By Bob Allen
Mercer University trustees approved McAfee School of Theology’s first doctor of philosophy degree program during their semi-annual board meeting Nov. 8 in Macon, Ga.
The Ph.D. in religion with a focus on Baptist studies will be interdepartmental, engaging faculty from across the university and partnering with Mercer’s Eula Mae and John Baugh Center for Baptist Leadership. Graduates are expected to become pastor-scholars, teachers in universities and seminaries and leaders in denominational and ministry organizations.
It is the seventh Ph.D. offered by Mercer, an 8,200-student school founded by Baptists in the early 19th century. McAfee, a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship partner established in 1994, currently offers the master of divinity, master-of-arts in Christian ministry and doctor of ministry, along with dual degrees combining the M.Div. with masters in business administration, counseling and leadership of nonprofit organizations.
Ten new trustees joined the board for the fall meeting, including former President Jimmy Carter. Carter, who sits on just one other board, the Carter Center in Atlanta, told reporters he was initially reluctant to take the position because he has never served at Mercer in any capacity.
Because he has worked with Mercer President Bill Underwood on projects including the New Baptist Covenant, understands and shares Underwood’s religious values and is very familiar with the institution, Carter said he “was willing to take a chance.”
“Anything (Underwood) wants me to contribute, I’m glad to,” Carter said, according to the Macon Telegraph. “I’m just going to offer my services to President Underwood in any way that I can.”
Underwood said the 39th U.S. president and Nobel Prize winner brings the kind of experience, good judgment and desire to move the school forward that he looks for in any trustee.
“President Carter certainly has a wealth of experience,” Underwood said. “So it’s a great honor for our institution to have someone of his stature.”
Carter, 88, suggested that one thing he can contribute to Mercer is his international connections and ability to communicate with leaders around the world.