Patterson, who has served as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, since 2003, served as president of Southeastern from 1992 to 2003. He was presented with the award before preaching in chapel during the spring board of trustees and board of visitors meeting. Southeastern Seminary President Daniel Akin acknowledged Patterson's role in making the seminary a place to equip students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission.
"If not for Paige Patterson, you would not be here today," Akin told students April 1. "Any good thing that has happened is standing on the shoulders of this wonderful man."
When Patterson arrived at Southeastern, enrollment was less than 700 students and the school was on probation with both of its accrediting agencies. Many predicted the seminary would not survive.
Under Patterson's leadership, enrollment grew to 2,350 students. He also led Southeastern to begin a Ph.D. program and an international church planting degree that allows students to combine two years of on-campus training with either a two- or three-year overseas assignment with the International Mission Board.
"Dr. Patterson stepped in and provided inspiring and visionary leadership," Akin, who credits Patterson as his father in the ministry, said. "A spirit of revival swept across the campus and within a short time, enrollment was skyrocketing and the probations were removed."
Missions, evangelism and expository preaching became distinguishing marks of the seminary under Patterson. "Southeastern is able to do what it does today because of the rock solid foundation laid by Paige Patterson," Akin said.
In receiving the award, Patterson complimented Southeastern as a campus full of life and a passion for missions. "What a glorious sight you are to my eyes today," he said.
Bruce Ashford, provost at Southeastern, studied systematic theology under Patterson at the master's level and wrote his Ph.D. dissertation under Patterson's supervision.
"At both levels, he was an absolutely outstanding teacher," Ashford said. "He knew how to challenge a student to get the most out of him, how to humble a student who thought too much of himself and how to encourage a student who had little confidence.
"In the 1990s, Dr. Patterson led SEBTS from being a dying institution beholden to biblically unfaithful theology to being a thriving institution under submission to Christ and His Word. For that, we will remain ever grateful," Ashford added.
Ryan Hutchinson, vice president for operations, said Patterson "was God's man at the right time to lead the course correction of Southeastern."
Patterson oversaw the turnover of almost all the faculty, with 100 percent of the new and remaining faculty members expressing commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture. He instituted the signing of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 as a requirement for all faculty members upon election.
"While some thought his coming would be the demise of the seminary, Dr. Patterson's leadership, under the hand of God, was how the seminary was saved. It was a joy to serve under him from 1997 to 2003, and I am forever grateful for the investment that he made in my life," Hutchinson said.
"May the future graduates of Southeastern go forth into ministry with the same courage that Dr. Patterson showed to stand for the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the inerrancy of the Bible and a passion to see lost souls reconciled to God."
Ali Dixon is a news and information specialist at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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