Andy Vincent marks 25 years of faithful service at SBTS
When Andy Vincent and his wife, Valerie, moved to Louisville in 1990, they intended to be here long enough for both to complete master of divinity degrees. Then, like many seminary graduates, Andy would serve as a pastor or music minister in a local church somewhere else.
But God had other plans.
They moved back to their native Alabama in 1994, but returned to Louisville shortly thereafter in 1995 when Andy joined the staff at Southern Seminary as manager of administrative services. Twenty-five years later, he remains on staff, but is now vice president of operations, a position he’s held since 2010. In early August, Vincent marked 25 years on staff at SBTS.
“It’s funny because I wasn’t really thinking about it until I looked at the calendar and then it hit me that I’d been working here 25 years,” he said. “This wasn’t our plan for sure, but God knows best. I’m grateful, in God’s providence, I’ve been able to stay here.
“My understanding of the stewardship we have here has changed drastically over the last 25 years.”
A decades-long commitment
Vincent has served as vice president of operations since 2010, and may be the most important staff member students will likely never know while on campus at SBTS. Vincent’s department keeps the buildings and all physical plants at the seminary running day in and day out. Faulty gutters? Poor drainage in a parking lot? Roof leak? Vincent’s department cares for those issues and much more.
Few people know how SBTS runs better than Andy. He worked in the copy center during his days as a student, and since 1995 has served as manager of auxiliary services, associate vice president of auxiliary services, vice president of operations, vice president of operations and finance for a short time, then back to vice president of operations.
“Andy knows things about this campus that no one else knows, that no one coming into a job like that can learn except by years and years of experience,” SBTS President Albert Mohler said. “He knows how old the plumbing in our buildings, unit by unit. He knows the condition of its roof and he knows which building needs attention to the tuck pointing and to the brick. These are things we don’t have to think about every day because he does.”
Crises inevitably come to the seminary’s buildings and grounds. Plumbing backs up, heat and air units fail, low ground floods, trees are felled by storms. Mohler said Vincent’s personality is perfectly wed to his job, particularly when things like that happen on campus.
“One of the most important issues of Andy’s character and personality is that he is, for want of a better word, rather unflappable,” Mohler said.
“That’s really important because if one were not unflappable, then there would be a lot to flap about. . . . and everything would be a crisis. But with Andy, everything is just a call to get the job done, to fix the problem, to make the institution stronger and to move on. I haven’t come up with anything yet that’s caused Andy to panic and that means when Andy panics, I’m going to panic, too.”
Vincent, who’s background is in church music, was born in Michigan but grew up in Fort Payne, Alabama, a small town in the northern part of the state best known as home of the legendary country music band, Alabama. During his senior year in high school, lead singer Randy Owen interviewed Vincent for a scholarship the band gave annually; Vincent won the scholarship. He attended Samford University in Birmingham, where he received a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies.
In hindsight, Vincent says he’s not surprised that he’s been at Southern so long. His father spent his entire career with one company. Having the same person oversee campus for so many years has been a massive boon to the seminary’s health, Mohler said.
“Institutions are about a mission,” Mohler said. “Behind that mission are people who are devoted to that mission. Without those people, the institution wouldn’t exist. An institution, like The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary or Boyce College only exists because generation by generation there’s been an incredible level of devotion to the school and its mission and to its future.
“But institutions are also a matter of human intelligence and that intelligence has to be gathered over time. That means any healthy institution is kept healthy by people who make a lifelong commitment to the institution, who get to know it in a way that requires years and years of devotion and work and study and residence.”
A weighty stewardship
Prospective students usually visit Southern because of its commitment to teach pastors orthodox, confessional theology or its reputation for training missionaries to take the gospel to the nations. But what they see here when they get here is by no means unimportant.
Vincent wants them to see a campus that looks and operates in as serious a manner as the theology that’s taught in classrooms.
“I want them (prospective students) to see something of God’s goodness and God’s glory when they arrive on this campus. I want them to see a serious place where they come to do serious study and preparation. I hope the buildings and grounds are evidence of God’s goodness and blessing that gives a subtle insight into what happens in the classroom.”
Southern’s campus is a vital part of the learning experience for students. Craig Parker, senior vice president for institutional administration, said Vincent is the perfect man for the job of caring for seminary grounds and facilities.
“One of the first questions I will ask a new student is why he or she chose to attend Southern? Ten times out of ten they will tell me that they attended a preview weekend, and they fell in love with the place.
“When we have campus events for alumni, trustees, or donors, they will always mention how happy they are to be back in this beautiful place. Is our campus an important asset? Absolutely. We are incredibly blessed to have a man like Andy Vincent responsible for the upkeep of the campus. He cares for these 80 acres as if they were his personal property.”
Vincent said he often thinks of how God has changed many lives in the buildings at Southern, how many life-altering decisions have been made in them from couples learning how to be parents for the first time to men praying about whether or not to go out to their first pastorate.
“There’s a real weightiness to the stewardship we have here,” he said. “It’s fascinating to think about the people who’ve walked these halls and the conversations that have been had, the decisions that have been made—not only the grand decisions, even things like parents who have struggled with a sick child in the dorms or prayed for God’s will in their life and ministry.
“It’s not always the big institutional decisions that fascinate me. It’s the infinite number of decisions that have been made by students and families over the years here. Decisions that impact lives for generations are made every day in these halls and rooms. Lives have been changed here. God has done great things here, including many, many things we can’t see.”
An understated way to glorify God
The soft-spoken Vincent said he never sought to “climb the ladder” at SBTS to reach his current position, but sought to be faithful in serving God by serving Southern in every position he’s held.
“I told one of guys the other day that when we cut grass, we are cutting grass to serve theological education at Southern Seminary, and ultimately to glorify God. This is true of every single thing we do here. God has been good to this institution over the years, and I understand that we’ve been given a great stewardship.
“It’s kind of like you’re the relief pitcher. You’re coming in in the ninth inning. You’re up by eight runs and all you can do is mess it up. The resources I got to come in and steward are amazing. We’ve got some buildings that are nearing the century mark. We don’t have to try and make them look good; they’re beautiful buildings. None of this is ours. We steward it.
“My prayer and hope is that when my stewardship ends, that it’s ready to pass on to the next person, the next generation, whatever it is, it will have been stewarded well and it will keep going. In God’s providence, I’ve been able to play a supporting role and I’m thankful for that.”