the voice of FHU at most campus events and a tireless ambassador for the university. Those of us who studied under him remember spending class time in Prep and Del (Preparation and Delivery of Sermons) and then competing against him as he played on faculty intramural teams. He performed well in both.”
Shannon noted that Bible is the only academic department which serves every student on campus. “We sincerely thank Dr. Smith for his leadership and influence. He has greatly impacted Freed-Hardeman University. Any future work of the FHU College of Biblical Studies will build upon the strong and faithful foundation laid by this dedicated leader,” Shannon said. “He loves FHU, and we love him!”
A 1970 graduate of Freed-Hardeman College, Smith returned to his alma mater in 1974 as the assistant director of admissions. He became the director of admissions in 1981, but added teaching Bible classes to his responsibilities in 1978 and then became a full-time Bible teacher in 1983. He assumed the chairmanship of the department in 1991 and became dean in 1993, when the department became the College of Biblical Studies.
Smith holds degrees from FHU (Associate of Arts, 1970), Lipscomb University (Bachelor of Arts, 1972) and Harding University School of Theology (Master of Arts, 1976; Master of Theology, 1986 and Doctor of Ministry, 1990).
"Dr. Smith's tenure as dean is unprecedented in academia and deserving of much honor. His leadership over the past 25 years has indelibly touched lives, congregations and the university. His influence will continue for many generations," Dr. C.J. Vires, provost and vice president for academics, said.
During Smith’s tenure, graduate programs in Bible have increased, leading to the establishment of the Graduate School of Theology and its subsequent accreditation by the Association of Theological Schools. Research and scholarship have been elevated through the founding of the Graduate Theology Research Symposium and the E. Claude and Delorese Gardner Graduate Reading Room. Smith also led the effort to secure funding for the Center for Excellence in Spiritual Leadership, which supports an annual workshop for church leaders. He was also instrumental in securing funding for the Center for Excellence for Faculty Development in Biblical Studies. This funding enables the College of Biblical Studies to recruit, retain and equip Bible faculty.
The College of Biblical Studies enrolls approximately 90 undergraduate Bible majors, as well as 70 students in the Graduate School of Theology, annually.
For many years, Smith has served on the annual lectureship committee and the committee for Horizons, a week-long summer program for junior high and high school students. He, in fact, directed Horizons for 27 years and has been involved with it for all of its 38 years. One of the most recognizable campus voices, Smith has been the master of ceremonies for many campus events, including Homecoming and the annual benefit dinner. For 27 years, he narrated “Favorite Hymns from FHU,” featuring FHU choral groups which was distributed to numerous radio stations.
In addition to Smith’s work with the university, he is one of the pulpit ministers for the Henderson Church of Christ. Prior to assuming that position in 2010, he had preached at the Estes Church of Christ for 24 years. He holds approximately 10 gospel meetings annually and is a frequent speaker at lectureships and other special events. He has authored numerous articles for periodicals.
He and his wife, Joan Vernon Smith, have two children, Scotty Smith and Monica Schultz, and three grandchildren: Sydney and Evan Smith, and Dawson Schultz, ages 10, 9 and 8.
Dr. Mark Blackwelder, director of the FHU Graduate School of Theology since 2008, has been selected to succeed Smith as dean of the College of Biblical Studies. He will assume his new role Aug. 13, 2018. “Twenty-five years is the perfect time to step aside, and Mark has prepared himself extremely well,” Smith said. “We have worked hand in glove for most of these years, and I am thrilled that he has been selected as my successor.”
A former missionary to Slovakia, Blackwelder came to FHU as the missionary-in-residence in 1996 and joined the full-time Bible faculty the next year. In addition to his teaching and administrative responsibilities, Blackwelder coordinates annual trips to the Bible lands for FHU students and guests and is one of the ministers of the Estes Church of Christ.
Blackwelder earned two degrees from FHU (Bachelor of Arts, 1991 and Master of Ministry, 1992) and a Doctor of Philosophy from Regent University (2007). He and his wife, Dana Moreland Blackwelder, have two children, Beata Jensen and Alex Blackwelder.
Freed-Hardeman University, with locations in Henderson, Memphis and Dickson, provides an exceptional education from a distinctly Christian perspective. It offers six baccalaureate degrees in 38 undergraduate majors and 58 programs of study. FHU also offers master’s, specialist’s and doctoral degrees. For almost 150 years, the university has combined character and career education to produce graduates prepared to lead in the marketplace, the church and community.
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Henderson, TN 38340
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