HANNIBAL – Woodrow “Woody” Burt, who has served as president of Hannibal-LaGrange University (HLGU) since 1994, informed trustees of his plans to retire effective Aug. 31, 2012, during their board meeting Sept. 9.
“God has blessed me with the privilege of serving at Hannibal-LaGrange for 32 years,” he said. “As I begin my 33rd year with HLGU, I want to thank you for the opportunity you’ve entrusted to me over these years.
“I’ve accomplished most all I set out to accomplish. Between that and turning 66 next August, I just believe it’s time to move on.”
Terry Buster, pastor of First Baptist Church, Palmyra, and chairman of the board of trustees, said the board accepted the notice with regret.
“His impact and influence on Hannibal-LaGrange University will continue in the years to come,” Buster said. “We look forward to working with him in the course of this next year in anticipation of one of the best years the university has ever experienced.”
The board met in executive session immediately after Burt’s announcement and named the trustees’ executive committee to serve as the presidential search committee during the year leading up to next Aug. 31. Buster said the executive committee is slated to change in November as new trustees rotate on and off, and the committee will have to determine if they want to keep the current structure for the search committee.
“The committee will meet in the course of the next few weeks to determine the process we will follow in our search,” Buster said. “We ask for the prayers, support, input, and encouragement of alumni, students, faculty, staff, and the churches of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).”
Those currently on that committee are: Buster; Edgar Alms, Hannibal; Milton Baumgardner, pastor of First Baptist, Monroe City; Pat Benson, Hannibal; Mark Boley, pastor of Cedar Grove Baptist, Wyaconda; Charles Brazeale, Paris; Daniel Hale, pastor of First Baptist, Millersville; Archie Hayden, Hannibal; Vinita Henry, St. Charles; Robert Ingram, Bowling Green; Mitch Jackson, pastor of Miner Baptist Church, Sikeston; Jerry Sheridan, Leawood, Kan.; Tim Smith, pastor of First Baptist, Ewing; Matt Tanner, associational missionary for Cane Creek Stoddard Baptist Association in Poplar Bluff; and Sonia Vicars, St. Charles. Benson will serve as the chairman, with Jackson as vice chairman and Baumgardner as secretary. HLGU was unable to provide church membership for the laity on the committee.
Since coming to then-named Hannibal-LaGrange “College” as a professor over 30 years ago, Burt has watched the school grow from a two-year institution with less than 400 students to a four-year university with fall enrollment this fall expected to top 1,200. During his tenure with HLGU, Burt taught speech communications and served as admissions director, dean of students, registrar, academic dean, chief development officer, executive vice president, and president.
Burt’s wife, Katherine, will continue to teach English at HLGU through at least the spring semester of 2013.
The school has continually been lauded by the North American Mission Board in recent years for sending students into the domestic mission field, and has built several new dorms and academic buildings in recent years.
“If you ask me what I’m most proud of, it’s not our buildings, academic, graduate or athletic programs we’ve added, and it’s not the name change or that we’ve been tops in missions mobilization,” Burt said. “I’m most proud of the people I’ve been privileged to know and work with: students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni.
“No one person has made this happen. This has been a team effort. Through God’s grace, the support of many wonderful alumni and friends, the backing of a great board of trustees, and the work of an outstanding faculty, staff and students, we have accomplished much.”
Vic Borden, pastor of Red Bridge Baptist, Kansas City, and Chairman of the MBC Inter-Agency Relations Committee, said Burt’s decision is bittersweet.
“It’s bitter because when Dr. Burt steps away as president of HLGU the personification of graciousness and humility will go with him,” Borden said. “I’ve had dozens of encounters with Burt in the past many years and have always found him to be engaging, kind, encouraging, and diligent in the assignment God has given him. Truly these will be huge shoes to fill. It’s sweet because HLGU is God’s institution. The Lord is already preparing a leader to follow. I’m looking forward to working with the next president and enjoying that relationship just as I have with Dr. Burt.”
Jay Hughes, interim executive director of the MBC, echoed Borden’s sentiments.
“Under Dr. Burt’s guidance and leadership, HLGU has experienced tremendous growth and success while giving God all the glory,” he said. “Dr. Burt has been a friend to the MBC and he will be sorely missed. The MBC will be praying for Dr. Burt and his family as they transition to retirement.”
By Brian Koonce