Missouri Baptist pastor and educator Thomas Stewart Field, 93, of Springfield died March 12 at Cox South Hospital in Springfield. He was president of William Jewell College from 1970 to 1980 and interim president of Missouri Baptist University from 1991 to 1995.
Born June 2, 1915, in Chicago to Thomas and Ann Field, he married Virginia Leach on May 20, 1939. She died in 1994.
Survivors include two daughters and sons-in-law, Donald and Linda Duncan and James and Becky Montgomery; four grandchildren, Gregory Duncan and wife Amy, Jim Montgomery Jr. and wife Melissa, Virginia Ross and husband Keith, and Jonathan Duncan and wife Michelle; and six great-grandchildren, Stewart and Emily Duncan, Makenzie and Audrey Montgomery, Madaline Ross and Lillie Duncan.
Field was called to the ministry at an early age. Pastorates in New Jersey, New York, Georgia and Louisiana eventually led him and his wife to First Baptist Church, Springfield, in 1960, when he became the senior pastor. He served until he was named president at Jewell in 1970.
Field was active in denominational life and in community service.
He served two terms as president of the Missouri Baptist Convention and was a member of the Executive Board. He chaired the trustee board of Southwest Baptist College (now University), and was a member of the MBC Christian Life Commission.
He served the Southern Baptist Convention as a member of the Executive Committee, and as as a trustee of the Annuity Board, Southern Baptist Foundation and the Education Commission. He also was president of the Southern Baptist Association of Colleges and Universities.
Field became the president of William Jewell College during a time that current president David Sallee says was critical in Jewell’s history.
“I carry a two-pound British coin with me that says on its edge, ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants,’” Sallee told Word&Way. “Tom Field was one of those giants for William Jewell College.
“His leadership at the college transformed it from an institution that was, at the moment of his arrival, struggling with its enrollment, its finances and its direction. He led it through a ‘Decade of Greatness’ that defined the college’s direction for the future and set it on a path of confident growth.”
During Field’s tenure, enrollment at Jewell increased significantly, and its overseas study program was established with Regent’s Park College of Oxford University and Harlaxton College in Grantham, England. Jewell’s Pillsbury Music Center was dedicated in 1974, and significant funds were secured through the successful “William Jewell Tomorrow” campaign for construction of the Mabee Center for Physical Education.
“His influence is still significant today through those faculty members hired during his years and students who studied here then, 11 of whom are now on our Board of Trustees,” Sallee added. “He was truly a giant in the history of William Jewell College.”
In 1991, Missouri Baptist University called on Fields to serve as interim president during a crucial time in that institution’s history. His interim presidency stretched into years, and university officials credit him with creating the strong foundation on which it continues to build, said MBU president Alton Lacey.
“Dr. Tom Field was a giant in Missouri Baptist life,” Lacey said. “His many accomplishments set the standard for servant leadership. Setting his sights high, he inspired others through his own hard work and sacrifice.
“Long after his place in Missouri Baptist history was secure he took on the challenge of leading Missouri Baptist College (now University) as its interim president at a time when it needed a steady hand and renewed vision,” Lacey explained. “Without his determined leadership the university would not be where it is today.”
After trustees brought Lacey to the school, Field stayed on as director of special projects and consultant to the new president.
The Southern Baptist Education Commission presented him with the Charles D. Johnson Outstanding Educator Award in 1995.
Field earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and public relations at Wheaton College and completed graduate work at Northwestern University at Evanston, Ill. He earned his theology degree from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
Funeral services were held on March 16 at Second Baptist Church, Springfield, of which he was a member, conducted by pastor John Marshall. Burial was in Hazelwood Cemetery.
The family requests that memorial contributions be made to William Jewell College, Missouri Baptist University or Second Baptist Church.
Bill Webb is editor of Word&Way