WACO, Texas — The founding dean of the school of theology at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., H.K. Neely Jr., passed away Sept. 22 in Waco, Texas. He was 79. A tribute memorial service of Dr. Neely's life will be held at 2 p.m. Oct. 26 in Logsdon Chapel at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas.
Born Feb. 1, 1934, in Whitesboro, Texas, he was the son of the late H.K. and Edna Neely. He met his future bride, Barbara, while a student at Cisco High School. He attended Baylor University, earning a bachelor of arts degree in religion and history in 1954. He is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, earning master of divinity and doctor of theology degrees. In 1966, he did post-doctoral work at Harvard University.
Dr. Neely surrendered to the ministry at 14 and began his ministerial career at Spring Creek Baptist Church near Meridian, Texas. He served other rural churches in Texas until fall 1963 when he became the chair of the religion department of Southwest Baptist College (now University). There he found the Courts Redford School of Theology now of Christian services), where he was the inaugural recipient of the Orien B. Hendrex Distinguished Teacher Award.
He returned to Texas in 1980 where he founded the Logsdon School of Theology at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene. Then, in 1998, he went back to Southwest Baptist University to serve as vice president for denominational relations and dean of the Redford School. Dr. Neely was instrumental in establishing parameters still in place for university ministerial in-service guidance practices.
“Today, there are numerous successful pastors and church leaders that were taught and influenced by Dr. Neely,” noted SBU President C. Pat Taylor. “Dr. Neely was a leader in theological education and was an outstanding scholar. He demanded excellence from his students and had a tremendous influence on countless students. He also challenged his faculty members to be better teachers and scholars. Today, SBU is a better university because of Dr. Neely’s service.”
Along with numerous other awards and tributes, in 2006 he received the Lewis W. Newman Award bestowed by the Association of Ministry Guidance Professionals in recognition of his outstanding contributions in the field of supervised ministry.
In 2002, he became the first executive director of the newly formed Baptist General Convention of Missouri (Churchnet), serving as a full-time volunteer for two years.
“I knew H. K. Neely as a professor, a scholar, a denominational leader, a mentor and a friend,” noted Churchnet Executive Director Jim Hill. “My appreciation for Dr. Neely’s college classes led me to focus my seminary education on church history. He has been a wonderful counselor and friend through the years. Dr. Neely provided outstanding leadership for the Baptist General Convention of Missouri as the convention was beginning its ministry…. Churchnet owes a great deal to him, and we are grateful for his leadership.”
An outdoor enthusiast, Dr. Neely enjoyed bicycling, hiking and sailing. He also enjoyed reading and writing, preaching and working. Most importantly, he treasured his family.
Dr. Neely was predeceased by his parents, H.K. and Edna Neely, and his sister, Sue Ann Weise.
He is survived by his wife, Barbara of Waco, with whom he had just celebrated 60 years of marriage; four children and their spouses, Robert Neely and wife, Melody, Amy Jackson and husband, Tom Fowlston, Susan Kelly Johnston and husband, Bill, and Kara Goble and husband, Rod; two sisters; eight grandchildren; and numerous nieces, nephews and extended family.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made to one of the following: Logsdon School of Theology Graduate Program, Attn: Bob Ellis, P.O. Box 16325, Abilene, TX 79698; Baylor Singing Seniors, Attn: Dick Waldren, 9006 Regal Dr., Waco, TX 76712; Neely Family – A V Pro Inc. Scholarship in Theatre Arts, Baylor University Theatre, One Bear Place #97262, Waco, TX 76798-7262.