About Luther Rice University
In 1961, Dr. Robert Gee Witty, Pastor of the Central Baptist Church, presented the need for a seminary in Jacksonville, Florida to several Southern Baptist pastors. In May, 1962, Dr. Witty secured five pastors who signed the charter application which he had prepared. On June 14, 1962, the State of Florida granted the charter. The Central Baptist Church agreed to provide space and office assistance for the new institution.
The first classes met in facilities provided by the church on September 11, 1962. All faculty were Southern Baptist pastors who served Luther Rice Seminary without pay.
Business of the Seminary was conducted until 1968 by the Board of Trustees, with Dr. Witty as Chairman. Frequently the faculty was invited to participate. Dr. Clyde Jones, Dr. Pat Wimberly, and Dr. Kenneth Umphrey served as part-time presidents until 1968. In that year, Dr. Fred Williams was elected as Chairman of the Trustees, and Dr. Witty became president. In 1970, Dr. Witty became the first full-time president.
By 1964, 94 students had registered, and 16 pastors served as part-time faculty. At that time the curriculum prepared by Dr. Witty for the external program was adopted by the Board of Trustees and offered to the public. This innovative, nontraditional system attracted thousands of students in the United States and such international interest that by 1978, students from 52 countries were registered. A faculty of full-time professors has served the institution since 1976.
In 1968, Luther Rice Seminary purchased property from the Central Baptist Church and returned the same property to the church as a gift when the Administrative Building at 1050 Hendricks Avenue was purchased in 1970. Later, classrooms were established in the Instructional Building located on Prudential Drive. The Bertha Smith Library, constructed on Home Street, was opened for use in the Spring of 1982. All were purchased and constructed debt free.
In May 1982, Dr. Witty retired as president to become the Chancellor. He retired from the chancellor’s office in May, 1987.
In May 1982, Dr. Gene Williams became president of Luther Rice Seminary. He had earned an academic doctorate (Th.D.) from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and was known internationally as an evangelist.
In August 1988, a church building and property in Lithonia, Georgia (a suburb of Atlanta) were donated to the Seminary. In June, 1991, construction of new facilities began. In August 1991, the Seminary moved its main campus to this location.
At a Trustees’ meeting in September 1991, Dr. Williams became Chancellor-Elect. At the same meeting Dr. James Bryant, Executive Vice President, was approved to become President-Elect. Dr. Bryant also had a broad ministry background. He had earned an academic doctorate (Th.D.) from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and had served as pastor of several Southern Baptist churches. His experience also included serving as a church staff member and on the Board of Trustees of two Southern Baptist seminaries.
Dr. Bryant was inaugurated on May 6, 1992. Dr. Williams became Chancellor at the same service, and he became Chancellor Emeritus in 2005.
Dr. Bryant resigned as President, effective April 1, 1993, and Dr. James L. Flanagan was elected Interim President, effective April 1, 1993.
Dr. Flanagan joined the institution in 1982, serving as a faculty member and later as Vice President for Academic Affairs. He served as the interim President from April 1, 1993 until May 13, 1994, when he was inaugurated as President. Dr. James L. Flanagan was elected Chancellor and CEO, effective September 30, 2005. Dr. Flanagan's academic preparation includes an earned doctorate (Ph.D.) from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Dr. John M. Borek, Jr., was elected President and COO, effective September 30, 2005. He joined the institution in 2004, serving as a faculty member and as Provost and COO. Prior to joining Luther Rice University, he served, from 1997 until 2004, as the President of Liberty University. Prior to that time, he served a major university for 30 years as a faculty member and as a senior administrator. Dr. Borek’s academic preparation includes an earned doctorate (Ph.D.) from Georgia State University. He is ordained as a Baptist minister.