History of Dallas Theological Seminary

This is based on a Spring 2005 exhibit: "Celebrating 80 Years: Highlights from the History of Dallas Theological Seminary, 1924-2004". A related chronology of events is here.

Lewis Sperry Chafer

Lewis Sperry Chafer. Click for enlarged image.

Lewis Sperry Chafer, ca 1929

Lewis Sperry Chafer founded Dallas Theological Seminary and served as president from its opening in 1924 until his death in 1952.

Chafer was born in February 1871 in Ohio. He studied music at Oberlin College and Conservatory, and during college started his ministry as a music director with traveling evangelists. Chafer later studied the Bible under C. I. Scofield at the Northfield Bible Training School. Over the years Chafer served as a pastor, evangelist, and Bible conference teacher.

Chafer's Hat. Click for enlarged image.

L. S. Chafer's Hat

In his travels, he became aware that the curriculum offered in many seminaries failed to adequately prepare pastors, and he became convinced of the need for a school which offered thorough Biblical instruction. After consultation and prayer with other conservative evangelical leaders (including William Henry Griffith Thomas and Alexander B. Winchester) Chafer started planning a school with a Bible centered program.

Developing Curriculum

First Annual Announcement. Click for enlarged image.

First Annual Announcement, 1924

A brochure entitled First Annual Announcement, 1924-1925 stated that the curriculum was to include "the usual courses of proved value together with that comprehensive and intensive training in the Scriptures which is an essential requirement for spiritual power and the faithful presentation of God's revelation." This brochure appears to be the precursor to the official seminary catalog.

First Class

Original Faculty and First Students. Click for enlarged image.

Original Faculty and Students, 1924

The original students and faculty are shown in front of the first location of the school. The seminary, originally named The Evangelical Theological College, held its first classes in the fall of 1924. Thirteen students were enrolled in the first semester. The campus was located in a rented apartment house at 1519 Hughes Circle in Dallas for two years.

In a letter written to A. C. Gaebelein on September 30, 1924, Chafer described this first class as having "been selected from more than a hundred with whom we have had correspondence. But we have not cared to take everyone who thought he would like to attend. This is a fine group of well-selected men." In addition, the carefully chosen faculty was composed of three resident professors and six visiting lecturers.

Shown seated left to right; Frank V. Lange, member of the Board of Trustees; William M. Anderson, Jr., resident faculty and Vice-President; Lewis S. Chafer; A. B. Winchester, visiting faculty; and Antonio H. Perpetuo, resident faculty. The students, standing left to right: Earl F. Morgan, Arthur L. Zieten, Thomas Holloway, Fred H. Leach, Paul F. Bobb, Clarence E. Mason, John Mitchell, George Fischer, John Berg, L. C. Hardie, unidentified, and Roy L. Aldrich.

First Library Book

First Book in Library. Click for enlarged image.

First Book in Library, 1924

Volume 1 of The Analysed Bible was the first book added to the seminary library in 1924. The book was from the library of William H. Griffith Thomas. Griffith Thomas, an internationally respected theologian, had helped L. S. Chafer develop plans for the new seminary and intended to teach at the school, but died a few months before it opened. Griffith Thomas' widow sold her husband's books to the school to start the library. William Nairn of Dundee, Scotland generously donated 800 pounds (about $3,692 US dollars at the time) to purchase the approximately forty-five hundred books.

First Commencement

Original Faculty and First Students. Click for enlarged image.

First Commencement Program, 1927

The commencement ceremonies for the first class were held at First Presbyterian Church on May 10, 1927. The original degree program required three years to complete. (The four year curriculum was initiated in 1935.)

The commencement program outlines the many activities planned, including the W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectures the week preceding graduation ceremonies.

Original Faculty and First Students. Click for enlarged image.

First Graduating Class, 1927

Pictured in the front row, from left to right, are Professors Fred Z. Browne, Rollin T. Chafer, Antonio H. Perpetuo, President L. S. Chafer, Baccalaureate preacher Dr. Leander S. Keyser of Hamma Divinity School, Dr. William M. Anderson, Dr. James T. Spangler, and Professors George E. Guille and Henry A. Ironside. The members of the graduating class are directly behind the faculty and the undergraduates and members of the Board are on the back rows.

Campus Beginnings

Davidson Hall. Click for enlarged image.

Davidson Hall, 1928

Davidson Hall, completed in January 1928, was the first permanent building on campus. It contained the classrooms, administrative offices, and library. A. H. Davidson, a member of the Board of Trustees, donated all of the funds necessary to construct and furnish the building. Mr. Davidson preferred to remain anonymous, but finally agreed in 1931 to allow the building to be named in honor of his mother.

(The school had moved to the Gaston estate at the corner of Swiss Avenue and St. Joseph Street in the summer of 1926. The existing home on the property housed the school until Davidson Hall was built.)

The second permanent building was D. M. Stearns Memorial Hall, completed in 1929. It provided necessary dormitory space.

Early DTS Library

Library in Davidson Hall. Click for enlarged image.

Library in Davidson Hall, ca 1930

After Davidson was built, the library was located on the third floor, where the Business Office is now.

Stories of God's Provision

"Empty Racks" Brochure. Click for enlarged image.

"Empty Racks" Brochure, ca 1931

Written circa 1931, "Empty Racks and How to Fill Them" recounts several occasions when God provided for the needs of the fledgling seminary. Mrs. Howard (Geraldine) Taylor, a missionary with the China Inland Mission and an author, volunteered to write it while visiting in the United States. The seminary has reprinted the booklet at least twice, and copies can be checked out from the library. (A photocopy is displayed.)

World Vision

Foreign Students in 1931. Click for enlarged image.

Foreign Students in 1931

In 1931, the Evangelical Theological College Bulletin listed 14 international students from 8 countries: Canada, Korea, Ireland, Australia, England, Scotland, the Philippine Islands, and Germany. The Bulletin listed a total of 94 students, and the U.S. students came from at least 19 different states. (In the fall of 2004, the Registrar's Office reported a total of 1,877 students from 55 countries and 48 states.)

Shown from left to right: Juan Delmendo, Lorne H. Belden, Elmer H. Henderson, Fritz Schwartz, C. Stacey Woods, Paul G. Guiness, Tom Van Puffelen, Stuart Law, and Angus M. Ross.

Bibliotheca Sacra

Bib Sac, 1934. Click for enlarged image.

First Issue of "Bib Sac"
published by DTS, 1934

In 1933 the Evangelical Theological College acquired the respected journal Bibliotheca Sacra, and began publishing it in 1934. The quarterly provided a literary voice for the school. Rollin T. Chafer served as the editor and stated "It is the purpose of the new owners to maintain the dignity of this time-honored quarterly, and make it the organ of a positive testimony related to all phases of the truth revealed in the Word -- the whole counsel of our God." Bibliotheca Sacra is still published at Dallas Theological Seminary.

The journal originated at Union Theological Seminary in 1843, moved to Andover Theological Seminary in 1844, to Oberlin College in 1884, and to Xenia Seminary in 1922.

Early Diploma

Diploma, 1935. Click for enlarged image.

Diploma, 1935

This 1935 diploma earned by Carl George Torges is an example of a diploma presented by the Evangelical Theological College.

New Name: Dallas Theological Seminary

Sign Bearing Name Dallas Theological Seminary. Click for enlarged image.

Sign Bearing New Name

The school was renamed Dallas Theological Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in May 1936. The original name, Evangelical Theological College, had provided some confusion in the United States, where "college" was associated with undergraduate studies. The initial name had been suggested by British theologian Dr. W. H. Griffith Thomas. In England the terms "college" and "seminary" were used interchangeably. This photograph shows a sign circa 1949. The name was officially shortened to Dallas Theological Seminary in 1969.

Dr. Chafer's Systematic Theology

Dr. Chafer's Systematic Theology. Click for enlarged image.

Chafer's Systematic Theology, 1947-48

Dr. Chafer's eight volume Systematic Theology was published in 1947-1948. It was the first systematization of a premillennial, dispensational interpretation of the Scriptures. The actual writing required over ten years. The first edition of 2,500 sets was sold within six months, and a third printing was necessary within two years. This title is still in publication with the eight volumes now published in four, and it is still a textbook at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Chafer Chapel

Chafer Chapel Construction. Click for enlarged image.

Chafer Chapel Construction, 1952

Chafer Chapel Interior. Click for enlarged image.

Chafer Chapel Interior, 1953

Groundbreaking for the Lewis Sperry Chafer Chapel occurred in April 1952. The Bulletin for July-August 1952 shows a picture of the construction. Chafer died August 22, before the chapel was completed. The building was finished in 1953, and the photograph shows the original interior of the chapel. This was the first new construction on campus since 1929. The Chapel interior was renovated circa 1976 and 2004.

Second President

Inauguration of Dr. John F. Walvoord. Click for enlarged image.

Inauguration of Dr. John F. Walvoord, 1953

Dr. John F. Walvoord was elected to serve as the second President by the Board of Incorporate members in October, 1952. Walvoord is shown kneeling during his inauguration ceremony, which was combined with the dedication service for Chafer Chapel on February 6, 1953. Dr. Charles A. Nash is giving the dedicatory prayer at the podium.

Walvoord earned the Th.B. and Th.M. Magna Cum Laude from DTS in 1934, and in 1936 the Th.D. He also completed an M.A. degree in philosophy in 1945 from Texas Christian University. Before becoming president, Walvoord served in many capacities at the seminary: registrar, associate professor of systematic theology, and secretary for faculty meetings. Because of Chafer's declining health, Walvoord was appointed assistant to the president in 1945.

After Chafer's death, some wondered if the school would survive. The fears were unfounded because enrollment increased in 1953 to 281, up from 257 the previous year. When Walvoord retired after thirty-four years as president, the enrollment was 1,647. Dr. Walvoord died in 2002 at the age of 92.

Mosher Library

Transferring Books to New Library. Click for enlarged image.

Transferring Books to Mosher

A "human chain" of students was organized to transfer the books from the library on the third floor of Davidson to the recently completed Mosher Library in December 1959. The story was widely reported by the media.

SACS Accreditation

Letter of Accreditation. Click for enlarged image.

Letter of Accreditation, 1969

Dr. John Walvoord and Dr. Donald Campbell view the letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools granting accreditation to the seminary in 1969.

Todd and Campbell Academic Centers

Construction of Todd and Campbell Buildings. Click for enlarged image.

Construction of Todd
and Campbell Buildings, 1974

Scaffolding surrounds Todd Academic Center in the upper center of the photograph and construction of Campbell Academic Center is visible to the left of it. Todd was completed in 1974 and Campbell was finished in 1975. The buildings were originally designated Academic Center I and II.

Early Women Students

Early Women Students. Click for enlarged image.

Student Directory, 1978

Some of the early women students at Dallas Theological Seminary are pictured in this 1978 directory. Women were first admitted as students in 1975 in the M.A.B.S. program. At that time the M.A.B.S. was only offered in the summer as a three year program, and the first women graduated in 1978. It was 1986 before a woman was admitted to the Th.M. program. By the fall of 2004, 25 percent of the students were women.

Walvoord Student Center

Walvoord Student Center. Click for enlarged image.

Walvoord Student Center

Students enjoyed the lounge in the Walvoord Student Center after it was completed in 1981. The building also provided space for the book store and several offices.

Third President

Inauguration of Dr. Donald K. Campbell. Click for enlarged image.

Inauguration of Dr. Donald K. Campbell,

In April of 1986, Donald K. Campbell was appointed third president of the seminary, and was inaugurated on September 12, 1986. Shown kneeling: Dr. Donald K. Campbell; standing from left to right: Dr. George C. Kemble, Dr. John F. Walvoord, Dr. William H. Seay, and Dr. David C. Cotten.

Dr. Campbell had been associated with the school for many years. He graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary with a Th.M. in 1951 and a Th.D. in 1953. He served as Registrar of the school from 1954 through 1967. Campbell was appointed Academic Dean and Professor of Bible Exposition in 1961. He accepted the responsibilities of Executive Vice-President in 1985. Dr. Campbell served as President from 1986 until his retirement in 1994.

Turpin Library

Turpin Library. Click for enlarged image.

Turpin Library, 1988

The library was expanded again when Turpin Library was completed in 1988. The card catalogs shown on the left hand side of the picture were replaced with computer terminals circa 1990. The world globe was donated by the Senior Class of 1987. After several years of use and many boundary changes, the Senior Class of 2001 presented an updated globe.

Mitchell Ministries Center

Mitchell Ministries Center. Click for enlarged image.

Mitchell Ministries Center

The Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church adjacent to DTS was purchased and renovated in 1993 to provide a new cafeteria, auditorium, meeting rooms, and a few offices. Karsten and Louise Solheim donated the funds for the project in honor of their pastor, Dr. John L. Mitchell, a DTS alumnus. In 1999 the auditorium was renovated to provide much needed additional space for the Book Center, which had been in the Walvoord Student Center.

Fourth President

Inauguration of Dr. Charles R. Swindoll. Click for enlarged image.

Inauguration of Dr. Charles R. Swindoll,

Dr. Charles R. Swindoll became the fourth president on July 1, 1994. His installation ceremony was on October 27.

Pictured kneeling from left to right: Dr. Ellwood Evans and Dr. Swindoll.

Standing from left to right: Dr. John Mitchell, Dr. Anthony T. Evans, Jack Turpin, unidentified, and Dr. Donald K. Campbell.

Charles Swindoll graduated from DTS in 1963. He ministered in pastorates in three states: Massachusetts, Texas, and California. Swindoll belonged to the Board of Incorporate Members of Dallas Theological Seminary from 1985-1994. He served as president until 2001. Enrollment grew from 1,492 in fall 1994 to 1,646 in the fall of 2000. He has continued his international radio program, "Insight for Living," and is senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas.

Fifth President

Inauguration Program for of Dr. Mark L. Bailey. Click for enlarged image.

Program for Inauguration of
Dr. Mark L. Bailey, 2001

Dr. Mark L. Bailey became the fifth president of Dallas Theological Seminary in 2001, and was inaugurated on October 19, 2001.

Dr. Bailey earned his B.A. from Southwestern College in Phoenix, Arizona in 1972, his M. Div. and Th.M. from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon in 1975 and 1977, respectively, and his Ph.D. from DTS in 1997. He served as professor of Bible, Bible Department chair, and Academic Dean at Southwestern College from 1980-1985. Dr. Bailey joined the DTS faculty in 1985 in the Bible Exposition Department. He was appointed Vice president of Academic Affairs and Academic Dean in 1997, and became Provost in 2001. Dr. Bailey has also served several years in the pastorate, currently ministering as senior pastor at Faith Bible Church in DeSoto, Texas. Under his leadership enrollment has grown from 1,648 in 2001 to 1,877 in the fall of 2004.

Swiss Tower

Swiss Tower. Click for enlarged image.

Swiss Tower

The ten-story Swiss Tower apartment complex was completed in 2002. It contains 159 apartments for married students and single women. The Tower replaces three small apartment complexes which were becoming maintenance problems.