Convocation at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, August 15, opened the new academic year, honored faculty anniversaries, and this year, included the ribbon-cutting and dedication of the Landrum Leavell Dining Hall in the heart of the seminary campus.
Leavell family members were present for the dedication that marked the reopening of the dining hall after substantial remodeling that added 2700 square feet of floor space for student dining services, an updated and expanded kitchen, and two new conference rooms.
Convocation was held at Leavell Chapel, named for Roland Q. Leavell, the 4th NOBTS president and uncle to the 7th president, Landrum P. Leavell II. The dedication and ribbon cutting followed.
‘SEEK GOD WITH DESPERATION’
Jamie Dew, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary president, began his Convocation address saying that his hope for the seminary family in the new year is that they stay focused on a simple, but urgent goal.
“There is one singular thing that ties everything together,” Dew said. “One thing that if we do this one thing, come what may, our Father will be pleased and our lives will be rich. What is that one thing? Love Him.”
Drawing from Psalm 63:1-5, Dew said the psalmist used metaphors of hunger and thirst to show he was “desperate” to know God.
“Have you ever been desperate for something?” Dew asked.
Dew told of his first mission trip years ago in Africa when his host continued to bring him food though he was full. When Dew insisted he could eat no more, the host scooped up the leftovers off his plate and gave the scraps to children at the door clamoring for food, Dew related.
“It was the first time in my life I had seen genuine hunger,” Dew said.
Dew challenged listeners to consider if they hungered for God as the children hungered for food. Dew warned that seeking a degree can become a “professional” pursuit that “turns affection for God cold.”
“If we accomplish nothing this year may it be simply this: that you walk out of here … loving Jesus more deeply and more faithfully than we have before,” Dew said. “Seek God with desperation.”
Secondly, believers must seek God with desperation because only God can satisfy, Dew said. Pointing to verse 3, Dew reminded listeners that God’s love is “better than life” itself.
“There’s something liberating, something powerful that happens in our lives when we actually find out that He and He alone is more satisfying than one more day of life, that He himself is more satisfying than any accomplishment this world can ever give us,” Dew said.
Dew concluded with “Now is the time, maybe more than ever before, to just love Him with a sense of desperation knowing that He and He alone can satisfy.”
FACULTY ANNIVERSARIES RECOGNIZED
Faculty members recognized for anniversaries were:
LANDRUM LEAVELL’S LEGACY HONORED
A brief ceremony and ribbon-cutting followed Convocation outside the Landrum Leavell Dining Hall.
Landrum Leavell II, the seminary’s 7th president, served from 1975 until his retirement in 1994, and served an additional year as interim president. During his tenure, the seminary experienced record growth, welcomed new technology that made distance learning possible, re-established the undergraduate program—now named Leavell College—and established the school’s extension center system.
JoAnn Leavell, Landrum’s wife, founded the NOBTS Student Wives Program supporting women in education, ministry, and service. The holistic program prepared women to serve in ministry alongside their husbands. Landrum and JoAnn Leavell are deceased.
Gary Shows, an NOBTS trustee and pastor of Temple Baptist Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, praised Leavell’s character and noted that Leavell served four churches in Mississippi and one in Texas during his 27 years as a pastor. Shows said that Leavell’s legacy in Mississippi remains strong.
“As a man, he stands tall among the alumni, the leadership of this institution, and the members of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Shows said.
Clay Corvin, the long-tenured NOBTS vice president of business administration, read a poem he had written in Leavell’s honor. Corvin described him as a “mentor and a servant” who “loved with exuberance.”
Frank Cox, a former trustee chairman and pastor of North Metro Baptist Church, Lawrenceville, Georgia, remembered Leavell as a man of conviction, but also compassion and related Leavell’s pastoral care when Cox’s first wife died during his student years. Cox expressed gratitude also for Leavell’s encouragement to “stay committed” when he was tempted to give up on his church during difficult days, Cox related. He added, “And 43 years later, I’m still at that same church.”
Jamie Dew, president, praised Leavell for his leadership during “a moment in SBC history that was tumultuous … that required a steady hand,” and added that Leavell did so “with Christlikeness.”
While Dew didn’t know Leavell, he said he admired Leavell and wished he could sit down with him over a cup of coffee “and pick his brain.”
“It seems fitting, it seems right that a building like the cafeteria here in the center of our campus, central to our work every single day as we eat, as we fellowship, as we make disciples, that that building where he used to sit and [talk] to students, will be named after him,” Dew said.
Dew announced that inside the dining hall, the mezzanine with a new open look and New Orleans-style black railing, is named in JoAnn Leavell’s honor.
Leavell’s three sons, with their wives beside them, cut the ribbon together: Landrum P. Leavell III, wife Susanne, of Denton, Texas; Roland Q. Leavell II, wife Lisa, of New Hebron, Mississippi; and David, wife Vicki, of Tallahassee, Florida. A niece and several grandchildren were also present for the event.