category: Faculty Emeriti - In Honor Of

Alice Rae Cullinan

Professor Emerita of Religion

Alice Rae Cullinan

Dr. Alice Rae Cullinan was born to James and Elizabeth Cullinan
 in Richmond, Va., in 1939.
 She spent her childhood in
 Richmond until age 12, when
 her father was transferred
 to Middletown, Ky., a small 
town near Louisville. Her dad
 purchased a small farm, and 
the city slickers-turned-farmers 
enjoyed trying their hand at
 raising chickens, rabbits, ducks,
 a pig, and several dogs. Cullinan graduated in 1953
 from Eastern High School in Middletown. That year her father was transferred back to Richmond, so once again the family became city dwellers.

As a high school senior, Cullinan was offered several scholarships; however, she decided to work before making her final decision about where to attend college. This turned out to be one of the wisest decisions of her life, since it was during this year while she was working at Miller Manufacturing Company as a payroll clerk, that she met Irene Coalter, the company nurse. Coalter introduced Cullinan to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Although Cullinan and her family had been active church members, she knew that there was something vital missing from her life. She found that missing piece when she invited Jesus into her heart to be Lord and Savior of her life. She began her university studies in the fall of 1959 at the University of Richmond, but when she felt a call to full-time ministry that year, she transferred to a small Baptist School, Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn. She graduated in 1963 with a major in psychology and minors in music and Bible.

In the fall of 1963, Cullinan headed across country to Ft. Worth, Texas, to attend Southwestern Seminary. She graduated in 1965 with a master’s degree in religious education, with minors in music and Bible. Her next stop would take her to Triangle Baptist Church, where she served until 1970 as minister of music, education, and youth. It was during this ministry that Cullinan felt the call of God to become a teacher. She headed back across the country to Southwestern, where she earned a Ph.D. in marriage and family counseling, with minors in education administration and principles of teaching. While completing her dissertation, she worked as a consultant in the Department of Teaching/Training at the Virginia Baptist General Board in Richmond, Va., from 1973- 1974. During that year, she was contacted by the religion department at Gardner-Webb University and invited to become a faculty member in the department. She began her work as professor of religion and religious education in 1974 and served in this capacity until her retirement in 2004, when she was awarded faculty emerita status.

Alice Rae Cullinan, third from left, listens with other faculty members during a meeting.

Cullinan received many awards during her tenure at GWU. Among them are the Fleming-White Excellence in Teaching Award and becoming a faculty marshal. She served on numerous committees while at GWU and was chair of the Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy for eight years. She was also elected vice chair of the faculty in 1994.

Cullinan has remained faithful to the local church, serving in various positions. During her tenure at GWU, she served as a bi-vocational minister of music and/or education at many area churches, including Zoar Baptist, Shelby, N.C.; Parkwood Baptist, Gastonia, N.C.; Mt. Sinai Baptist, Shelby; Fairforest Baptist, Union, S.C.; and First Baptist, Stanley, N.C.

Cullinan decided it would be advantageous to serve in a local church as a laywoman instead of a staff member, so she taught Sunday school and other Bible conferences at Beaver Dam Baptist Church in Shelby from 1993-2004. After her retirement she felt another call from God to help the churches, and so she became active in leading church retreats, Bible conferences, etc. In 2005, Cullinan was invited to serve part time as spiritual enrichment/Christian education leader for the Greater Cleveland County Baptist Association. Her responsibilities included assisting over 80 member churches in areas of spiritual enrichment, growth in Bible Study, and other aspects of Christian Education. She also leads conferences, workshops, Bible classes, and retreats in churches throughout the Southeast.

Cullinan has written numerous books including those with international translations. Her works are used in church settings, pastoral studies and within college and seminary classrooms. Cullinan has also published numerous articles in various Christian publications, in addition to writing a series of devotionals. Cullinan is also the co-founder of Lamplighter Ministries. She also provides daily devotionals via social media and by e-subscription.  

In addition to her writing and teaching, she has been on numerous community boards and committees. However, her ministry extends beyond the borders of Cleveland County via email and the Internet. She counsels and encourages former students who often write to her for advice.

“I have found a great deal of joy being in the center of God’s will, both at Gardner-Webb and in the churches where I have served,” Cullinan reports. “There could have been no greater place for me to be planted in God’s Kingdom than right where He has put me. It brings me much joy and personal satisfaction to see my former students serving the Lord faithfully in places of ministry throughout the world.”

Source: Personal Interview—Sarah Fletcher

Updated: August 2014—Alice Cullinan

Updated: May 2022 – Noel T. Manning II

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