category: Faculty Emeriti - Presidents

Frank R. Campbell

Eleventh President, 2002-2005

Dr. Frank R. Campbell (1936-2016) was not a stranger to the life of Baptist colleges when he was called upon to lead Gardner-Webb University for a three-year period beginning in the fall of 2002. Campbell spent much of his life following the call of God through university settings, pastorships, Baptist life, and educational leadership throughout North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

After receiving his Bachelor
 of Arts degree from Carson-
Newman College (Jefferson
 City, Tenn.), Campbell
 continued his education by 
earning a Bachelor of Divinity
 degree, a Master of Divinity
 degree, a Master of Theology degree, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. He also received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Wake Forest University (Winston Salem, N.C.) and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Kyungnam University, Masan, Korea. He concentrated much of his study in the field of Christian ethics.

Campbell served as pastor of a Baptist church in Newport, Tenn., while completing his college studies at Carson Newman and prior to becoming a pastor in North Carolina. In North Carolina he served as pastor of churches in Oxford, Raleigh, and Statesville. He became the pastor of the Statesville Baptist Church in 1966. During a 19-year tenure in Statesville, he served in a variety of capacities for the Baptist State Convention, including two terms as president of the Convention and three terms as president of the Council on Christian Higher Education. During his service to the Council, he worked closely with the presidents of the state’s Baptist colleges. It was during that time that he first considered the role of pursuing a college presidency.

In January of 1985, the Averett University vice president for administration, and a former Wake Forest classmate, Rodney Beals, invited Campbell to the University to interview for the presidential post. Campbell was selected and took the position of Averett University president in August 1985.

During his tenure as president, Averett achieved University status, raised nearly $50 million, and increased the endowment from $240,000 to nearly $26 million. The Grousbec Music Building, the Equestrian Center, the North Campus, the Averett Commons Apartments, and a football facility were all constructed.

Other accomplishments under his leadership included the introduction of the Graduate and Professional Studies Program; the addition of the Master of Arts in Teaching degree and the Master of Education degree; the expansion of the athletic programs to include baseball, football, and women’s soccer; Frith Hall was completed with the elimination of the debt of the building; Prichett Auditorium was remodeled and air-conditioned; every building on campus was remodeled at least once; the campus was expanded from 19 acres to 204 acres; the campus completed two re-accreditations; and a partnership was forged with Virginia Technical Institute and Danville Community College for the creation of the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.

He served as president of Averett for 17 years before retiring in the spring of 2002; however, his retirement was short-lived. In October 2002, after the resignation of former Gardner-Webb University President Dr. Chris White, Campbell was called on to lead the University through an interim period while the Board of Trustees organized a plan to determine who would be the next long-term appointment to the GWU presidency.

Campbell’s three-year stay with Gardner-Webb is noted as one of the most important in the 100 years of the institution. His duty was as much that of a statesman as that of chief executive officer. An eloquent communicator, he drew together a university community that was in need of cohesiveness. Working with the trustees, administration, faculty, staff, students, and alumni, he immediately set about calling groups together to focus on the main purpose of the Institution: the Christian higher education of its students. In 2003, Campbell was recognized with the Spirit of Freedom Award from The Shelby Star, for his commitment to collaboration and cooperation to the community.

This tenure was not without its tangible results as well. An ambitious five-year plan was set by the University’s Board of Trustees to embark upon many physical improvements to the campus, including major renovations and construction of new academic facilities; a stadium complex, which was completed; and additional student housing. Further, Campbell led the University through a time of adhering to new National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) standards for the GWU athletics program. Internal programs and policies were created in conjunction with NCAA mandates to better establish Gardner-Webb’s operation as an NCAA Division I institution.

In 2005, the Dr. and Mrs. Frank R. Campbell Christian Service Organization Endowed Scholarship Fund was created to provide support for Gardner-Webb students with financial need who dedicate themselves to studying Christian ministry.

Campbell brought vision and leadership to a campus in transition. At the same time, he actively built upon 100 years of excellence in education by strengthening community relationships, increasing enrollment, forging new development prospects, and instilling a renewed confidence in Gardner- Webb as a leader in Christian Higher Education.

Following his service at Gardner-Webb, Campbell returned home to Danville, Va., to retire and play golf. However, his retirement was again short. In 2006 he was named executive director of the Stratford House Retirement Community, a subsidiary of the Danville Regional Health System. Campbell took the position, and the organization added new facilities and experienced growth during his tenure. He left that post in 2013.

In 2008, Campbell was named Citizen of the Year by the Danville Kiwanis Club. Campbell was inducted into the Averett University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011, in recognition of his leadership in the growth of the athletic programs during his presidency.

Campbell also provided counsel for the Averett University President’s Office, and he assisted with special projects, with goals to add more faculty members and secure additional funding.

Campbell was honored in fall 2014 as Averett named its new football stadium for the former university president.

Sources: Personal interviews, University files, Doris Banner (1st edition)

Updated 2014: Glenda Crotts, Averett University

Updated 2022: Noel T. Manning II

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