news-category: Christian Service

Tracy Jessup Retires as GWU Senior Minister and Vice President of Christian Life and Service

Tracy Jessup leads in prayer at the University's Veteran's Day Service in 2021
Tracy Jessup leads in prayer at the 2021 Veteran's Day Service.

‘For 30 Years, It Has Been my Honor and Privilege to Serve my Alma Mater’

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—In 1985, Tracy Jessup arrived at Gardner-Webb University as a freshman music education major. Except for a brief time away to earn his Master of Divinity, Jessup has served the GWU campus and community for 30 years. He retires on July 31 as vice president for Christian Life and Service and senior minister to the University.

“Not only is my professional career and ministry tied to this place, but so much of the fabric of my personal life is interwoven with Gardner-Webb,” Jessup reflected. “I met my wife, Teresa, on Aug. 19, 1985—my freshman year. Four years later, we were married and celebrated 33 years of marriage on June 24. We have loved raising our children in the town of Boiling Springs and in the shadow of our alma mater. Our son and daughter-in-law are proud graduates of GWU, and it was such a joy to witness many special moments in their educational journey.”

Jessup, a native of Mount Airy, N.C., is the first member of his family to have the opportunity to attend college. He learned about Gardner-Webb from his high school guidance counselor. Based on her recommendation, Jessup and his family came for a visit. After touring the campus, his parents paid the enrollment deposit that day. “We knew this was where God wanted us to be,” Jessup affirmed.

Upon receiving his Bachelor of Arts in music education in 1989, Jessup was hired as assistant to the president. The job inspired his passion for and calling to Christian Higher Education. He earned his M.Div. in pastoral studies in 1994 from Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala., and was invited back to Gardner-Webb to serve as the first full-time director of admissions for the School of Divinity. “Two years later there was a vacancy in the leadership of Campus Ministries and for 26 years, I have been blessed to be the Senior Minister to the University,” Jessup related.

He received his Ph.D. in higher education/higher education administration in 2008 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. When the Office of Christian Life and Service was established at GWU in 2010, Jessup began serving as its vice president. In addition to serving as a member of the President’s Cabinet, his ministry offers guidance and leadership in planning opportunities which foster spiritual growth in a Christian college environment.  Jessup also provides pastoral care to students, faculty and staff.

In addition to his ministry at Gardner-Webb, Jessup enjoys serving the local church through interim pastorates and pulpit supply. Since March 2021, he has served as interim pastor of Florence Baptist Church in Forest City, N.C. He is a member of Westview Baptist Church in Shelby where he assists his wife, Teresa, with the music and worship leadership. Teresa received her ADN and BSN from the Hunt School of Nursing. Their son, Christian, graduated from Gardner-Webb with a double major in music composition and communication studies. He and his wife, Megan, also a graduate of GWU with a degree in elementary education, live in Raleigh, N.C. Their daughter, Anna, is a rising senior at Appalachian State University, where she is majoring in elementary education.

“For 30 years, it has been my honor and privilege to serve my Alma Mater,” Jessup shared. “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with Gardner-Webb University.”

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to six professional schools, 14 academic departments, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at Gardner-Webb.edu.

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