25 Years in Atlanta
A Historical Retrospective
In 1992 Luther Rice started its first full year of operation in Lithonia (now Stonecrest), Georgia, a part of Metro Atlanta, after moving from Jacksonville, Florida. In 2017 we will celebrate this milestone anniversary with special events throughout the year. But first, let’s go all the way back to 1962 and take a quick look at the founding of this historic institution.
In May, 1962, Dr. Robert Gee Witty, a pastor in Jacksonville, Florida secured five pastors who signed the first charter application for Luther Rice Seminary. On June 14, 1962, the State of Florida granted the charter. The first classes met in facilities provided by Central Baptist Church on September 11, 1962—and there began the remarkable rise of Luther Rice Seminary.
|Dr. Robert Gee Witty, Founder, with his wife Kay, in front of first building.|
|DCentral Baptist Church, where first Luther Rice classes met.|
By 1964, 94 students had registered for classes and 16 pastors served as part-time faculty. At that time, the distance education curriculum, prepared by Witty, was approved by the Board of Trustees and offered to the public. That ground-breaking, non-traditional, theological education method attracted thousands of students, both in the United States and in many foreign countries. Since 1976, a faculty of full-time professors has served the institution.
In 1968, Luther Rice Seminary purchased property from Central Baptist Church then returned the same property to the church as a gift when the administrative building at 1050 Hendricks Avenue was purchased in 1970. Later, classrooms were established in the instructional building located on Prudential Drive. The Smith Library, constructed on Home Street, was opened for use in the spring of 1982. All properties were purchased and constructed without incurring any debt.
|First building purchased in 1970, on Hendricks Avenue.|
In May of 1992, the first graduating class in Metro Atlanta crossed the stage to receive their degrees. A church building and five acres of property were donated to Luther Rice, and in late 1991, the Seminary moved its main campus to this new location. The first new building, Williams Hall (named after the second president, Dr. Gene Williams, who oversaw the move to Atlanta) was opened in 1992. In that same year, Williams became Chancellor and Dr. James Bryant was named President. In May of 1994, Dr. James Flanagan was inaugurated as the fourth president of Luther Rice and continues to serve in that role today.
The current main academic building, Woodlawn Hall, which houses classrooms and the Smith Library, was constructed and opened in 2007. The building was made possible by a generous donation from Woodlawn Baptist Church, which was in Decatur, Georgia.
Officially chartered in 1962, the institution celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012. Events were held throughout the year and around the country to mark the milestone occasion.
|Groundbreaking Ceremony for Woodlawn Hall.|
|Students in a module class on campus with Dr. Ricketson.|
To enhance the online classroom student experience, a state-of-the-art video studio was built in 2014. The studio allows for the professional production of course video lectures by the institution’s academic faculty to meet the rising demands of online education. In 2015, Luther Rice launched Project FOCUS, the school’s original free theological web series designed for the Christian lay community. Currently, there are four non-credit courses available with nearly 900 people registered. For details about this program, visit the website projectfocus.education.
"In 2017, Luther Rice Seminary continues to operate on the cutting edge by offering a theologically-sound, biblical, flexible, and technologically-advanced education. If you are juggling life, work, ministry, and family, our institution is designed for your educational success. All campus buildings and property are debt free, allowing the institution to make strategic and timely adjustments as necessary to meet student’s needs. We work hard every day to continually improve our programs," states Dr. Flanagan.
|Dr. Flanagan, president, with Dr. Ron Long and Dr. Robert Williams.|
|Luther Rice's campus on a sunny spring day in Stonecrest, Georgia.|