Mercer receives endowment for new Baptist Center

Garret McDowell

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Recently, the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation endowed Mercer University with $2.5 million to create the new Eula Mae and John Baugh Center for Baptist Leadership. On February 8, President William D. Underwood announced the appointment of Dr. Daniel Vestal to the position of director and as a Distinguished University Professor.

For the past 15 years, Dr. Vestal has served as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Executive Coordinator. He had previously announced that he was stepping down last year, effective at the end of June 2012. Following that, Dr. Vestal will assume the position.

Before becoming director of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in 1996, Dr. Vestal was a pastor at Houston, Texas’ Tallowood Baptist Church, Atlanta’s Dunwoody Baptist Church, Midland, Texas’ First Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas’ Southcliff Baptist Church, and Arlington, Texas’ Meadow Lane Baptist Church.

Dr. Daniel Vestal has been involved in the Baptist community for more than four decades. He received both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He went on to receive a Master’s of Divinity and a Theological Doctorate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Vestal also served as the founding member of the trustees of George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University, where he would receive the George W. Truett award for Distinguished Church Service.

The Baptist Center will be a major addition to the rapidly growing and expanding McAfee School of Theology, which is based on the Atlanta campus of Mercer University. It will offer chances for learning and researching about Baptist missions, history, ethics and theology.

Speaking about the naming of the new Baugh Center, President Underwood said “John Baugh, for many decades provided courageous and principled leadership as a Baptist layperson.”

When asked for what the new center and its namesakes meant to him, Dr. Vestal said that “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.” Vestal will teach classes as well as run the Center’s extracurricular functions.

Vestal has been published several times, and he has published several essays online on CBF websites. He has been featured in seven different books, and Vestal has published four books himself, with the most recent publication Being the Presence of Christ: A Vision for Transformation.

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