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May 22, 2015

Press Photo

Dr. and Mrs. Thomas A. Kinchen, President and First Lady of The Baptist College of Florida.

The Baptist College of Florida (BCF) in Graceville, Fla., celebrated a historic event on May 14, as Thomas A. Kinchen, the institution’s sixth president, completed 25 years, the longest serving president the college has had in its 72 year history. Dignitaries, convention leaders, trustees, college supporters, faculty and staff, family members, childhood friends and community colleagues all joined together to celebrate the incredible ways God has used this visionary leader at The Baptist College of Florida.

During the anniversary celebration, The Baptist College of Florida Board of Trustees honored Kinchen for his 25 years of faithful service by announcing the construction of a new education building to be named “The Kinchen Center.” Funds for the building have already exceeded half of what is needed for completion. Support for the center continues to pour in to honor this man who found innovative ways to inspire growth on a campus that was destined to close without his strong leadership and vision. When Kinchen arrived in 1990, he was given 18 months to turn the campus around or the school would be closed. Within those 18 months and throughout the past 25 years, BCF has seen major changes and growth, but as Kinchen quickly interjects, it was not through him but rather the very hand of God.

There is no doubt that God has used this willing servant leader to accomplish many things, beginning with his early years of diligent educational training. Growing up in Thomasville, Ga., as the son of the late George H. and Annie Lou Kinchen, he finished his first two degrees in his home state earning a Bachelor of Arts degree at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro and a Masters of Education degree from the University of Georgia in Athens. He continued his education by obtaining the Master of Divinity and the Doctor of Philosophy degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, La.

President Kinchen began his professional career in education as a teacher at Swainsboro High School in Swainsboro, Ga. While in Georgia, he pastored churches in Thomas County, worked with the Georgia Department of Human Resources in Thomasville, and served as a counselor at Delgado Junior College in New Orleans.

While at Seminary, Kinchen served in the following capacities: Director of Continuing Education and Doctor of Ministry Program, Vice President for Student Affairs, and Director of Church Minister Relations and Communications. Additionally, he served in local churches as minister of education, associate pastor and interim pastor. He served as a member of the Education Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention as well as a member of the Advisory Committee of the Florida State Board of Independent Colleges and Universities. He was named Chair of the Committee on Strategic Planning of the Board of Independent Colleges and Universities. Kinchen also served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.

Then in 1986, Kinchen was elected to serve as the Executive Secretary-Treasurer for the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists and held this position until May 21, 1990, when he became President of The Baptist College of Florida.

Accolades and accomplishments can be attributed to this awe-inspiring leader, but they are accepted with such humility that onlookers can see the true heart of servanthood that Kinchen has at his core. Tremendous growth has taken place at BCF since Kinchen took on the responsibility as president. Over the past 25 years, over 100 acres have been added to the college’s property holdings, a home for missionaries was opened on the campus, Lakeside Hall, Shepherd’s Cottages, Conrad Court, and an Assembly Center were built. Extensive renovations of the Student Center, Library, Music and Worship facility, and the historic R.G. Lee Chapel have capture the architectural beauty that Kinchen is known for having etched on paper napkins. Under this visionary leader, a Preaching Lab, new Administration Building, the Mills Center for Missions and World Evangelism were dedicated as well as the state-of-the-art Wellness Center and near completion of the new Deese Center (dining facility).

One on-campus project, often called Kinchen’s brain child, was the construction of Heritage Village. The Village is a collection of turn-of-the-20th-century homes, churches, a schoolhouse and community center that represent a rich history Kinchen knew was worth preserving. It is the home of the annual Holiday Heritage Festival/Homecoming event, which features artisans, crafts and numerous musical performances from BCF’s Music and Worship Division. It also serves as headquarters for the Florida Baptist Historical Society and archives.

In addition to the physical growth that has occurred during Kinchen’s 25 years, academic programs at BCF have flourished. The 90’s saw the addition of degrees in Elementary Education, Christian Education, Leadership, Biblical Studies, Church Studies and Bachelor of Music. The college was accepted into the National Association of Schools of Music and the curriculum was revised to ensure that all BCF degrees had the same general education and biblical/theological foundations. Educational opportunities and programs have multiplied on campus as well as programs in Barbados, Brazil, certificate sites, distance sites and currently every degree can be completed online in Florida and most states throughout the country. Multiple degree programs have been added since 1990, including bachelor degrees in Music Education, Missions, Christian Studies, Contemporary Worship Ministry, English, English Secondary Education, History and Social Studies, History and Social Studies Secondary Education, Ministry Studies, Missions with a Concentration in Aviation, Business Leadership and master’s degrees in Christian Studies and Music and Worship Leadership.

Kinchen was not only instrumental but championed the call to change the world with the establishment of several Endowed Chairs for Missions and Evangelism. Through the endowed chairs, faculty and programs were secured to promote the evangelism efforts throughout the curriculum and within multiple degree programs.

Because of his desire to utilize every possible avenue to connect with students and the community, Kinchen paved the way for BCF to operate a low-power radio station, 94.7 WFBU, from the campus beginning in 2003. He launched the development of webcasting and a large media presence for BCF on the internet. Under his leadership, the internet site, www.baptistcollege.edu, was established and has become one of the primary marketing tools for disseminating BCF information. The radio broadcast, BCF website, and social media venues is just another example of Kinchen’s leading edge management style that is prevalent in every aspect of the college.

The BCF student body and community is renewed and reenergized each year through the annual Missions Conference, Evangelism Conference, Prayer Conference and Powell Lectures established by President Kinchen. Special guest speakers and organizations are invited to campus every year to attend not only during these special events but also invited to chapel services held three days a week in the R. G. Lee Chapel.

As Kinchen preaches in chapel the first week of each semester, students have the opportunity to hear firsthand the heart of their president. In addition to his own personal passion for preaching, he and wife Ruth Ann established a preaching award that is presented each semester to a deserving student. The student is awarded the “President’s Excellence in Preaching Award” and given the opportunity to preach in chapel. Responding to a strong need for more practical and theoretical resources for ministers, Kinchen established a “Center for Expository Preaching” designed to provide resources to enrich and energize biblical preaching in Baptist churches. The center conducts several annual conferences to help pastors and lay leaders with Doctrinal Studies, etc.

In addition to the strong preaching ministry at BCF, worship through music is a vital part of the campus, and under Kinchen’s leadership, the college has served as host for various artists and music groups. Not only are popular musical groups invited to perform at BCF, they are formed here. Every semester and throughout the year, the plethora of talented musicians teaching and studying at BCF can be found serving in churches, schools, and places all around the country.

During his 25 year career as president, Kinchen has seen many students pass through the doors of BCF, and it is with great joy that he encourages each and every one of them to pursue the plans God has for their lives. This unwavering motto has been at the heart of his service to BCF from the very beginning of his ministry on campus. “As we continue to pursue our registered trademark of “Changing the World Through the Unchanging Word®,” we have the unique opportunity to train, educate, and prepare the next greatest generation of Christian leaders,” stated Kinchen. “Without any doubt, I feel a greater excitement today than I did 25 years ago as I anticipate what our Lord has in store for the days ahead of us. I look forward to showing up, standing up, and speaking up for our Lord and this wonderful college with all of the strength, energy, and vision that God can and will give to me.”

During the 25th Anniversary Celebration, BCF First Lady Ruth Ann Kinchen was recognized for her unending love and support of the college. For 25 years, she has traveled alongside the president for thousands of miles offering encouragement and assistance. She imparts a legacy on the BCF campus from baking cookies for the students each semester and raising funds for scholarships, to sewing window coverings and gracefully decorating campus buildings.

The 25th Anniversary Guest Speaker Jim Henry saluted Kinchen as he reflected on his visionary leadership and successful presidency. Words of affirmation were echoed from John Sullivan, Glen Owens, Wayne Briant, and Alex Kinchen (Tom and Ruth Ann’s son). A beautiful tribute of praise was sung by Lisa (Kinchen) Potter to honor her mom and dad on this historic occasion. Not a dry eye could be found among the faculty and staff in the Wellness Center as their deeply respected leader, President Thomas A. Kinchen, walked across the stage to respond to this incredible night filled with appreciation and grateful hearts for his 25 years of service to The Baptist College of Florida.

According to Kinchen, “There is still much to be done, people to reach, lives to be touched, programs to be developed, and ministries to be strengthened. With the leadership of our Lord we have seen this great college make huge strides, and following that same leadership our greatest days are still ahead!”