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Ralph Hampton, FWB Educator & Leader, Dies

NASHVILLE, TN—Reverend Ralph Hampton, former chairman of the Biblical and Ministry Studies Department at Welch College and a member of the college faculty for 50 years, died September 7, 2012, after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 77. The Oklahoma native was converted at age 12 during a youth camp and ordained to preach in 1960.

President Matt Pinson said, “Ralph Hampton was a rock of stability on campus for five decades—a man of prayer, a scholar with a warm heart, and a teacher who challenged students to give their best. He demonstrated spiritual and intellectual leadership as a faculty member, and faithfulness in his local church. We thank God for the influence of this great man.”

Hampton’s ministry to the broader denomination included six pastorates in Tennessee and Missouri, articles for Contact and ONE Magazine, and curriculum writing for Randall House Publications. His signature leadership role came during a 15-year span when the National Association of Free Will Baptists elected him moderator nine times (1987-1996) and assistant moderator six times (1981-1987). He moderated during several controversial and pivotal sessions, including the emotionally-charged 1995 national convention.

“That was a crisis moment in our history,” Reverend Hampton said during a 2008 interview. “Men had reached a point where they felt they couldn’t be brethren and friends with those who disagreed with them. The 1995 convention and Leadership Conference called us back to our roots as Christian brothers and Free Will Baptists.”

Ralph began his 50-year tenure at Welch College in 1958 at age 23. Like most young educators, he wore several hats, which meant that he taught 15 hours per semester, served as Christian Service director, and was the dormitory supervisor. The son of a Free Will Baptist preacher and oldest of four brothers, he spent half a century changing the landscape of denominational education, preparing students for ministry in a world-wide community, and raising a family of three children with his wife Margaret—all three children graduated from Welch College.

He pushed himself hard as an educator, earning five degrees—A.A. degree from East Contra Costa Junior College (1955), B.A. degree from Welch College (1958), M.A. degree from Winona Lake School of Theology (1961), M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary (1970), and the D.Min. (ABD) from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Dr. Robert Picirilli, Professor Emeritus and retired academic dean at Welch College, said, “Ralph graced the campus with a lifetime of quiet, dependable service. We could always count on him to be there, to do what was needed, and to do it without making a fuss. He was dedicated to keeping the school true to its founding mission, and he never swerved in his thinking from that ideal.”

Two of Ralph’s brothers (Charles and Larry) eventually joined him on the faculty at Welch College. His younger brother Larry said, “Ralph had a profound influence on my life. I came to the college as a student because of him. He was my teacher—one of the best I ever had. I am convinced there has been no better man who has taught here. I once told a young lady I dated that I wished I was more like Ralph. She asked why and I replied, ‘Because he’s more like Jesus than I am.’ ’’

Old Testament Professor Dr. Garnett Reid served alongside Reverend Hampton. He said, “Ralph left an indelible imprint on this school and on all of us he taught, and that imprint bears a striking resemblance to the Savior whom he loved and whom he taught us to love.”

Ralph Hampton is survived by his wife of 54 years, Mrs. Margaret Evans Hampton, who served 37 years at Welch College as manager of Welch Library; daughter Mrs. Laura Fleming; sons Reverend Clayton Hampton and Mr. Kenny Hampton; eight grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and one brother, Reverend Larry D. Hampton.

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Dr. Ralph Lightsey, Former Administrator, Dies

NASHVILLE, TN—Dr. Ralph Lightsey, who served as a faculty member and administrator at Welch College in the mid-1940s and early 1950s, died September 2, 2012, in Statesboro, Georgia, at age 93. Dr. Lightsey was ordained in 1940 and had a remarkable career as an educator, pastor, and businessman.

The Georgia native joined the Welch College (formerly Free Will Baptist Bible College) faculty in 1945 to fill a vacancy created when World War II ended and Laura Belle Barnard (another Georgia native) returned to India as a missionary. He taught a broad spectrum of courses from English to Personal Evangelism to Pedagogy, and more, in addition to his administrative responsibilities.

The denomination quickly recognized Dr. Lightsey’s skills and potential. At age 26, he was elected to the Welch College Board of Trustees and served 14 years (1946-1960). By age 29, he was elected executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists.

The drive to pursue graduate studies and his love of pastoring beckoned Dr. Lightsey from Welch College to distant campuses and pulpits. He pastored 52 years in Alabama, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Georgia—frequently in bivocational pastorates, the last 28 years at New Light Free Will Baptist Church (Morgan, GA).

A life-long professional educator, Dr. Lightsey graduated four times in 20 years: 1945 (A.B. degree at Mercer University), 1951 (B.D. degree at Emory University), 1955 (Th.M. degree at Columbia Theological Seminary), and 1965 (Ed.D. degree at the University of Georgia). He served 16 years as Professor of Educational Research at Georgia Southern University and assistant to the vice president. When he retired, the Board of Trustees conferred on him the title of “Professor Emeritus of Educational Research.” He also received the Dean Day Smith Service to Mankind Award.

He was the original owner of Lightsey Construction Company, Inc.

Georgia pastor William (Buddy) Morris, one of three ministers who officiated at Dr. Lightsey’s funeral, said, “Ralph was a real friend to me in the 21 years I’ve been in Statesboro. He gave me quiet encouragement and frequently reminded me of the important role of bivocational pastors. When I had by-pass surgery in 1990, he filled the pulpit for me. He was a builder as well as a pastor and educator, and he built some things inside me with his counsel and advice. I’m going to miss him.”

Dr. Lightsey is survived by his wife of 67 years, Wavine Reeves Lightsey; daughter June Pool; son Nelson Lightsey; three grandchildren, and a sister, Ruth Johnson.

President Matt Pinson said, “Dr. Lightsey had a great impact on Welch College in its early years, as a teacher, administrator, and member of the Board of Trustees, and in the college’s more recent history as a donor and supporter of this ministry. I thank God for this man, his ministry, and his impact on our denomination.”

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Lila Thompson, Business Office Associate, Retires

NASHVILLE, TN—Mrs. Lila Thompson, a versatile member of the Welch College staff since 2004, announced plans to retire effective September 28, 2012. Mrs. Thompson worked two years in the college’s Financial Aid Office (2004-2006), then shifted to receptionist duties (2006-2010), and on to her part-time role as Business Office Associate in 2010. She developed neuropathy in her hands and feet three years ago, a diagnosis that influenced her decision to pursue early retirement.

While delivering professional service in the Business Office, Lila has also been a surrogate mother to many students, inviting them to her home for weekends and special events, and providing a welcome haven for weary students away from mom and dad.

“My most enjoyable moments at the college have been reaching out to students as needs arose in their lives,” Mrs. Thompson said. “Sometimes a home-cooked meal or a quiet talk is what a student needs to cope with homesickness or write that next term paper. These young men and women are like family to us, and we love them. I know first-hand how it feels to leave a small town and attend college in a large city.”
The Kirksville, Missouri, native enrolled at Welch College in 1965, transferred to Truman State University, and returned to Welch College where both she and her husband Ernie graduated in 1970. She worked briefly at Randall House Publications (1969-1970) as a proof reader and manuscript typist.

Lila and Ernie spent the next 32 years in Missouri raising their family (three sons—Brent, Bryan, Bryce). Lila worked 20 years as a bookkeeper at a public high school. For 15 years, the Thompsons led Child Evangelism clubs and camps, and served on the Adair County Board of Directors. Lila impacted the local church and community for 30 years as she taught a teen Sunday School class, most of that time at Hazel Creek Free Will Baptist Church (Kirksville).

Since returning to Tennessee in 2002, the Thompsons have been members of Cross Timbers Free Will Baptist Church (Nashville) where Lila served five years as secretary. She and her husband became involved in prison outreach, and Lila wrote an article about their prison ministry titled “The Razor-Wire Church” (ONE Magazine, June-July 2007).

“We’re all going to miss Lila Thompson when she retires,” said Craig Mahler, vice president for financial affairs. “She does so much more than her job. She’s efficient. She brings a smile to work every day. She reaches out to everyone with gentleness. She embodies those qualities that personify Christian character. We cannot replace her—the best we can do is find someone to succeed her.”

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Florida, Alabama Youth Volunteer at Welch College

NASHVILLE, TN—Two groups of mostly teen volunteers and their sponsors arrived on the Welch College (formerly Free Will Baptist Bible College) campus Thursday, July 26 to familiarize themselves with the college and participate in a series of campus-wide work projects, according to Ernie Thompson, cleaning operations supervisor.

The seven Alabama volunteers traveled from South Highland Free Will Baptist Church in Muscle Shoals, accompanied by Associate Pastor Chris Talbot, a 2012 Welch College graduate. A group of 16 Florida middle school/high school teens and their adult sponsors made the 700-mile drive from First Free Will Baptist Church in Seffner (near Tampa), led by Youth Pastor Johnny Saunders. Both groups toured the campus Friday morning before dividing into work teams for the day.

“These were well-supervised youth,” Mr. Thompson said. “We pointed at what needed to be cleaned or moved, and they got it done. They worked outside in 90-degree heat clearing limbs and preparing flower beds. They worked in Welch Library shifting old periodicals and painting entrance ways. They removed carpet from an Administration Building office being remodeled, hauled documents for shredding from the basement level, cleaned windows, and more. I hope they return next summer.”

The South Highland volunteers were on a tight two-day turnaround and pushed hard Thursday and Friday before returning to Alabama on Saturday. Eighteen-year-old Kody (a high school senior), one of seven first-timers from his church to visit the college campus, said, “We came because our pastor has been telling us about the college. Plus, we wanted to help with work projects.”

The South Highland Church furnished a van for transportation and gas for the vehicle, but the youth were responsible for their own expenses. They hoped to see the Parthenon and spend time at a local mall in addition to doing campus work.

The Florida volunteers worked three days on campus (Friday, Monday, Tuesday) before loading for the long trek home. The group traveled to Tennessee in a bus provided by the Seffner Church; the church paid all expenses for the energetic workers. Bus driver Charlie Elliott, smiling as students removed materials from the upper floors of Welch Library for disposal, said, “These are really great kids. They work hard and they’re fun to travel with also.”

High school senior Taylor Trout said, “Some of us have been here before, but this time we came to work on campus. I want to be a pediatrician, so I may enroll here to study a year or two, and then transfer to get more medical courses.” Ninth-grader Jessica Vacarro, standing on the library stairs handing down volumes of discarded magazines, called out, “I’ll be here in four years! I want to study criminal law.” She was glad to learn that Welch College has a Pre-Law program.

Asked what they planned to do over the weekend after working all day, several teens responded: “We’re going to check out the town! This is our first time in Nashville.”

Will Beauchamp, a 1994 Welch College graduate newly-elected to the Board of Trustees, pastors First Free Will Baptist Church in Seffner. Another Welch College graduate, Shiloh Hackett (2000), pastors the South Highland congregation and also serves on the college’s Board of Trustees.

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Free Will Baptist Bible College Changes Name

NASHVILLE, TN—Delegates to the 76th session of the National Association of Free Will Baptists voted to change the name of the denomination’s flagship college from Free Will Baptist Bible College to Welch College during the July 15-18, 2012, convention in Memphis. The vote came Wednesday, July 18 on a recommendation from the college’s Board of Trustees. The name-change proposal was discussed at the 2011 convention (Charlotte, NC) and approved during the 2012 Memphis convention.

President Matt Pinson said, “This is an important decision in the history of the college. In a climate of shifting economic and technological change, we must find new ways to meet students’ educational needs. While we remain committed to our Christian mission, we need to reach more students who are serious about Christian living, leadership, and service. This means more undergraduate programs geared to reach students called to competitive professional fields, as well as non-traditional, adult, and online degree programs.”

The Board of Trustees authorized a name-change feasibility study by college administrators in 2010 that resulted in their decision a year later to request that the parent organization approve the change. The name “Welch College” arose from the life and ministry of Reverend John L Welch and his wife Mary, both of whom were early luminaries in the college’s founding.

Reverend Welch was the first moderator of the National Association of Free Will Baptists in 1935, a 12-year member of the college’s Board of Trustees, and pastored Cofer’s Chapel Free Will Baptist Church in Nashville 53 years. Mrs. Mary Welch served faithfully as a secretary at the college, spent nearly 60 years as a pastor’s wife, and was a leader in the denomination’s women’s movement. For the past five decades, there has been a building on campus named in honor of John and Mary Welch—the historic Welch Library.

Free Will Baptist Bible College will begin doing business as Welch College immediately. Administrators expect to complete the transition by January 2013 as legal and accreditation procedures are finalized with appropriate agencies.

Welch College is owned and operated by the National Association of Free Will Baptists. The 70- year-old college (established in 1942) is regionally accredited by the Commission on Colleges of SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools), nationally accredited by ABHE (Association for Biblical Higher Education), and listed among U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges rankings.

Welch College is also moving steadily toward relocating from Nashville’s West End area just off I- 440 to nearby Gallatin where the college recently purchased 66 acres on which to build a new campus. The college currently offers 40 programs of study, and its strategic plan calls for further academic expansion and the addition of graduate programs in the fields of theology and education.

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ACL Conference Features FWBBC Librarian Carol Reid

NASHVILLE, TN—The 56th annual Association of Christian Librarians (ACL) met June 11-14 at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida and featured Mrs. Carol Reid, librarian at Free Will Baptist Bible College since 1988, in two workshop events, a pre-conference workshop with four colleagues plus a solo conference presentation. Mrs. Reid’s 60-minute, solo workshop (“Writing the Annual Report”) attracted 27 attendees with excellent responses from participants.

The team-taught pre-conference workshop focused on ABHE (Association for Biblical Higher Education) Evaluator Training. Mrs. Reid, along with fellow librarians Nancy Olson and Kathy Molenkamp and ABHE representatives Ron Kroll and Randy Bell, led the day-long session (8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.). Twenty-one people enrolled for the training session. Mrs. Reid helped in writing two skits for the group as well as presenting materials on “Writing the Report.”

“I found the conference profitable as professional development,” Mrs. Reid said. “I attended workshops on establishing an information commons, improving students’ media literacy, new developments in interlibrary loan, managing varying work styles, and hosting author visits. I also attended meetings for CPI Indexers, the Commission for International Library Advancement, the Christian Library Consortium, and two ACL business meetings.”

More than 32 workshops were available for ACL attendees. Mrs. Reid is a member of the ACL Board of Directors, serves as ACL secretary, and keeps minutes for both the board meetings and the general conference business meetings.

Provost Greg Ketteman said, “Mrs. Reid’s current leadership in this professional librarians’ association is a credit to herself and to Free Will Baptist Bible College. Her efforts to network with other librarians are of great professional value. We are delighted that she continues to learn and advance in her chosen field of service at FWBBC.”

A 1977 FWBBC graduate, Mrs. Reid earned the Master of Library Science degree at Vanderbilt University. She is married to Dr. Garnett Reid, a FWBBC professor specializing in Old Testament studies.

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Illinois Group Volunteers on FWBBC Campus

NASHVILLE, TN—Ten volunteers from Bear Point Free Will Baptist Church in Sesser, Illinois, spent two days sprucing up the Free Will Baptist Bible College campus on June 4-5, according to Ernie Thompson, FWBBC’s cleaning operations supervisor. The group arrived Sunday afternoon in a 15-passenger van, moved into the dormitory, and started to work Monday morning.

Mr. Thompson said, “We’re so glad to have this enthusiastic group of young people and their sponsors on campus. They were all-smiles and did a bit of everything from loading scrap iron onto trailers to working the stacks in Welch Library, plus painting, sanding, and cleaning.”

This marked the first service trip to FWBBC for the Bear Point Volunteers. Youth Leader Shawn Mygatt said the congregation funds a number of service opportunities for the youth during the year, including work with homeless shelters and children’s homes, as well as community projects in conjunction with the Free Will Baptist national convention. The Illinois youth ranging in age from 8-17 were accompanied by four adults.

Seventeen-year-old Shelby Payne will be a high school senior this fall and plans to enroll at FWBBC. Miss Payne said, “I’ve heard about the college all my life and attended one of the Welcome Days events. I want to study psychology, and I really like the small campus atmosphere that FWBBC offers. I want to make a difference in the lives of children.”

Rising high school senior Matthew Crawford attended the 2010 Welcome Days at FWBBC. He is considering FWBBC and wants to pursue a career in broadcasting or journalism.

While in Nashville, the Illinois team wanted to tour the Parthenon and other landmarks. Their agenda included spending Wednesday, June 6, at the Free Will Baptist National Offices where they stuffed envelopes and completed other projects before returning to Sesser late that night.

Pastor Larry Cook has led the Bear Point Free Will Baptist Church for almost three decades. Judson Phenicie, a 2012 FWBBC graduate, joined the church staff this summer.

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