Southern Nazarene University inaugurated J. Keith Newman as the university's 15th president 9 November with a host of esteemed guests and honorees present for the historic ceremony.
Newman, who assumed office 1 August, was elected president by the university’s Board of Trustees in March of this year. His election resulted from the retirement of Loren P. Gresham, who served as president for 28 years and is the longest-serving president in the history of the university.
In a ceremony rich with symbolism, Newman’s emphasis on student engagement was made evident by their participation in key areas throughout the service. President Emeritus Gresham delivered the inaugural address, entitled “Keeping Faith With Our Founders,” and the ceremony of investiture featured a special presentation by Church of the Nazarene Education Commissioner Dan Copp and a dedicatory prayer by General Superintendent Gustavo A. Crocker.
In his presidential response, Newman spoke about the history and nature of the university’s motto: Character – Culture – Christ. He called for a continuation of the vision and mission of Refining Character, Creating Culture, and Serving Christ. He then challenged the university to be a community that answers the invitation of Jesus, who said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all,” Mark 9:35. He concluded that "live last" is what Jesus was calling us to do, and said, “My commitment to you as president is to choose to 'live last,' and I invite the SNU community to join me on this journey.”
Prior to his election, Newman served Indiana Wesleyan University as chancellor of IWU-Marion. His initial assignment at IWU was vice president for University Relations. Newman earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Houston Baptist University, a Masters of Ministry from SNU, and a Doctorate of Education from Spalding University with a concentration in leadership.
Newman previously served as vice president for University Relations at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, which followed 17 years in pastoral ministry in Arkansas, Texas, and California. He was ordained as an elder in the Church of the Nazarene in 1989 on the North Arkansas District. He and his wife, Carolyn, have two adult children and a granddaughter.