Robert Lynn, who faithfully served more than two decades as the sixth president of Louisiana College, died Tuesday, Sept. 8 in Norman, Oklahoma. He was 88.
Lynn served as president of LC from 1975-1997.
“The College mourns the loss of former president, Dr. Robert Lynn,” said President Dr. Rick Brewer. “Dr. Lynn’s legacy and imprimatur is still recognizable on the campus. We thank the Lord for the faithful spiritual leadership and standard-bearer for academic excellence Dr. Lynn exemplified during his tenure as the sixth president of Louisiana College.”
Lynn is survived by his wife Dr. Bonnie Moore Lynn, and two children, Susy Calonkey and Chris Lynn.
Lynn succeeded another longtime President, G. Earl Guinn. According to a June 5, 1997 article in the Baptist Message, Lynn instituted a strategic planning process for which the college engaged in for five-year periods. During his tenure, almost 85 percent of the five-year goals were met.
He led the college to unprecedented financial growth.
While he was president, the school was never in the red operationally. Lynn also established the President’s Club to recognize donors who gave $1,000 or more to the school in a calendar year. In a 20-year span, beginning in 1976, almost 6,000 people were recognized by the club – representing almost $70 million contributed to the college during that time.
He left the school with $11 million in endowed scholarships and had four capital-fund raising campaigns; the final one surpassed $16.5 million. Lynn’s wife, Bonnie, was instrumental in raising support for the college with him.
During his tenure, a performing arts center and an apartment-style housing complex were built, and the student center was remodeled. Additionally, the nursing program was reinstated, several new academic programs were launched and four new varsity sports (men’s cross country, women’s basketball, tennis and cross country) were started.
“Dr. Lynn was an impressive, long–range, strategic thinker and planner,” said Beth Palmer, Executive Director for Development and Alumni Affairs and LC alumna. “He came to LC in the fall of 1975 with a clear purpose and direction for the school, and a pathway charted out to get there. He was the epitome of a servant leader and a true friend of Jesus. He always had an encouraging word and a wonderful smile.”
Palmer recalled being encouraged by his interactions with students.
“He would often have office hours in one of the swings outside and his words of encouragement and hope were always sought after by students,” Palmer said. “I most enjoyed observing this man when he visited with students and seeing how comfortable he was around them, and they around him. Not only was he energized by these interactions but he in turn energized those around him.”
David Jeffreys, chairman of the Board of Trustees for Louisiana College and 1992 graduate of Louisiana College, also remembered Lynn fondly. Jeffreys is associate pastor of Highland Baptist Church in New Iberia.
“I had the privilege to call Dr. Lynn my president as a student at Louisiana College,” Jeffreys said. “What I remember most about Dr. Lynn, besides his chapel poetry, was his kindness, grace, and love for the students of LC.”
Those who worked with him professionally had equal praise for Lynn.
“Dr. Lynn hired me,” said Dr. Lillian Purdy, professor of English. “I flew to Louisiana in August, and my luggage was lost. Twenty-four hours later, I was in the same clothes. I met him in his office, and he made me feel so welcome. I knew after meeting with Dr. Lynn that I wanted to work at Louisiana College. I remember his listening sessions with faculty, and I remember that he genuinely cared about students. He was a passionate ambassador for Louisiana College, and he made some long-term improvements to the campus.”
Purdy has now been at LC for 35 years. She said she learned the importance of calling students by their names because of a poem he read in Chapel.
“Dr. Lynn placed swings around the campus,” Purdy said. “There was one behind his office where he made a point to visit with students. He was amazing at learning students’ names.”
While president at LC, Lynn became interested in poetry when he realized students seemed to pay more attention to verses than to speeches. So be started keeping a notebook to record his random night musings. This would later become one of his published books of poetry, Midnight Verse.
After retiring, he spent much more time on his poetry. Lynn wrote or edited 10 books and regularly presented his poems in forums for different community groups in Georgia, Oklahoma and Alabama.
Lynn was active and influential in Christian higher education outside of Louisiana, as well. He had served as an administrator and interim president at his own alma mater, Oklahoma Baptist University, prior to taking the helm at LC.
While at LC, he served on the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools commission, the council of presidents of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and the Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools.
While Lynn was president, LC received national praise for both academics and integrity. U.S. News and World Report recognized LC as one of “Barron’s 300 Best College Buys,” and the Templeton Foundation placed the college on its Honor Roll for Character-Building Colleges.
“Having served now at both Louisiana College and Oklahoma Baptist University, I am keenly aware of the incredible difference Dr. Robert Lynn made in the lives of students through his leadership at these two institutions,” said Executive Vice President Will Smallwood. “Dr. Lynn was a giant in Christian higher education for Louisiana and Oklahoma Baptists, and together with Bonnie, their service continues to leave an indelible impression. What a great honor to be reminded of him daily upon arriving to my office in the home he once occupied–the Robert and Bonnie Lynn Alumni Center.”
The Lynn Alumni Center was built in 1956 and last served as the president’s home during Lynn’s tenure.
Funeral arrangements are pending at this time.
*Additional reporting from The Baptist Message