Former SBU president passes away
BOLIVAR — Jim Sells, former president and chancellor of Southwest Baptist University (SBU) and one of Missouri Baptists most beloved fundraisers, died Sunday, Nov. 25 in Bolivar. He was 79.
Sells was westbound on Forest Street here at 9:36 a.m., when he failed to make the curve at the intersection of North Oakland Avenue, the Bolivar Herald-Free Press reported in its Nov. 26 edition, citing a Bolivar Police Report. A wittness told police that Sells’ 2007 Chevrolet Silverado traveled through a median and down a gravel driveway, where it struck a parked 1995 Ford Pickup.
When police and paramedics arrived, they found Sells in respiratory distress. He was taken to Citizens Memorial Hospital, where he later died, according to the Herald-Free Press.
Sells began at SBU in 1965 as the director of academic affairs. In 1968, he became the 21st president of SBU and in 1979 was named chancellor, a position he held until 1992.
Sells most recently was under contract with the Missouri Baptist Convention in establishing a development office. He was deeply involved in the negotiations that led to the potential sale of the Baptist Building and the relocation of the convention to California, Mo.
Admiration for Sells poured in Monday, Nov. 26, from leaders around the state.
C. Pat Taylor, SBU president, called Sells “a hero” to SBU.
“For 12 years, he provided SBU with leadership as president and then for 12 years as chancellor. During his 24-year tenure, Dr. Sells saw the institution through the transition from a college to a university, the development of signature graduate programs, and a significant increase in enrollment. In addition, many of the current buildings on campus were built under his leadership.
“Much of the success we have enjoyed at SBU during recent years is due to the foundation Dr. Sells established. This university owes Dr. Jim Sells a debt of gratitude. Our prayers and thoughts are with the Sells children and grandchildren,” Taylor said.
“Nobody knew more about fundraising for Baptist colleges and universities than Jim Sells,” said R. Phillip Roberts, president, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “He was an enormous help to Midwestern. I learned more about development and institutional advancement from Jim Sells than I have from anyone. I am deeply indebted to Jim for his service to our school. He will be deeply missed.”
David Tolliver, Missouri Baptist Convention executive director, knew Sells when he was SBU president.
“As a student back in the 1970s, I admired him as SBU’s president and was in awe later in life to work along his side and be mentored by him,” Tolliver said. “He was a larger-than-life guy to me.”
Sells’ wife, Joyce, passed away earlier this year.
Visitation for Sells was Nov. 27 from 5-7 p.m. at Butler Funeral Home in Bolivar. The funeral was Nov. 28, at First Baptist Church, Bolivar.