Rollin Thomas Chafer

Based on an exhibit Fall 2015.


Portrait of Rollin T. Chafer. Click for enlarged image.

Portrait of Rollin T. Chafer.

Rollin Thomas Chafer was born March 1, 1868, in Downers Grove, Illinois. His sister, Marietta, was born the next year, and three years later his brother, Lewis Sperry Chafer, was born. Rollin made a profession of faith when he was 12. He was 14 years old when their father, a pastor, died of tuberculosis.

Rollin had a diverse education and experiences before entering the ministry. He studied music, advertising, art, and engraving. His work experience included sheep herding, office work, management, and advertising.

After being called to the ministry, he studied with the Ministerial Committee of Congregational and Presbyterian Ministers. Later, Rollin attended Princeton Theological Seminary for two years. He pastored a Congregational church in Vermont and a Presbyterian church in South Carolina. Chafer moved to Florida to serve with the Southfield Bible Conference. He traveled through the U.S. between 1918 and 1924, teaching at Bible conferences and institutes. Rollin received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Wheaton College in 1935.

Flagstaff Arizona, 1892

RT Chafer on horseback. Click for enlarged image.

On horseback.

RT Chafer with cowboy hat. Click for enlarged image.

With cowboy hat.

Because of poor health, Chafer left his studies and went west. He had tuberculosis, and a recommended treatment at the time was fresh air. [It was not until the 1950s that effective antibiotics were discovered to treat tuberculosis.] Rollin spent a year as a clerk in a lumber business, traveled for a year, then managed a sheep ranch in Arizona for 3 years. The pictures imply he helped herd the sheep.

Husband and Father

With baby daughter. Click for enlarged image.

With baby daughter.

With family. Click for enlarged image.

With family.

Rollin married Minnie Louise Smith in 1909. Their only child, Lois Mary Loraine Chafer, was born in 1914. During World War I, Rollin served at Camp Sevier near Greenville, South Carolina as Y.M.C.A. Army Religious Secretary. Rollin’s uniform in the photo, might have related to that ministry.

Rollin's daughter married a DTS graduate, Harold Van Broekhoven. They served as missionaries with Central American Mission, primarily in Guatemala. Their son, Rollin Van Broekhoven, has served on the DTS Board of Incorporate Members for many years.

Editor of DTS Publications

Editor of ETC Bulletin. Click for enlarged image.

Editor of ETC Bulletin.

Editor of Bibliotheca Sacra. Click for enlarged image.

Editor of Bibliotheca Sacra.

R. T. Chafer edited various seminary publications, including the seminary Bulletin, and after 1934, the seminary journal, Bibliotheca Sacra. He also edited the seminary catalog, which was published as one issue of the Bulletin.

Registrar, Teacher, Secretary to the Faculty

R. T. Chafer at his desk. Click for enlarged image.

R. T. Chafer at his desk.

Lewis Sperry Chafer was president, but Rollin was also very involved in the new seminary. His diverse experience was helpful. He spent the summer of 1924 making arrangements and planning curriculum for the Evangelical Theological College, which opened that fall. The school was later renamed Dallas Theological Seminary. In 1925, Rollin and his family moved from Florida to Dallas.

Rollin served as registrar and edited seminary publications. Through the years he also taught Hermeneutics, Apologetics, and Polities [church government]. In addition, he was secretary to the Faculty, the Board of Regents, and the Board of Incorporate Members.

"Present with the Lord"

1940. Click for enlarged image.


Rollin Chafer died from a heart condition on April 13, 1940. He was 72 years old. Henry A. Ironside conducted the funeral.

Rollin Thomas Chafer Memorial Gate

Memorial Gate. Click for enlarged image.

Memorial Gate.

The gift from the 1940 graduating class was brick columns flanking the sidewalk to Davidson with attached signs. This "gate" was described as follows.

The electronically lighted bulletin board on the left column is suited for announcements of importance to the public. At the right, also lighted, is the memorial tablet bearing the inscription, "In memory of Rollin T. Chafer, D.D., By Class 1940." Lights are also provided at the base of the gate to illuminate the steps.