The Archives & Special Collections staff is pleased to announce the opening of one of Southern Seminary’s most important historical collections. Simply titled “The Reports of the President,” this collection bears witness to the diligent work of the seminary’s earliest faculty, trustees, and employees as they labored to ensure the financial and theological health of the school.
Included within are the handwritten documents which President James Petigru Boyce composed and collected for annual delivery to the seminary’s board of trustees at the Southern Baptist Convention. The reports date as early as 1868 and primarily cover the seminary’s history up through the late 1920s.
Since time immemorial, nearly six linear feet of these records remained in archival storage with minimal and even erroneous organization. Thanks to the recent labor of archives staff — including Southern Seminary Ph.D. student Trey Moss, in particular — these resources are now available for research with chronological arrangement and a descriptive index. The current arrangement now reflects the original order with which Boyce, his contemporaries, and his successors would have utilized them. The precise date of some files cannot yet be confirmed, thus making the collection’s index a work-in-progress.
A president’s report would contain such updates on school finances, budgeting, faculty work, student enrollment, correspondence from trustees, minutes of committee meetings, obituary and memorial notices, and even relevant newspaper clippings. Items of specific interest include letters pertaining to the relocation of the seminary to Louisville, the resignation of Crawford Toy in 1879, the William H. Whitsitt controversy, the election of E. Y. Mullins as the seminary’s fourth president, and documents on the relocation of the seminary to its current address on Lexington Road.
Contained within some year’s reports are records of some especially emotional landmarks in the institution’s life-cycle. On the death of founding professor William Williams, Broadus and Toy wrote in their 1877 faculty report:
It is well known to the Board that our honored and beloved Prof. Williams departed this life … [Boyce] came all the way from Louisville to attend the funeral of our beloved associate. The faculty would gladly indulge in some additional eulogy upon one they loved so well and must so sadly miss, but it would perhaps not be appropriate. They may take the occasion to remark, with much gratitude to God, that through all the history of the Seminary, which has now been in operation for 18 years, there has subsisted the most delightful harmony among the professors, and the tenderest personal affection. We have had many and sore trials, but have been happily exempt from the grievous trial of internal dissension and ill-feeling.
This collection will be of special interest to historians, but it may also appeal to the seminary community as a testament to the men of the institution’s early history who labored together to secure the school’s survival for future generations. The “Reports of the President” collection is accessible in the Archives & Special Collections office on the second floor of the James P. Boyce Centennial Library.
The online index can be viewed at: http://archon.sbts.edu/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=129.