WINSTON-SALEM — The founding dean of the Wake Forest University Divinity School is stepping down next year, school officials announced March 5.
Bill Leonard will retire from that post June 30, 2010. He will continue to teach full-time as professor of church history and Baptist studies in the divinity school and professor of religion in the university's religion department. Wake Forest, founded by North Carolina Baptists in 1834 in the town of Wake Forest, is one of the most historic Baptist universities in the world.
Leonard turns 63 March 20, said the university has established a standard tenure of 10 years for deans. It has been 14 years since he came to Wake Forest, and next year will be the 10th year since the divinity school held its first classes in the fall of 1999.
As founding dean, Leonard recruited the divinity school's first faculty. The school now claims 12 professors and 104 students. A total of 163 students have graduated from Wake Forest Divinity School, which has no formal denominational affiliation.
Leonard is a graduate of Texas Wesleyan College and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His Ph.D., from Boston University, is in American religion with an emphasis on revivalism.
He taught church history at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1975 until 1991. He left to join Samford University in 1992 as religion professor and department chair before coming to Wake Forest in 1996.
Leonard has been interim pastor of churches in several states. He has written or edited 16 books, including God's Last and Only Hope: The Fragmentation of the SBC in 1990; Baptist Ways: A History in 2003; Baptists in America in 2005 and Baptist Questions, Baptist Answers in 2009.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)