1,000 senior adults tour Southwestern Seminary

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--When Henry Ford began to produce the Model-T at the turn of the century, you could purchase one in any color -- as long as it was black. The same could be said of Southern Baptists' choice for a seminary education.

At the time, only Southern Seminary existed.

That changed in 1910 when B.H. Carroll established Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. In mid-April approximately 1000 senior adults, some who were alive when the seminary was founded, toured the campus of the Southern Baptist Convention's second -- and now its largest -- seminary.

The seniors, who were in Fort Worth April 15-18 for the Joy in the Journey Senior Adult Conference sponsored by LifeWay Church Resources, toured the seminary's World Missions Center, Tandy Archeological Museum and the newly renovated campus mall.

Not all of the seniors were being exposed to the seminary for the first time. For those who had been on the campus before, however, much has changed. Southwestern's main campus has grown to 200 acres, and 12 main buildings and dozens of large trees occupy the once barren landscape.

Anna D. Miller of Ocean Springs, Miss., was familiar with Southwestern but was amazed at the changes she found on campus. She had been on the campus 50 years ago.

"It's beautiful. It's really nice," Miller said.

Miller received a degree in religious education from Southwestern and intended on serving on the foreign mission field. Her plans changed when she married a fellow student who became a minister. "We still did mission work wherever we went," Miller quickly said.

Melba Crews of Arnold, Mo., also had plenty to think about while on campus. She had not been to Southwestern's Fort Worth campus in several decades. She came to Fort Worth with her husband, Vernelle, in 1949. He graduated from Southwestern in 1957.

"We came down with two little girls and went home with three," she said, smiling. "We took a Texan back with us."

Her husband passed away in 1998. Melba thought a fitting memorial for her late husband would be to purchase one of the inscribed bricks in front of the new Ralph M. Smith Leadership Development Complex. His name was carved on the brick, and she saw it for the first time on the recent tour.

"When I sent the money down here, I thought, 'Well, I'll never see it,' but here I am," she said.

Many of the senior adults, such as Bob Swift of Tulsa, Okla., were visiting the campus for the first time. The tour helped him to see how Southwestern began and how it has developed, he said.

In addition to a tour of the campus, seniors were able to watch a video highlighting the history of Southwestern as well as what it offers today -- more than 30 degree plans and a foundational focus on evangelism and missions.

"I'm amazed at how well they've done," Swift said.

Southwestern students were able to share in the benefits of the senior adult convention since several of the speakers or performers, such as Southwestern alumnus Dennis Swanberg, also made appearances in chapel services on campus.

"It's been a wonderful trip," said Mamie Turnbo of Savannah, Tenn. She noted everything from the "wonderful" speakers during the convention to the beautiful lawns on the Southwestern campus. "The only thing discouraging was the tornado," she said, laughing. On Tuesday, April 16, two tornadoes touched down in eastern Fort Worth and Arlington, Texas.

(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: SENIORS LIFT SEMINARY, PRAYING TOGETHER, AT THE MISSONS CENTER and SENIORS DIG IN.

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