ATLANTA — Mercer University President William D. Underwood today announced the appointment of longtime Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Executive Coordinator Dr. Daniel Vestal to lead the University’s new Eula Mae and John Baugh Center for Baptist Leadership, which is being endowed with a $2.5 million grant from the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. Dr. Vestal, who will serve as director of the Center and Distinguished University Professor, announced last September his intention to retire as leader of the Baptist organization effective June 30, 2012. His Mercer appointments are effective July 1.
“I can think of no two names more synonymous with Baptist leadership than John Baugh and Daniel Vestal. John Baugh for many decades provided courageous and principled leadership as a Baptist layperson, and Daniel Vestal for more than 15 years has provided courageous and principled leadership for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship,” President Underwood said. “I am pleased that Dr. Vestal will serve in this new capacity as director of the Baugh Center and as Mercer’s first Distinguished University Professor of Baptist Leadership. I am deeply grateful to Babs Baugh and her daughters, Jackie and Julie, for making this investment to prepare future Baptist leaders who will champion the principles and embody the character of their late father and mother and grandfather and grandmother.”
The Baugh Center will foster research and learning in Baptist history, theology, ethics and missiology, partnering with Mercer’s James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the American Baptist Historical Society, as well as Mercer’s Center for Theology and Public Life and other organizations and programs. The Center will initiate a doctoral program in religion focused on Baptist studies. It will be interdepartmental in nature, engaging faculty from across the University and visiting scholars from outside the University. Graduates from the Ph.D. program will become pastor-scholars, teachers in Baptist universities and seminaries, and leaders in denominational and ministry organizations.
“I am honored by this appointment as well as the generosity of the Baugh Foundation and anticipate being a part of such an historic institution as Mercer University,” Dr. Vestal said. “Eula Mae and John Baugh embodied integrity and Christian character. This Center will be a lasting legacy to their lives and will foster research, learning and community within the Baptist family. It will pursue excellence for both lay and clergy leaders by combining spiritual formation, academic study and caring collegiality.”
In addition to teaching, Dr. Vestal’s responsibilities will include fostering academic programs and research that draws students, professors, pastors and leaders into collaborative relationships and attracts Baptist leaders and emerging leaders from around the world for conferences, sabbatical leaves, and to pursue research and educational programs at Mercer.
“It is with great confidence and anticipation that the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation entrusts Dr. Daniel Vestal and President Bill Underwood with the very important tasks of working with thoughtful and dedicated Baptist students in the field of leadership, as well as in the areas of Baptist principles, ethics, theology, history and integrity,” said Babs Baugh. “We are honored to be associated with all of those who will participate in the practice and teaching of these ideals and can think of no better way to honor the legacy of John and Eula Mae Baugh. This was their passion.”
Prior to being named executive coordinator of the Atlanta-based Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in 1996, Dr. Vestal served for five years as pastor of Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston. He also has served as pastor of Dunwoody Baptist Church in Atlanta; First Baptist Church of Midland, Texas; Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth; and Meadow Lane Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.
Dr. Vestal served as the first moderator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in 1990-1991. He is a former board member for George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University and through the years served on numerous other boards, including the Steering Committee for Christian Churches Together in the U.S. (CCT) and the Executive Committee of the Baptist World Alliance.
He earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Baylor University and a master’s degree and doctorate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He travels extensively and is in great demand as a preacher. Dr. Vestal is a writer, having contributed to numerous publications and has written four books, including his latest, Being the Presence of Christ: A Vision for Transformation.
Dr. Vestal and his wife, Earlene, have three grown children and five grandchildren.
About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,300 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at four regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.
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