This page contains enriched content visible when JavaScript is enabled or by clicking here. Skip to Main Content

University Archives

Southwest Baptist University University Archives and Special Collections

132 Years of "Greater Southwest"


132 Years of
"Greater Southwest" 

An Illustrated Timeline of the History of Southwest Baptist University Compiled by Sandra L. Brown, University Archivist Emeritus
Early Photograph of the Administration Building and Pike Auditorium.
NOTICE:  All quotes are taken from sources published by Southwest Baptist University unless otherwise noted.  The main source quoted is To Noonday Bright: A History of Southwest Baptist University: 1878-1984 by Mayme Hamlett, which is abbreviated in the timeline notes as TNB.  Other facts were gleaned from SBU publications including the Omnibus, the Mozarkian, the SBU Newsletter (formerly SWBC Newsletter), and annual catalogs.  If other resources are quoted a reference to the source will be provided with the quote.
Image of the cover of the 1st University Catalog.

September 17, 1878 - School Begins in Lebanon, MO.

The doors of  "The Baptist College" opened for first time in Lebanon, MO. "On September 17, 1878, some sixty-nine students enrolled in the school which had no name, no charter, no official sponsor.  But it had a faculty, a student body, a temporary building, and a purpose." (TNB p.1) 

"It was an old Baptist church built of brick, poorly lighted... but it was the college and all that goes with a college.  With a wooden partition they cut off about a third of the back or east end of the room, then subdivided that with another partition.  That provided two recitation rooms and a chapel, which was used for a recitation room during the week and for church on Sunday.  We had only three recitation rooms, but things moved without a hitch." (quote from Ed Schofield , TNB p.4)

Image of James Maupin.

March 19, 1879 - School Charter Approved

The State of Missouri issued a charter for Southwest Baptist College.  "J. R. Maupin has drafted a charter, and Judge T. G Rechow had prepared the necessary legal papers to secure the order of incorporation of the College.  The order was made by Judge R. W. Ryan, and on March 19, 1879, the State of Missouri issued a charter to Southwest Baptist College." (TNB p.10)

Photo at left:  James Rogers Maupin was co-founder and first president of Southwest Baptist College.

Image of "The Bolivar House," an old hotel.

April 18, 1879 - Bolivar House

The cornerstone laid for first college building in Bolivar.  "The Bolivar House, an old hotel standing across from the northeast corner of the square, was rented from T.G. Rechow.  This structure served as administration building, classrooms, chapel, and dormitory.  Of the first day of school, Rechow wrote:

"The opening of school was an epochal event in Bolivar. A splendid reception was tendered the faculty and students; speeches were made from the balcony of the hotel.  The opening was an auspicious one..." (T. G. Rechow, TNB p.13)

September 19, 1879

School opened in Bolivar for the first time at the Bolivar House (a hotel located on the northeast corner of the square), due to the fact that the college building was not yet complete. (TNB p.13))

Image of trustees authorized artist's rendition of the original building.

April and June, 1880 - Artistic Rendering of Original Building

"...the building was not ready for the spring term.  By April 1, 1880, the floors had been laid and the plastering was to be started at once.  Through the local newspapers President Maupin appealed to the citizens of Bolivar for twelve men with wagons and teams to go to the pineries south of Springfield to haul lumber to finish the work.  They hoped to hold the examinations and the closing exercises in the new building.  And they did.  On June 9 the faculty, students, trustees, and townspeople gathered in the new chapel for the closing exercises, which consisted largely of expressions of thanks and praise to God." (TNB 14)

Photo at left:  The early trustees had a print of the artist's rendition of the building printed up to be given to encourage donors to give to the college.  The image at left is the middle section of the print.  Copies of the original reside in the University Archives.

Image of Rev. J. W. Haines.

September, 1880 - School Opens in the Bolivar House

"When school opened in September 1880, classes met in the new building although it had not been completed.  Thomas O. Cary and Sallie Maupin, students in the German class taught by J. W. Haines, are reputed to have been the first to recite in the new building.  The number of students enrolled that year was 154, eight of whom were ministerial students." (TNB p. 15) 

Photo at left:  The Reverend John Williamson Haines (March 6, 1826 - March 5, 1913) had moved to Bolivar in 1879 and had "assisted J.R. Maupin management of the old Bolivar House where S. W. B. College was conducted the first year.  To him was given the honor of teaching the first class (German) in the new building."

Source:  Obituary of Rev. J. W. Haines.

Spring, 1883 - Graduating Class (4)

"The triumphs of the year were the matriculation of 164 students and the graduation of four:  James M. Yarbrough, Judson Elliot, Thomas Cary in the scientific course and Emma Young in the classical course.  The confirmation of six faculty members can be considered a triumph since all of them would make significant contributions to the College.  They were W. A. and Carrie Wilson, J. M. Williard, J. W. and Florence Leavitt, and Mrs. D. E. Schofield.  Before school started in September Miss May Mitchell was employed to each literature and language. (TNB p. 19)

President Maupin expressed his exuberance in the catalogue prepared for 1883-1884.  Eight hundred students have been enrolled.  In Scholarship they are excelled by none; in character they are our pride. (TNB 20)

Photo at left:  SWBC class of 1883 was the second graduating class. President Maupin sits in the center of the front row.

May 27, 1902 - Dormitory Built

The Board met to discuss the building of a boarding hall.  "The boarding hall was to be for young ladies, a four-story brick building with thirty rooms which could accommodate fifty women.  It would have ‘bath rooms with hot and cold water on every floor.’  This dormitory would be annexed to the College building at an estimated cost of $5, 000." (TNB p. 49-50)

Photo at left: The dormitory or boarding hall addition is visible in the right portion of this image at the north end of the original college building. the original building and the dormitory addition were destroyed by fire on June 1,1910.

Fall 1905 - Ownership Transferred to William Jewell

Southwest Baptist College opened for fall term as the "Southwest Baptist Academy of William Jewell College" following trustee action that addressed a foreclosure notice with this response: "In arriving at this consensus after many years of struggle we believe such a course to be the best visible to us, and that the trustees of William Jewell are more able to strengthen, endow, and make permanent a school for Baptists of Southwest Missouri than our Board could do perhaps for many years to come.  We trust this course will not only give us a better school at Bolivar but will tend to strengthen the denominational cause all over the state."   (TNB p. 67, 69)

Photo at left: The cover of the "Catalogue of Southwest Academy of William Jewell College : Bolivar, Missouri" for 1906-1907 is one of several artifacts from that era now housed in University Archives.  From 1905 to 1908, Southwest operated under the auspices of William Jewell College as an academy or private high school.

Image of J. W. Rucker.

July 18, 1908 - Rev. J. W. Rucker Assumes Control

On April 9th, an announcement had been made that Mr. Rucker, principal of the Southwest Baptist Academy of William Jewell College, had accepted a pastorate.  In May, local newspaper articles encouraged friends of the college to meet to discuss the title of the property, with hopes of raising funds to regain the property.  However, friends, donors and former SWBC trustees were not able to raise the necessary fundand, "...on July 18, 1908, through J.C. Neiswanger, the mortgage was foreclosed and the school became the property of William Jewell College." (TNB p.73) 

September, 19, 1908

"School opened September 17 with sixty enrolled in the literary department and a good number in music, elocution, and business--abut 100 in all.  Including Mr. and Mrs. Austin, the faculty number six." (TNB p 74)

"Although the school was no longer under Baptist control and the [SWBC] Board had no official authority, the trustees met December 8, 1908, and resolved 'to continue with and encourage the school in every possible way.'  They appointed a committee to look after the college interests." (TNB p. 75)

"On April 28, 1910, commencement exercises were held in the College chapel."   (TNB p. 76)  Mr. Austin, who had leased the college property from William Jewell and run it as an independent college under the name Southwest Baptist College, did not return to Bolivar after that academic year. (TNB p. .401)

Image of 1910 fire the destroy the SBU campus building.

June 1, 1910 - Fire Destroys College Buildings

"...on June 1, at 11:00 a.m. fire broke out on the roof of the College building just north of the cupola.  Mrs. McKinney, alone at the time, sounded the alarm and all those in the neighborhood rushed to the scene to serve as fire fighters.  Nearly all of the furniture on the first floor and part of that on the second floor was saved.  It looked as if the dormitory part of the building would be saved, but about 2:00 p.m. the water supply gave out, and the fire spread rapidly to the rest of the building.    Most of the walls of  the old part of the building fell." (TNB p.78)

Due to the loss, by fire, of the main building, the College was essentially closed during the academic years from 1910-13, though the trustees and the citizens of Bolivar continued to hope and work toward the possibility of reopening for classes at some point in the future.

Photo at left:  This image shows the firefighters facing south.  The stairs and two stories on the left were the dormitory wing of the building, which was added in 1902.

Image of the burned out building on the SBU Campus from the fire in 1910..

April 6, 1911 - Lawsuit Prevents Transfer of Property to William Jewell

"On April 6, 1911, the suit brought by the trustees and citizens of Bolivar to set aside the transfer of the property to William Jewell College was settled by compromise.  William Jewell was to deed the property back to Southwest and pay $500 in full settlement for all costs in the prosecution.  The property was now six and one half acres of land and the rubble.  The suits against the insurance companies were pending." (from TNB p. 79)

Photo at left:  Bolivar residents at the ruined building in the days after the fire.

Images of men examining ruins of SBU caused by the 1910 fire.

April 17, 1911 - Decision to Rebuild

"Although the building was wrecked by the fire, the property is still valuable... the land worth $6,000.  Enough brick to rebuild the building as it used to be remains with the exception of a facing coat... need not more than $1,500 or $1,800 worth of brick to complete the walls.

The foundation is as good as ever, worth $2,000-3,000 on a new building.  Much of the old pipe and heating apparatus can be used on a new structure.  The Board will proceed at once to have the rubbish cleared up for reuse or sale."    (from TNB p. 79)

Photo at left:  Men posing by the ruins of the college building where they salvaged over 250,000 brick, many of which were use in the construction of the 1913 building on the same foundation.

Image of T. G. Rechow.

April 24, 1911 - College Property Returned to Southwest Trustees

"The college won the case [against the insurance companies] and the suit was dismissed.  The attorney for William Jewell, Ralph Hughes, met Rechow and returned the deed for Southwest property to the trustees, together with the quit claim and trust deeds that had been exchanged between the time William Jewell had assumed control on April 24.  This cleared the title to the property, left it free from debt, and once more it belonged to the Baptist of Southwest Missouri." (TNB p. 119)

Photo at left:  Theodore G. Rechow immigrated to America from Jasophine Freis, Bromberg, Province of Posen (the part of Poland then partitioned to Prussia, when he was four years old.  This is the gentleman that took care of the original incorporation of the college, Mark 19, 1979 (as noted earlier in the timeline).  He later assisted with amended articles of incorporation in 1921, and had otherwise been closely involved with the Bolivar effort to get the College to move to Bolivar.

Image of Stufflebam.

April 27, 1911 - Decision to Rebuild (Rise from the Ashes)

"There are discrepancies in the newspaper accounts and even in the records of the sequence of events which followed this meeting on April 27, 1911; but the writer chooses to close this chapter with a happening, verified in the minutes, about which Mr. Stufflebam spoke to her frequently.  Only the date is uncertain."

"The Board voted to allow Brothers Slagle and Chamberlain "to let the campus to anyone who will fence it for a cow pasture." (TNB p. 80)

"The desperation decision to rent the campus for a cow pasture pleased no one among the trustees.  Mr. Stufflebam especially was deeply disturbed.  Speaking of this many years later, he said that his heart was so heavy he could not sleep, and he knew that he could find no rest until he and some of the trustees gathered at the ruins and prayed.  These may have been the committee, Stufflebam, Leavitt, and Powers, who had been charged to look after the campus.  According to the memories of some who heard the story from Stufflebam, all repaired to the campus and there they knelt in the ashes to pray for guidance. ... They were led to rebuild, and a meeting was called for May 29, 1911." (TNB p.119)


September 16, 1913 - School Re-Opens

S.W.B.C. reopened as a junior college and classes resumed.

September 25, 1913 - College Colors Selected

"On September 25, classes were dismissed so that faculty and students could attend the Polk County Fair.  This was an opportunity to advertise the school.  A squad of students dressed in purple and white and wore badges that said "ASK ME."  ... Purple and white have remained the College colors to this day." (TNB pp. 133-34)

Image of Rally Day Celebration participants in 1914.

January 17, 1914 - Day of Celebration

A special day of celebration was held to thank those who supported the College efforts to build the new building and reopen.  "The long delayed Rally Day was observed January 17, 1914, beginning at 10:30 A.M. After a brief concert by the Bolivar Band, a parade formed and, led by the Band, marched around the square and along Mill (now Pike) Street to the campus. G. M. Upton, president of the Commercial Club; J. M. Leavitt, president of the Board of trustees; the faculty; Daisy Johnson, superintendent of Polk County schools; W. E. Martin, superintendent of Bolivar schools; the public school teachers of Bolivar; and 112 college students marched.  Throngs of friends -- reported to number 1,000-2,000 -- stood around the square and along the parade route, some of whom joined in the march to the campus. There a picture of the grounds outside the building recorded the event for posterity."  (TNB p. 135)


May 23, 1918 – Certification Approved

Dean Pike announced that "the College had been approved by the University of Missouri for all academy courses and had been granted the privilege of certification for all college grades."  (TNB p. 147)

Image of the old administration building.

October 18, 1921 - Junior College Accreditation Granted

"On October 12, the committee visited the school in the persons of Drs. Trenholme and Schlundt. "They expressed themselves as being pleased with our students in number and personality, with the school, its work and outlook, with our new equipment, and without teachers and their work," President Pike announced in chapel after the committee had gone.

A few days later this telegram arrived in Bolivar:
"Columbia, Mo, October 18, 1921.  Committee voted yesterday to place college on fully accredited lists.  N.M. Trenholme."  President Pike read the telegram to the students assembled in chapel ... "  Junior College Accreditation granted. (see TNB, p. 155, last 2-3 sentences)

Image of the original Pike Auditorium

1926 - Pike Auditorium (Original)

The original Pike Auditorium was completed just north of the "Old Ad" building. (TNB p. 162)  It was dedicated in honor of President John Calvin Pike in 1941.

Image of students making brooms in the Broom Factory.

July 1928 - Farm and Broom Factory

Dr. Jent's "Self-Help Plan" was put into place providing both a farm and a broom factory for students to work in to aid themselves and the college.  " March an option was taken on a 2,000 acre farm located one and one-half miles from Bolivar.  The price was $9,325.  Any student who wished to do so could earn $100 of his expenses by working two hours a day on the farm."   "A new power-driven broom machine was installed in the basement of Hoffman Hall, and the manufacturing of brooms began as soon as school opened.  There were a number of advance orders and the Herald, announcing the opening of school, declared it to be assured of success. "   "Sentiment for the school is running at high tide everywhere.  People are enthusiastic about the new self-help plan," he [Jent] said." (TNB p.165, photograph of broom making in Hoffman Hall basement with students and staff.)

"So far only one department is fully established--the broom factory.  We can make twenty-five brooms per day, but the market is slow.  We have filled orders for over 200 dozen brooms for retailers." (report from local newspapers, quoted in TNB p. 166)

"The report to the Missouri General Association that year [January 17, 1929] included: "We have horses, cows, and chickens.  We canned 500 gallons of tomatoes and corn last year.  The farm is supplying practically all the eggs, milk, and vegetables; and we hope to produce most of our meat."

Broom making had not proved profitable, however, and had been abandoned. (The equipment was sold in 1931 for seventy-five dollars)." (TNB p.167)

Image of the 1928 graduating class of SWBC.

1928 - Graduating Class

At left, the graduating class on the steps of the old Administration Building for a class portrait.

Image of Courts Redford

August 1930 – Courts Redford Arrives

Courts Redford arrived in Bolivar on August 21, 1930. Redford, who was then a young man of thirty-one years with a wife and four children accepted the invitation of the trustees of Southwest to become their president.  Reflecting on his reaction to the call in 1964, Redford wrote:

"The school was very deeply in debt, and we were entering the depression period, so it was really very difficult for me to leave a place which seemed to provide security for myself and my family and go to a place of uncertainty.  I felt, however, the Lord was called me to Southwest Baptist College.  I continued as president for thirteen years.  Those years were hard but they were happy years--in many ways the happiest years of my ministry.  Never had I had more friends than I had among the faculty members, the trustees, and the students.  We had some wonderful Christian teachers, and the school was characterized by an excellent Spirit.  Today graduates are scattered all over the world.  Those were testing times.  Time and time again the Lord provided in almost miraculous ways the resources we had to have to carry on.  Because of the support of Missouri Baptist and the Friends of the institution we were able to pay all the indebtedness and to obtain some additional properties before I left."  (TNB p.411)


1938 - Life Beautiful Award

The Life Beautiful Award, the highest award granted to a student at Southwest Baptist, was established by Mrs. Rosalie Mills Appleby, author and missionary to Brazil.

Image of Pike Auditorium

1941 – Debt Free / Dedication of Pike Auditorium

Under the leadership of Dr. Courts Redford, the College was debt free for the first time in the college history.  The college had 136 students.  The original Pike Auditorium (built in 1926) was named and dedicated in honor of John Calvin Pike by a special resolution of the Board of Trustees which read:

Therefore, be it resolved:  First, that the auditorium be dedicated to John Calvin Pike and second, that it be named Pike Auditorium and third, that the name be placed in large letters on the front of the auditorium, and under the name there be placed the following notation:  "Dedicated to John Calvin Pike for his faithful service." (TNB p. 191)

Image of Memorial Hall.

November 5, 1945 – Memorial Hall

Grounding breaking was held for a new men's dormitory to be named Memorial Hall.  "The building was not ready for occupancy in September 1946.  Army cots and mattresses were purchased and set up on the state in Pike Auditorium where the men slept.  On November 3 they were able to move into Memorial Hall."

"The name for the dormitory was chosen to honor those ten [SWBC] students who had given their lives in World War II.  Those students were:

Kenneth I. Austin                             Sanford S. Caviness
Arnold Branson                                 Kenneth Haralson
Thomas M. Pool                                Harold L. Purtle
Bradford L. Fisher                            Joseph M. Tuttle
Wayne Huffman                               Rixey Everett

Photo at left:  Main entrance to Memorial Hall, on the north side facing the old Administration Building.


1951 –  Ellen Bell

Miss Ellen Bell was hired as the president's secretary.

Image of Pike Auditorium prior to fire of 1962

March 26, 1962 - Fire

Less than a month after Dr. Robert Craig was inaugurated on March 4, 1962, a disaster struck the college.

"... for the second time in the history of the College disaster came in the form of a major fire.  Pike Auditorium, that multipurpose building, burned to the ground on March 26.  Students and townspeople saved eight of the pianos from the studios and almost all of the sports equipment from the locker rooms and gymnasium." (TNB p. 274)

Image of the damage from the Pike Auditorium fire.

June. 1962 – Pike Auditorium Fire Rebuild

"After Pike Auditorium was destroyed by fire, the Bolivar community immediately started a fund campaign to raise $50,000 in cash and $50,000 in pledges.  The local campaign, under the leadership of Dr. Doyle McCraw, had three major objectives:  (1) to purchase land for future expansion (2) to begin construction of one new building to replace Pike Auditorium and (3) to encourage support from others throughout the state." (SWBC Newsletter v.44, n.1, p.2., photograph of the sign used to publicize the expansion, from the same issue of the newsletter)

"On May 31, the Board voted to purchase a 102 acre plot of land south of  Bolivar on Highway 13 for $35,000. The campus was named for F. M. Shoffner, benefactor of the College; appropriate signs were erected to publicize the expansion of the College, and other efforts were made to obtain the good will of the community." (TNB p.275)

Image of the Shoffner Campus in 1962.

July 1962 – Shoffner Campus

"The F. M. Shoffner campus, with 102 acres located on the south entrance of Bolivar, was purchased for SWBC by the Bolivar community. (SWBC Newsletter v.44, n.1, p.2.)

"On August 17, nine new buildings were dedicated: two faculty duplexes, four faculty houses, the President's home, the new dormitory, and the field house. ...

In November Branham Brothers Construction Company of Neosho began the erections of the fine arts building." (TNB p. 279)

Image of Courts Redford and Robert Craig.

1965 – North Central Association Accreditation

North Central Association for Colleges and Schools grants full accreditation to S.W.B.C. to become a four-year institution.  President Craig had pursued four long range goals from very early in his term which began in 1961.  Those goals included considering the location of the college, a campus development-enlargement plan, ways of securing financing adequate for immediate construction needs and the possibility of Southwest becoming a senior college.(TNB p. 272)

Photo at Left:  Dr. Courts Redford, President Emeritus and Dr. Robert Craig, President, with table display announcing SWBC's new status as a 4-year, senior college.

Image of Dr. and Mrs. J. F. Leslie

October 3, 1965 – Leslie Hall Dedication

Leslie Hall is dedicated "this day to the glory of God for the service of young people attending Southwest Baptist College." 

Dr. and Mrs. J. F. Leslie for who the building is being named, lived dedicated lives and actively supported the college with their personal efforts, influences, and finances.  Dr. Leslie served as a trustee for many years."  (Omnibus, October, 1965)


1966 – Hurst Apartments

"A new 200-capacity men's dormitory and a new six-unit apartment building for faculty and married students were nearing completion and a second six-unit apartment was scheduled for completion in November.  Blue Home had been remodeled for men students." [ TNB p. 287 ]

"In November a new apartment complex was named Hurst Apartments, honoring Professors J. E. and Mrs. Hurst, who had given generously to the College in money and dedicated service." [ TNB p. 288 ]


1968 – Stufflebam Campus Dedication

"One of the major events of homecoming, November 17-18, 1968, was the dedication of the Stufflebam Campus.  After the new campus was named for F. M. Shoffner, Professor Bev Harris suggested that the old campus could be appropriately named [Francis Leroy] Stufflebam, whose prayers and interest as a trustee had helped to rebuild the school, and whose gifts of money, influence, and time had helped to keep it open." (TNB p. 292)

A memorial was erected in honor of Mr. Stufflebam which read:  This Campus is Dedicated to Francis Leroy Stufflebam in Appreciation of His Long and Faithful Service As a Sacrifical Friend and Board Member of Southwest Baptist College : Member of the College Board 1906-1951.

1970 – Archives Collection Initiated

"In 1970 a faculty committee was appointed to start an archives collection.  Dr. Courts Redford was named curator.  The succeeded in obtaining may valuable documents, articles, pictures, and memorabilia relating to the history of the school....  A room in Estep Library was furnished with shelves, filing cabinets, and tables to house the archives; and in recognition of the help given by Dr. and Mrs. Redford it is called the Redford Room."  (TNB p.333)

November 18, 1979 – Mabee Chapel / Pike Auditorium Dedicated

Mabee Chapel and Pike Auditorium were dedicated November 18, 1979.  "The structure is a large auditorium-classroom-office complex.  The auditorium, which seats 1,3000, has a large state area and orchestra pit, dressing rooms, and a work area for stage set construction.  There are three late classrooms, a seminar-conference room, office for faculty of the Redford School, and a large lobby.  The building is named Mabee Chapel whose gift not only provided a large part of the cost, but also was a challenge to the college personnel and to friends to give generously.  In naming the new Pike Auditorium, a replacement for the one which burned in 1962, J. C. Pike is honored by those who contributed to the first building as well as many alumni and friends of later years. (TNB p.310)

Image of the Carillon and Bell Tower.

1980 – Carillon

Campanile built adjacent to the new Mabee Chapel, to house the carillon, and immediately becomes the most visible and recognizable landmark of the new campus.


Fall 1980 – SWBC to SBU Name Change

In October, the Board of Trustees approved a resolution changing the name of Southwest Baptist College to Southwest Baptist University.  (Trustees Book of Minutes)

On December 17, 1980, the Secretary of State of Missouri signed the amended pro forma decree of information changing the name for legal purposes. (State of Missouri, Corporation Division, Certificate of Corporate Records)

1981 – Celebration of Name Change

Southwest Baptist University publicly celebrates its new name in a special formal chapel.  A new seal and logo were adopted as created by art faculty member, Ms. Sandra Brown.  A new school alma mater written by music faculty member Mr. Steve Whisler was also adopted.

May 20, 1983 – Gene Taylor Building Dedicated

Then Vice-President George H. W. Bush gave the keynote address during the dedication ceremony dedicate the Gene Taylor National Free Enterprise Center in honor of the long-time U.S. Representative from Missouri.  "Taylor introduced the vice president.  In his dedicatory remarks, Bush supported the role of free enterprise in America."  (1983 Mozarkian, p.18)

1987 – First Graduate Program Approved

The Missouri Baptist Convention granted approval for SBU to offer a 20-hour graduate program in teacher education on a one year trial basis.  (Word & Way, July 23, 1987, p.1)

North Central Association of Colleges and Schools granted approval for of SBU's request that "its accreditation be extended to include a limited offering of courses at the Master's level." (letter from NCA to Dr. Sells, dated April 24, 1987 with a revised "Statement of Affiliation Status")

1989 – Master’s Degree Granting Level Approved

North Central Association of Colleges and Schools approves "The University's accreditation at the Master's degree granting level" , limiting the graduate offerings to the Master of Science in Education degree to be offered on the Bolivar campus. (Reports of a Visit to Southwest Baptist University, October 16-18, 1989, for the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, see the Statement of Affiliation Status)

1992 – Wheeler Building

Clarence and Edna Wheeler donate $2.4 million dollars to the Wheeler Science & Nutrition Center, the largest single gift to the University, in its history to date.

August 23, 1994 – Faculty Senate Formed

The first Faculty Senate meeting was called to order by prayer by President Mark Tappmeyer in the Board Room of the Sells Administration.  Eric Moore was appointed Senate Parliamentarian, and Susan DeBauche was elected Senate Secretary-Treasurer. (SBU Faculty Senate minutes, August 23, 1994)

1996 – 10-Year Accreditation

North Central Association granted full 10-year accreditation to the University and all of her programs, noting that, "The faculty, staff, administration and trustees are capable and strongly committed to the institution, its Christian mission and the students it serves." (Reports of a Visit to Southwest Baptist University, April 29-May1, 1996, for the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, p.41)

October 21, 1996 – C. Pat Taylor Tenure

Dr. C. Pat Taylor began his tenure as SBU’s 24th president and the university community celebrated his inauguration on April 25, 1997.

1997 – Wheeler Scholarship

Clarence and Edna Wheeler donated $1,000,000 towards scholarships.  It was the largest single contribution for scholarships in the history of the University.

1997 – University Mission Statement Adopted

Under the leadership of C. Pat Taylor, the University adopted a new Mission Statement was that resonated with the history and heritage of the University.

Mission Statement:

Southwest Baptist University is a Christ-centered, caring academic community preparing students to be servant-leaders in a global society."

Spring 1998 – Master of Science in Educational Administration

SBU received approval from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Higher Learning Commission to offer the Master of Science in Education – Educational Administration degree.  The first classes began in Spring 1998.

September 11, 2000 – MOBIUS Membership

The University became a charter member of the MOBIUS Consortium, a statewide consortium of academic libraries.  MOBIUS provided a web-based catalog system that allowed users from member institution access to over 14 million items in Missouri college and university library catalogs and enabling all circulation, reserves, cataloging, acquisition and user functions to be performed in the web environment.

September 17, 2002 – Quasquicentennial

SBU kicked off a year-long celebration of the quasquicenntenial, 125th, anniversary of the founding of the University with a formal chapel and an old-time chuck wagon picnic on the forum, complete with regional music and period costumes.  SBU first opened its doors on September 17, 1878.  The year of celebration culminated with a special chapel and the burial of a time capsule on September 17, 2003, in the lobby of the Jester Learning and Performance Center.

To the right is a photograph of the faculty of SBU during the quasquicentennial year.

Image of SBU Faculty circa 2002.

Spring 2002 – University Success Center

SBU’s new University Success Center (USC) program was announced in spring 2002, incorporating the first-year seminar courses, the freshman advising center, and the freshmen intervention program.  The Career Planning and Placement Office moved to the USC area in Spring 2005.

Fall 2004 – Strait Center for the Integration of Science and Christian Faith

The innovative Darrell R. Strait Center for the Integration of Science and Christian Faith began its academic program, named in honor of longtime SBU faculty member and dean emeritus of the College of Science & Mathematics, Dr. Darrell R. Strait.

February 25, 2005 – First Doctoral Program

SBU was notified of permission from the Higher Learning Commission to offer its first doctorate.  The graduate program in physical therapy was granted the maximum 10 year re-accreditation until December 31, 2013, by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

May 2005 – Tennis Team Champions

SBU’s men’s tennis team won their thirteenth MIAA Championship.  The team won their third straight regional championship, which put them into the round of Sweet 16 for the national championship.  Dante Cipulli was named the NCAA Division II Player of the Year, and Cipulli and Johan Nortje were named all-Americans in doubles competition.

June 2005 – Partners in Excellence Campaign

The Partners in Excellence campaign, which started in 1999 and ended in June 2005, raised more than $62.4 million including funding of 13 major building projects.

2005 – 2006 – SBU Center for Global Connections

SBU Missions celebrated its 25th anniversary during the 2005-2006 academic year by conducting mission trips to Senegal, Canada, Zambia, Swaziland, Philippines, Guatemala, Brazil, Belarus, Thailand, Turkey, China, India, Portugal, Alaska, Detroit, Mississippi, Houston, and Panama City Beach, Florida.

SBU Presidents

SBU Presidents from 1996 - Present
Photo is of Dr. C. Pat Taylor, 24th Pres of SBU

October 21, 1996 – C. Pat Taylor Tenure

Dr. C. Pat Taylor began his tenure as SBU’s 24th president and the university community celebrated his inauguration on April 25, 1997.

August 31, 2018 - C. Pat Taylor Announces Resignation

Southwest Baptist University President Dr. C. Pat Taylor announces retirement as of Aug. 31, 2018, after nearly 22 years as the University’s president.  Taylor assumed his duties as the University’s 24th president on Oct. 21, 1996, and is the longest-serving president in the University’s history.

Image of Dr. Eric Turner, 25th President of SBU

September 1, 2019 - Dr. Eric A. Turner Named 25th President

Dr. Eric A. Turner of Pocahontas, Ark., was unanimously selected as the 25th president of Southwest Baptist University on July 20 in a special meeting of the SBU Board of Trustees. His duties began as president-elect Monday, Aug. 6, and assume the presidency on Sept. 1.

October 20, 2020 - Dr. Eric A. Turner Resigns

Southwest Baptist University President Dr. Eric A. Turner submitted his resignation to the SBU Board of Trustees during the Board’s regular meeting Tuesday, Oct. 20.  His resignation was effective Nov. 20, at the conclusion of the fall semester’s commencement ceremonies.

November 21st, 2020 – Dr. Brad Johnson Named Acting President

Dr. Brad Johnson, vice president of institutional advancement, was named acting president effective Nov. 21. 

February 16th, 2021 - Dr. Brad Johnson Named Interim President

Southwest Baptist University’s Board of Trustees appointed Dr. Brad Johnson as interim president during a Feb. 16 board meeting as the board began its search for the University’s 26th president. Johnson served as acting president since Nov. 21.

Photo is of Dr. Rick Melson, 26th president of SBU

September 7th, 2021 – Dr. Richard J. Melson Named 26th President

Southwest Baptist University’s Board of Trustees unanimously elected Richard J. Melson, Ph.D., as the 26th president effective Sept. 7. 

Dr. Melson was introduced to SBU faculty, staff, students and guests during an announcement event on the Bolivar campus (Aug. 20) after an Aug. 19 meeting in which the unanimous vote of the board affirmed the unanimous recommendation of the presidential search committee. 



All digital images, descriptions, text and historical material found on this website are copyright protected.  For permission to use content from the site, contact the University Archives. All rights reserved. 

The Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) and the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998) governs the copying, reproduction and distribution of copyrighted materials.  If a user of this page makes use of materials from this website that is in excess of fair use, that user may be liable for copyright infringement.

University Archives
Southwest Baptist University
1600 University Avenue
Bolivar, MO  65613
Phone: (417) 328-1605 or 1619
Fax: (417) 328-1652