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There have been a lot of long faces around the Campbell University Divinity School (CUDS) this week: Dean Mike Cogdill announced Thursday that he plans to step down as dean at the end of the school year. The good news is that he plans to remain on the faculty.

Cogdill, who was chair of Campbell’s undergraduate religion department before being appointed as founding dean of the new venture, has been living and breathing Campbell divinity for 14 years. He’s driven uncounted miles, spoken in scores of churches, attended hundreds of meetings, and asked thousands of people to pray for the school, send their students, and maybe even throw in some money.

As we know by now, Cogdill’s efforts have not been in vain. Under his good leadership, the school opened in 1996, a year earlier than planned. It grew steadily, and has become one of the largest and healthiest of the “new breed” of Baptist divinity schools formed during the past 20 years. For the past several years, enrollment has averaged around 240 students. The divinity school’s endowment, mostly in the form of more than 300 endowed scholarships, is the largest of Campbell’s six graduate schools. CUDS has strong partnerships with a variety of Baptist groups, innovative programs, and students from across the Christian spectrum.

The past few years have been particularly eventful, as Cogdill led the faculty and staff through the process of full accreditation by the Association of Theological Schools (granted, with flying colors, in June 2007), and played a significant role in helping to set the course and raise the money for the university’s new Butler Chapel, just dedicated in October.

It’s no wonder he’s ready for a break. In an email to students, Cogdill said his work as dean has been a dream come true. He told the faculty that he has contemplated the change for some time, and believes it is the right time for a transition. In a prepared statement, he said “It is now time in my life to give thanks for this wonderful chapter of ministry and to embrace the new opportunities for the future. I look forward to continuing to help the Divinity School prosper and grow as a full-time member of the faculty.”

I’m one of many who want to join in voicing our thanks for this “wonderful chapter of ministry” in Mike Cogdill’s life, and for the many students, faculty, staff, and others who have been touched — and will continue to be touched — by his whole-hearted commitment to “Christ-centered, Bible-based, and ministry-focused” leadership.

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