On July 24, Southwest Baptist University announced its new president, Eric A. Turner, who will replace the retiring C. Pat Taylor. Elected as the 25th president of SBU after a unanimous vote by SBU’s trustees on July 20, he will start as president-elect on Aug. 6 and assume the presidency on Sept. 1.
“At Southwest Baptist University, it is no secret that we are unapologetically Christian in our approach and mission of being a Christ-centered, caring academic community preparing students to be servant leaders in a global society,” Turner said during the announcement ceremony on July 24. “Equipping students to have a biblical worldview and a responsiveness to the world they encounter is the most important thing we do to accomplish our mission.”
“This is the time for SBU to be the exemplar Christian university not only throughout the Midwest and beyond, but to be the university of choice for Missouri Baptists,” he added
Turner, 46, has served as president of Black River Technical College in Pocahontas, Ark., since 2014. Before that he, he worked in fundraising, academics and accreditation at Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge, Ark., for 17 years. Turner has an Ed.D. in higher education administration from Vanderbilt University, an M.A. in history from Arkansas State University and a B.A. in history and english from Williams Baptist.
“Our world desperately needs a biblical worldview education,” Turner told Word&Way in his first media interview as president-elect. “SBU is poised. We do a great job at that already. As we [he and his wife] voiced our prayer to the Lord: ‘We want to be part of this greater call.’”
He is active within Southern Baptist life as a member of First Baptist Church in Pocahontas and a board member for the Arkansas Baptist Foundation. He is involved in the community through local chambers of commerce and economic development efforts, as well as being a member of Rotary International. He and his wife, Barbara, have been married for 23 years. Barbara has worked at Williams Baptist for 21 years, currently as the director of financial aid. They have a 15-year-old daughter, Emma, who will be a sophomore at Bolivar High School.
“Eric has proven to be a principled leader within our board, denomination, and state,” said Bobby Thomas, president and CEO of the Arkansas Baptist Foundation. “His leadership has been thoughtful and thorough in moving toward our established vision and mission. Along with natural gifts and talents, Eric has always shown commitment to the task at hand. He has been a true team player and has managed to foster positive discussions, which have led to the best possible outcomes.”
The president search started after Taylor announced his planned retirement in January. The nationwide search resulted in 25 potential candidates, with four selected for in-person interviews with the search committee. Turner came to campus July 16-17 as the sole finalist, meeting with many faculty and staff before the trustee vote later that week.
Taylor will retire on Aug. 21 after 22 years of leading the school. The trustees voted to name him as president emeritus upon his retirement.
Note: Turner’s interview with Word&Way can be heard in episode 20 (July 26) of the Word&Way podcast “Baptist Without An Adjective.”