Dr. William E. “Bill” Thorn
Dallas Baptist University President Emeritus and Motivational Speaker, BA 1948
William Ernest Thorn was born in McAlester, Oklahoma, on February 27, 1923. Bill graduated from San Jacinto High School in Houston, Texas, where he was co-captain of the football team during his senior year and was a member of the all-city football team. Although his brother and father were both graduates of Baylor University, Bill wanted to be a Hardin-Simmons Cowboy. He fulfilled that goal and became part of the nucleus of the 1948 Cinderella football team who played in four bowl games in one year.
He enrolled at Hardin-Simmons in 1941, but soon left campus life, joining the U.S. Navy to serve during World War II. Bill returned to the Forty Acres in 1946, lettering in football his freshman year. During his years as a varsity football player, his popularity grew not only with fellow students but with faculty members as well. He was known for his illuminating smile and exuberant personality.
While at Hardin-Simmons, Bill served as vice president of his freshman class, and his senior year, was president of the Baptist Student Union. He was active in the Life Service Band, maintained membership in the Ministerial Council, and was selected for “Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.” Bill graduated in 1948 with a bachelor of arts degree, majoring in Bible with a minor in English.
Also while at HSU, Bill caught the eye of classmate, Miss Jessie Holder. Bill and Jessie were married in 1948.
After graduating from Hardin-Simmons, Bill fulfilled his call to the ministry, completing in 1951 a bachelor of divinity degree at Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth. His first job as a pastor was at First Baptist Church in Panhandle, Texas. He then held pastorates for several congregations in Texas, including First Baptist Church of Bruceville, Calvary Baptist Church in Lubbock, and churches in Merkel and Cisco.
In 1964 Bill became pastor of the large congregation at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Wichita, Kansas. Bill’s father, Dr. F.B. Thorn, as founding pastor of the church in 1945, had served Metropolitan until his retirement in 1960. Bill followed in his father’s footsteps, continuing to lead the church in growth and ministry.
In 1976, Bill became president of Dallas Baptist University, where he served until 1979. He then was in residence at Truett Seminary at Baylor University.
Throughout his career as a pastor, administrator, counselor, and mentor, Bill has been a prominent public speaker. He and Jessie have traveled extensively for his speaking engagements, sometimes over 300 a year, where he shares inspiration with civic, religious, educational, and business groups. He has delivered countless commencement addresses, and jokingly says he hasn’t paid for a meal in years, having spoken at over 7,000 banquets.
Bill has authored over 23 books, including Dairy Queen Think Tank, and Wake Up, Make Up, and Go. He also has appeared in an NBC documentary.
He has served as vice president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and was a member of the state convention’s Executive Board. He has been president of the Kansas Convention of Southern Baptists, a trustee of Buckner Baptist Benevolences, and a member of the Southern Baptist Mission Board (now International Missions Board) and the Board of Development of Dallas Baptist University.
At Hardin-Simmons, Bill has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Greater Hardin-Simmons Expansion Program, the Board of Development, and the Lettermen’s Association for football. In 1972, he was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity degree from his alma mater, and in 2004, was named a Distinguished Alumni. Bill holds a total of four honorary doctorates, has received five presidential commendations, and in 2001, he received the Texas Baptist Elder Statesman Award.
In 2001, Bill retired from Baylor University to take time to fish, relax, and enjoy visiting with friends. However, always in demand for speaking engagements, he continues to share his words of wisdom, kindness, and wit.
Bill and his wife, Jessie, have four daughters: Jenny Boyko, Martha Popplewell, Becky Baker, and Karen Morris.
Bill has spent his life bringing laughter, joy, and inspiration to others with his words, his effervescent smile, and often with a simple hug. He has been referred to as a man with a built-in resiliency, an engaging sense of humor, and an understanding heart. His smile will continue to be treasured by Hardin-Simmons University.
It is the high honor of Hardin-Simmons University to recognize one of her own and to formally induct William Ernest Thorn into the HSU Hall of Leaders.