First president not named Jones to take helm at Bob Jones University this weekend

Greenville NewsMay 9, 2014 

Steve Pettit, President of Bob Jones University (May 2014)

HTTP://WWW.BJU.EDU/

On Saturday, longtime evangelist Stephen D. Pettit Sr. will take over the helm of Bob Jones University, the first president of the institution not named Jones.

Pettit replaces Dr. Stephen Jones, who will end his nine-year tenure Friday due to health reasons.

Jones announced his resignation in December, which in turn launched a months-long search for a new president to lead the school founded in 1927 by Bob Jones Sr.

Addressing the university’s staff and students Thursday, Larry Jackson, chairman of the BJU Board of Trustees, said, “We asked for your input, and boy, did you give it to us.”

Jackson said the search committee started with 130 names before narrowing the list to a handful of candidates who were all “solid men evangelically” with “solid credentials.”

“Our hearts kind of focused on one very quickly,” Jackson said.

The board reached a decision late Saturday and by Thursday afternoon had voted and elected Pettit as BJU’s fifth president. Hours later, he was introduced to the university’s faculty and students for the first time to a standing ovation.

Tanned from traveling, Pettit spoke of his role at the university during an “unprecedented time” in which he said change must be embraced with courage and humility.

He said his main responsibility will be to ensure that BJU fulfills its theological mission within the “cultural and the academic soil of liberal arts higher education.”

Pettit, a graduate of The Citadel with a degree in business administration, has spent the past 29 years as president of the Steve Pettit Evangelistic Team, traveling the world on more than 800 campaigns and crusades.

He grew up in Columbia, the first of four children to parents who met while in the Air Force.

He recalled being a “typical Southern kid” and played sports — soccer especially became a lifetime passion. He took drama lessons and acted in plays at the theater his mother founded.

In high school, he played the tuba for South Carolina’s All-State Band, was elected class presidents three years in a row and was the captain of the soccer team his senior year.

Pettit chose to attend The Citadel in the fall of 1974, thinking he would maybe one day go into the military

“I wanted to do something with my life, and I was always drawn to the military,” he said in a release from BJU. “My dad was in the military. People I respected were in the military. I just grew up with that.”

It wasn’t until Pettit’s junior year that he said he felt a calling to preach, later enrolling in Bob Jones University Seminary and Graduate School of Religion.

He met a singer in a traveling revival ministry, Terry Elkins, whom he later married. They have four children: Rebecca, a filmmaker, Rachel, a paralegal, Stephen, a BJU senior, and Michael, a rising high school senior.

Pettit formerly served as camp director and staff evangelist for Northland Camp and Conference Center in Dunbar, Wis.

Prior to being elected president, he was the national director for Cross Impact Ministries, which partners with local churches to minister on college campuses.

That he would one day return to BJU as its president had never occurred to him, “but the Lord opened the door,” Pettit said.

“I am truly humbled to follow our beloved president,” he said in a short speech. “He has been an example for all of us to follow.”

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