SBU honors Jim Sells’ legacy
BOLIVAR—Southwest Baptist University (SBU) dedicated its new grand entrance and heritage center Dec. 15 to the late Jim and Joyce Sells, former president and first lady of SBU who both died in 2007, in a ceremony at the Harriet K. Hutchens Library.
The Jim Sells Front Entrance and Memorial Garden was constructed in honor of Sells, the former SBU president and chancellor. The Joyce Sells Heritage Center is an expansion of the university archives and will help preserve university artifacts and archival material.
“Both Jim and Joyce had a remarkable impact on SBU,” said SBU President C. Pat Taylor. “I am grateful for their legacy and the blessings we enjoy today due to their hard work and vision.”
Taylor commended Joyce Sells for her “sweet personality” and hostess ability, pointing to her work with the Southwest Baptist College Women’s Club and development of the SBU Historical Gallery, which opened in Muirhead Hall during the fall of 1982. She also was longtime church librarian at First Baptist Church, Bolivar.
The SBU president called Jim Sells “one of the great heroes” of the university, starting in 1965 when he came to Bolivar to serve as the academic dean. He later served as president from 1968-1980, and as chancellor from 1980-1992. He led SBU longer than any of the other 23 presidents, and during this 24-year period SBU experienced tremendous growth and progress, Taylor said.
Sells helped guide SBU from a small college to a moderate-sized university. Graduate programs were developed and satellite campuses were established. University status was attained as the name Southwest Baptist College was relegated to the history books. Enrollment grew, and the number of programs increased including athletics, which featured several new team sports including football. SBU was invited to join the MIAA Athletic Conference, elevating the athletics program to the NCAA Division II level.
“Perhaps the most notable accomplishment of Dr. Sells was the building of a new campus on the Shoffner farm,” Taylor said. “There were 17 new buildings constructed under Dr. Sells’ leadership, all of which are in service today. Because of Dr. Sells’ vision for new and improved facilities, today our students and faculty have wonderful academic facilities.”
The legacy of Jim and Joyce Sells, Taylor said, is best seen through their family and thousands of SBU alumni and friends of the university.
“Their legacy also includes an outstanding Christian university that will have a positive impact on students for generations to come,” he said.
Missouri Baptist Convention Interim Executive Director David Tolliver was present at SBU for the ceremony.
“I was personally humbled to be able to work with Dr. Sells in the last days of his life,” Tolliver said. “Myra and I are honored to be a part of this memorial. The Missouri Baptist Convention is privileged to have had a giant like Jim Sells to be a part of our history and our heritage.”