Hardin-Simmons University’s first dean of the Logsdon School of Theology, Dr. H.K. Neely, died Sunday, September 22, 2013, at Providence Health Center in Waco, Texas.
Neely came to HSU in 1980 as chairman of the division of religion and philosophy, and became Logsdon’s first dean in 1983 after the university received a naming gift from Charles and Koreen Logsdon. Overseeing the formation of Logsdon School of Theology and the construction of Logsdon Chapel and theology complex, Neely worked to grow the School of Theology from 172 students to more than 330 graduate and undergraduate students in just five years.
During his 18 years of service at HSU, Neely oversaw the initiation of the Master of Arts degree in religion, and in 1995, the addition of the Master of Divinity degree, which he credited as one of the reasons for the growth of Logsdon.
Neely imprinted Logsdon with a philosophy that still reigns today – to keep classes small and provide each student with a personalized theological education. Dr. Lanny Hall, HSU president, says the university will always be indebted to Dr. Neely for his superb leadership in building the Logsdon School of Theology. “He was dedicated to the advancement of theological education. Countless ministers today are beneficiaries of his teaching and leadership. He was a masterful preacher of the gospel.”
Dr. Don Williford, current dean of Logsdon Seminary and School of Theology, was hired by Neely. Williford defines Neely as a man of great vision, “It was he (Neely) who first proposed Logsdon offering the Master of Divinity degree, and began working to get it in place. He was a great motivator and mentor. I personally owe him a profound debt of gratitude for his encouragement, confidence and training. He was my friend and guide.”
Dr. Larry McGraw, associate dean and professor of Bible, says Neely was a mentor and a father figure. “He brought me to Hardin-Simmons and taught me what it meant to be a college professor. His love for the Lord, the church, and theological education showed forth in all of his actions. He wanted to give students from all backgrounds a chance to enlarge their gifts. He always encouraged the best from students and faculty. His legacy will remain vivid, seen at HSU--especially through the Logsdon School of Theology. Memories of 'Brother Neely' will always be good. He lived, he laughed, and he loved."
Among Neely’s other lasting accomplishments at Logsdon was the establishment of in-service training for budding ministry students. Dr. Omer Hancock, HSU professor of church ministry and director of in-service training, says Neely invited him to come to HSU from a pastorate in Edmond, Oklahoma. “He mentored me in my transition to this new position, which included both teaching classes and developing the program of in-service training,” says Hancock.
“We concentrated on identifying students with a calling to vocational ministry, upgrading the courses in theological field education, coordinating efforts for students to have preaching and church staff experiences, and to provide financial aid for qualifying ministry students. Dr. Neely communicated the standards of excellence, promptness, fairness and ethical values in all that we did as a faculty.”
Hancock says Neely possessed great insight about the nature and operations of Christian higher education. “He maintained an intense interest in churches and the individuals who were in those congregations. With his vast knowledge of the Bible and church history, he lived, taught, and proclaimed the Christian faith, especially the principles of Baptist heritage.”
Dr. Susan Pigott, HSU professor of Old Testament and Hebrew says Neely was one of her mentors at Logsdon when she was an undergraduate Bible major in the 1980s. “Dr. Neely was an amazing church history teacher and a Christian gentleman. He kept in touch with me throughout my seminary career, and even wrote an article dedicated to me, about the difficulties of finding jobs in academia. When I finished my Ph.D. seminar work, Dr. Neely took a chance and hired me as the first full-time female professor in Logsdon. He helped me to grow in my profession. I will greatly miss him.”
Another HSU Logsdon professor, Dr. Kelvin Kelley, associate professor of theology and coordinator of student diversity programs, says Neely’s death is really difficult for him. “Dr. Neely ‘waived’ fees in order for me to begin my formation theological education. I will never forget that gesture of compassion. I am what I am today because of his gracious act towards me and my family. I truly valued my relationship with him. He was a man who planted trees he was not able to sit under.”
Born February 1, 1934, in Whitesboro, Texas, Neely graduated from Cisco High School, Cisco, Texas. He went on to graduate from Baylor University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in religion and history in 1954. He received both a Bachelor of Divinity degree and a Doctor of Theology degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, in 1958 and 1963 respectively.
Before coming to HSU, Neely served as dean of the Redford School of Theology at Southwest Baptist College in Bolivar, Missouri, a school he helped to establish. When he left Logsdon in 1998, it was to return to Southwest Baptist as vice president for denominational relations and dean of the College of Christian Studies.
Neely pastored several churches including First Baptist Church of Rising Star and Necessity Baptist Church near Breckenridge, Texas. He was recognized for his leadership and service among Baptist institutions including the editorial board of the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion and the Executive Board of the Texas Baptist Historical Society. He served as president of the Association of Baptist Teachers of Religion, and locally, served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Southwest Abilene Rotary Club.
In 2006 he received the prestigious Lewis W. Newman Award from the Association of Ministry Guidance Professionals, and in 2002 he accepted the position of executive director of the newly formed Baptist General Convention of Missouri, serving in this position as a full-time volunteer for two years.
Dr. Neely is survived by his wife, Barbara, with whom he had just celebrated 60 years of marriage this past July, and his four children and their spouses, Bob and wife, Melody; Amy Jackson and husband, Tom Fowlston; Susan Kelly Johnston and husband, Bill; and Kara Goble and husband, Rod. Additionally, he is survived by his sisters Pat Emsley and husband, Don; and Carolyn Cook and husband, Bob; brother-in-law Delburt Schaefer and wife, Joyce; and brother-in-law Frank Weise and wife, Danise; along with grandchildren Ryan Stewart Kelly; Amy Johnston Cheatham and husband, Travis; Grayson Johnston; James Jackson; Stacy Jackson Reddicks; Scott Goble; Grant Goble; and Lee Goble. He is predeceased by his parents, H.K. and Edna Neely, and his sister, Sue Ann Weise.
An outdoor enthusiast, Neely delighted in bicycling the Texas bike trails and the Katy trail in Missouri, hiking in the Colorado mountains, sailing on area lakes, and visiting the Texas Hill Country.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to Logsdon School of Theology Graduate Program, Attn: Bob Ellis, P.O. Box 16325, Abilene, Texas, 79698.