January 2023 News Perspective Online Top Story

Farewell to Dean Hill

In honor of Dean Craig C. Hill’s retirement at the end of 2022, there’s a new addition to the portrait gallery in Kirby Hall Parlor at Perkins. A portrait of Dean Hill by artist James Tennison was unveiled at the Dean’s Christmas and Retirement Party on December 6.

Hill, the Leighton K. Farrell Endowed Dean and Professor of New Testament, announced in June 2022 that he would retire as dean December 31, 2022 due to medical reasons. He will remain a member of the Perkins faculty until December 31, 2023. Bishop Michael McKee became dean of Perkins ad interim effective January 1, 2023, and will serve until a permanent dean has been named.  Bishop McKee served as episcopal leader of the North Texas Annual Conference from 2012 until his retirement from that position on January 1, 2023.

The portrait was made possible through the donations of members of the Perkins Executive Board, faculty and staff.  Tennison’s portrait commissions have taken him across the United States and to England. His works include the official portraits of former Texas governors Rick Perry and Ann Richards, which hang in the State Capitol in Austin, portraits for the National Institutes of Health, Harvard University, Texas Christian University, Texas Instruments and Frito Lay, as well as many portraits for families. This is the second painting that he completed for Perkins – he painted the portrait of Dean William Lawrence when he retired in 2016 – and one of several that grace that SMU campus. He also painted portraits of James Zumberge, SMU’s seventh president from 1975 – 1980; L. Donald Shields, president from 1980 – 1986; and Kenneth Pye, SMU’s president from 1987-1994, as well as portraits of SMU donors Mr. & Mrs. David Miller and of Jerry Junkins, former Texas Instruments CEO and SMU trustee.

Tennison traveled from his home in Whidbey Island, Wash., to Dallas to meet with Dean Hill in his office last year before beginning the portrait.

“I like to discuss the client’s expectations and how they would like it to look,” Tennison said. “It helps me to meet the person, to get to know them and learn more about them, and to see their gestures and natural poses. All of that informs the portrait.”

Tennison took many photographs during his visit.

“I’ve learned that people sort of pose themselves better than I can,” he said.

Noting that the painting would be added to the gallery of past Perkins deans in Kirby Hall, Tennison aimed to make his portrait consistent in terms of size and proportion. His impression of Dean Hill, he said, was of a very kind person, and “I just hope that that came through in his portrait.”

Confirmation that he captured his subject came from Dean Hill’s wife, Robin, who had a chance to review the portrait, and approved.

January 2023 News Perspective Online

Interim Dean at Perkins

Bishop Michael McKee (M.Th. ‘78) did not languish in retirement for even a moment. On Jan. 1, he retired as episcopal leader of the North Texas Annual Conference, and on the same day, became dean ad interim of Perkins School of Theology. He will serve until a permanent dean has been named.

McKee steps into the deanship following Dean Craig C. Hill’s planned retirement as dean on Dec. 31, 2022. The announcement of McKee’s interim position was made Aug. 10 by Elizabeth G. Loboa, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs for Southern Methodist University.

McKee had served as Bishop of North Texas since his election by the South Central Jurisdiction in 2012. He was also a member of SMU’s Board of Trustees, but is stepping down during his interim deanship.

McKee said that he looked forward to returning to campus and giving back to his alma mater.

“In many ways, the person I’ve become, I owe to the theological education I got at Perkins,” he said. “I want other people to have that kind of experience.”

Before the announcement of Hill’s retirement, McKee had been appointed to serve as Bishop in Residence at Perkins. He has actively participated in Perkins’ Internship Program, mentoring nearly a dozen students over the years. A few years ago, he was honored for having mentored more students than any other mentor pastor.

“Even then, at the age of 50, serving as a mentor was formative for me,” he said. “It helped me realize that you must be a lifelong learner to be a leader in the church. And that the church is so privileged to have a theological institution like Perkins in its midst.”

January 2023 News Perspective Online

Student Spotlight: Eno Afon

Eno Afon had heard of Perkins long before she relocated to the U.S. from Nigeria. When she landed in the Dallas area, enrolling at Perkins for her seminary education was an easy decision.

“There were so many attractive things about Perkins,” she said. “Perkins is endowed with a lot of prestigious professors, and the academic program and the internship program are both excellent.”

Now, as a first-year M.Div. student at Perkins, Afon also appreciates the flexibility that Perkins. She’s interested in youth ministry.

“With my training in Perkins, I’m not restricted to the pulpit,” she said. “Everyone is gifted differently. My interest is in helping youth, especially those affected by addiction, all kinds of addiction. I’m concerned about the over-dependence on technological gadgets. That’s a major source of destruction for the youth. I want to see if there’s a way I can help.”

Afon manages to juggle her full-time studies along with an already busy schedule. She is a licensed local pastor, serving at Wesley United Methodist Church, a predominantly African congregation in Arlington, Texas, where she’s an active volunteer, a member of the choir and assistant to the pastor.

A wife and mother, Afon also works full-time at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth as a patient safety assistant. At Perkins, she’s active in the International Students group; recently, she volunteered with the group at Genesis Women’s Shelter and visited the Stockyards in Fort Worth.  She also volunteers when she can at Mission Arlington as a counselor.

“All this has been a challenge,” she said. “I would love to do more.  The ministry is wide, so the giftedness is much, so I try to, as much as fitting where I know I can fit in.”

Afon is a lifelong Methodist. In Nigeria, she attended the Methodist Institute of Theology.

How does she stay grounded throughout all this? “Praise, prayer and studying the word of God,” Afon replies.

“When I wake up in the morning, because I get out of bed, I’m doing my prayers,” she said. “I read a daily devotion, usually one by Charles Stanley of In Touch Ministries.”

Every Wednesday, Afon partakes in fasting. “This is a self-discipline that helps me seek the face of God and to be able to intercede for others,” she said. “As a prayer leader in my church, this helps me when other people bring their problems to me. We take it to the Lord together in prayer.”

Her favorite Bible verse is John 8:32: “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (NRSVUE)

“The truth does not change,” she said. “Even if you cover the truth, eventually it comes out. Jesus Christ is the truth. Stick to the truth, so you don’t have anything to fear. That passage keeps me going, keeps me focused, keeps me on the journey of my faith.”

Dreams also factor heavily in Afon’s spiritual life; a dream played a pivotal role in her call story.

Years ago, when she was working as a flight attendant for Bellview Airlines in Nigeria, she had a dream about an aircraft in trouble. She prayed over and over the dream. On October 21, 2005, Afon completed her shift; the next day, the same aircraft crashed on October 22. The Boeing 737-200 airliner nose-dived at high speed just a few minutes after take-off, killing all 117 people on board.

“Before, I had been careless in spiritual life,” she said. “I went into things I’m not supposed to do. That experience led me to stay focused on my journey with Christ. It brought me back to the way that God has a purpose for my life.”

When she’s not busy with school, work, family or church, Afon loves to cook. She loves making two Nigerian specialties: eba, a staple made from fried grated cassava flour, and egusi, a melon soup made with meat and seafood as well as akara (bean fritters), mushrooms, and greens.

“The most joyous hobby I have is feeding people with good food,” she said.

January 2023 News Perspective Online

Faculty/Staff News

Obituary: Kenneth Hart

Kenneth Hart, Professor Emeritus of Sacred Music at Perkins and former Director of the Sacred Music program from 1987 to 2005, passed away December 27. After serving in the U.S. Air Force, he earned a Master of Sacred Music at Union Seminary in New York. Hart wrote and published the 2014 volume titled A day for dancing: the life and music of Lloyd Pfautsch.  A memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to Perkins School of Theology or to another charity of one’s choice. Read his obituary here.

Obituary: Roger L. Loyd

Roger L. Loyd (M.Th. ’71) former Associate Librarian of Bridwell, recently passed away. From 1980-1992, he served as the Associate Librarian at Bridwell Library, including a stint as Acting Director from 1985 to 1987. Along with Lewis Howard Grimes, he was one of the editors and authors of A History of the Perkins School of Theology. Loyd went on to serve as Director of Duke Divinity Library from 1992 until his retirement in 2012. He was active in Atla (formerly the American Theological Library Association), the Theological Book Network, and housing ministries through Duke Memorial UMC in Durham, N.Car. Memorial services will be held on Saturday, January 14. Read Loyd’s obituary here; a livestream link for the memorial is forthcoming. 



January 2023 News Perspective Online

Alumni/ae Updates: January 2023

Anthony Everett to Lead Siloam Project

Anthony Everett (M.Div. ’08) was recently appointed to the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky (BSK) staff as coordinator of the school’s Siloam Project, effective Dec. 15. Everett is a human rights advocate, public theologian and congregational coach/consultant. Previously he served as executive director of Mission Behind Bars and Beyond, a Louisville, Ky.-based organization that advocates for formerly incarcerated individuals as they seek to build a new life beyond prison walls. At BSK, he will provide leadership for an initiative to accelerate the seminary’s congregation-centered approach to theological education. Funded by a nearly $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, the Siloam Project also will develop a network of “learning churches,” which will inform and help shape BSK’s approach to contextual theological education. Read a Baptist News Global story on Everett’s new appointment here.

Remembering E.P. Sanders

The influential New Testament scholar E. P. Sanders (M.Th. ’62), who devoted his career to promoting more accurate and sympathetic understandings of early Judaism, died November 21 at age 85 in Durham, North Carolina. While studying at Perkins, he was encouraged by William R. Farmer (then the senior New Testament scholar at Perkins) to study Hebrew abroad. Contributions from a Methodist church and a synagogue, Temple Emanu-el in Dallas, allowed Sanders to study in Israel.  “I felt overwhelmed by their generosity, and I especially vowed that the gift from Temple Emanu-el would not be in vain,” he later wrote. From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, Sanders published a series of books, including “Paul and Palestinian Judaism,” “Jesus and Judaism” and “Judaism: Practice and Belief 63 BCE–66 A.D.,” exploring the relationship between early Judaism and early Christianity.

“In his work and personally he forcefully called on fellow scholars to reject caricatures of Judaism and to immerse themselves more deeply in ancient Jewish sources,” wrote Mark A. Chancey, professor of religious studies in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences at Southern Methodist University, in a Religion News Service opinion piece. “Few … would question the impact of his demand that representations of Jews and Judaism be fair and accurate and not grounded in negative stereotypes. Especially at a time when antisemitism in America and elsewhere is on the rise, his presence will be sorely missed.” Click here to read Chancey’s tribute to Sanders.

Obituary: The Rev. Dr. Randy Mays Fitzgerald

The Rev. Dr. Randy Mays Fitzgerald (M.Th. ‘76) passed away on December 21 at age 70. Services were held December 26 in Palestine, Texas, with the Rev. Ken McEachern officiating. Fitzgerald started preaching at 18 years old and pastored numerous United Methodist churches in the East Texas area. He is survived by his wife Karen; and family: Jack & Lauren Dunaway, Liberty and Finley; Jamie & Bryan Duke, Rylan, Kinley and Jameson; Tiffany Gulledge, Peyton and Preslie. In lieu of flowers the family asks that memorial gifts be made to Samaritan’s Purse, P. O. Box 3000, Boone, NC 28607. Read the obituary here.

 Obituary: The Rev. Michael Head

The Rev. Michael “Michi” Thomas Head (M.Div. ‘90) of Geismar, La., died December 22 at age 62. He was serving as senior pastor at New Life Community United Methodist Church in Luling, La., at the time of his death. Previously, he was senior pastor at Jefferson UMC in Baton Rouge and Maguire UMC in West Munroe. He also served the United Methodist Foundation of Louisiana in various roles since 2012, most recently as the Chairman of the Board. A funeral was held at Jefferson United Methodist Church on December 28.  Read the obituary here.

Obituary: The Rev. Carr Dee Racop, Jr.

The Rev. Carr Dee Racop, Jr. (M.Th. ‘58) passed away on December 22 at the age of 91 in Plano, Texas. During his career as a minister, Racop was appointed to several United Methodist churches, including one in College Mound, Texas, and several in Arkansas including Bearden, Sheridan, Gurdon, Portland, Ashdown, Sherill and Little Rock. He also spent several summers leading Camp Tanako in Hot Springs, Ark. During his career in ministry, Racop was passionate about youth ministry and advocated for change regarding social issues, including civil rights. After he retired from the ministry in 1997, he held positions in Arkansas state government and with H&R Block. A memorial service will be held on January 14 at Trinity United Methodist Church in Little Rock. Read his obituary here.