Baptists Laud Fowler for 50 Years at Seminary

By Witham, Larry | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 8, 1997 | Go to article overview

Baptists Laud Fowler for 50 Years at Seminary


Witham, Larry, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Year after year, students graduate from the Washington Baptist Seminary, becoming the pastors, evangelists and missionaries of black congregations here and overseas.

Begun in 1926, and housed since 1940 in an old three-story mansion on 13th Street NW, the seminary has struggled and seen change. Yet one part of school life stayed the same: the Rev. Andrew Fowler.

One night this week, alumni, students and Baptist leaders by the hundreds gathered at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church - chapel to the seminary - to honor Mr. Fowler, president since 1970, for 50 years as a professor.

"God has used him to touch the souls of men," said the Rev. James H. Jones, among the 20 speakers giving "felicitations." Like a river mentioned in the Bible, he said, Mr. Fowler "has touched many he didn't know he touched."

To have such an effect, Mr. Fowler, now 86, was not necessarily a soft touch either.

The Rev. T.J. Henderson recalled his first day as a seminarian in 1980, called by God but not sure which way to go. "He left an impression on me the very first day," Mr. Henderson said of the professor. "He told me, `You will not like Reverend Fowler.' "

Then the new student had dreams in which the tall Mr. Fowler stood by his bed, saying, "Get up, Henderson. Let's go."

With such firmness and commitment, the school went forward, and the result was evident at the program as graduates from 32 different classes, going back to 1947, stood to be counted.

With about 1,000 graduates in its history, the seminary this year has 46 students enrolled. A longtime goal of the seminary is to buy a new facility, and Mr. Fowler reports that the fund is now at $800,000. "Before I die, I'm going to make that a million and we'll have a new building," he said in an interview afterward.

Or, as the Rev. C.H. Johnson, moderator of the Potomac River Baptist Association and alumni president, put it in an oration: "We won't turn back now; we've come this far. …

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