MOUNT VERNON — Steven Franklin Echols was elected as the 17th president of Brewton-Parker College May 19 on the college’s South Georgia campus.
The 59-year-old Atlanta native emerged as the top candidate for the post just four months after the college announced the search committee and six days after the resignation of President Ergun Caner. Echols comes to the senior administrative position from his role as president of Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, TN where he has served since January 2012.
He succeeds Charles “Charlie” Bass, who was named interim BPC President on Jan. 29
Prior to joining the Tennessee university he served from 2005-2011 as associate regional dean for the Alabama/Georgia New Orleans Seminary Extension Center System, and as professor of leadership while occupying the Nelson L. Price Chair of Leadership.
In 1977 he married the former Julie Marie Stipe, a registered nurse but who currently volunteers in the TTU library. They are parents of a son, Jeremy Franklin Echols, 29, a New Orleans Seminary graduate who is a clinical assessment specialist for Pathway Counseling in New Orleans; and Joy Echols Dixon, 26, a Kennesaw State graduate and a school teacher who is married and lives in Canton.
Experience turning around troubled TTU
Lynda Yawn, who served as chairperson of the Presidential Search Committee, indicated the search team’s unanimous confidence in Echols due to his “impressive credentials, vast experience, and a spiritual background that fully supports Brewton-Parker’s vision and mission.”
Echols established himself as turning around troubled Tennessee Temple during his brief two-and-a-half years at the university.
- In January of 2012, TTU had $4.5 million in debt and was $500,000 in arrears to its vendors. It was also facing a year-end short fall of $1.8 million with no cash reserves. With the exception of a $500K lien by a trustee (who loaned the school the amount years ago) on the TTU radio station, all debt has been paid. Upon receiving them, all TTU bills are now immediately paid.
- The university has experienced a 33% increase in residential enrollment from the Fall of 2011 to the Fall of 2013.
- Upon becoming president he immediately led the trustees to adopt the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as the university’s doctrinal statement, which was then required of all faculty members. The university reported 100 percent of the faculty signed the statement.
- TTU was affirmed in a unanimous resolution of support at the Tennessee Baptist Convention in the fall of 2013, though the Convention has yet to financially support the institution.
Trustees, denominational executives, professors, and Georgia pastors together stated their unqualified support for Echols as Brewton-Parker’s new president. J. Robert White, GBC executive director, described Echols as “imminently qualified” to serve as Brewton-Parker’s next president. He further stated Echols was a “serious-minded, conservative theologian” who will offer “long term, stable leadership” to Brewton-Parker.
Love of sports
The new president attended South Cobb High School in Austell where, in 1972, he received the Outstanding Football Player Award in his senior year, and Kennesaw Junior College where he was College Weightlifting Champion for 1973-74. He then graduated from Mercer University with a bachelor’s degree in religion.
Echols continued his education to receive a Master of Divinity degree in biblical studies and a doctorate in preaching Doctor of Ministry degree in leadership from New Orleans Seminary.
He was later awarded a Doctor of Ministry in Leadership degree from the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, AL, and a Master of Art in Public and Private Management from Birmingham-Southern College.
He has completed all course work except a project thesis for the Doctor of Educational Ministry Degree from New Orleans Seminary.
Echols has written several books, articles, and been published in scholarly journals.
The Georgia native served at two churches while in seminary – as part-time pastor of Berwick Baptist Church in Liberty, MS and full-time pastor of Thompson Baptist Church in Smithdale, MS.
After seminary, full-time pastorates included First Baptist Church of Kentwood, LA from 1983-86, Zoar Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, LA from 1986-88, Bethel Baptist Church in Moody, AL from 1988-93, and First Baptist Church of Pleasant Grove, AL from 1993-2001.
Echols currents serves as a commissioner for the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.
BPC is one of three educational institutions affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention. Others include Shorter University in Rome and Truett-McConnell in Cleveland.
Search Committee members
In addition to Trustee Linda Yawn who chaired the Presidential Search Committee, other members included incoming trustee Fred Evers, senior pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Tifton, and current trustees Dannie Williams, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lyons and Tim Redding, a southeast Georgia businessman.
Longtime faculty member Vance Rhoades rounded out the five-person committee, which included ex-officio member GBC Executive Director J. Robert White.