Learning the Ropes
What Would Dad Think?
by Greg Ketteman
I’ve tried to imagine what it was like for my dad (Paul J. Ketteman) in 1942 when he came from Illinois to Free Will Baptist Bible College (now Welch College) as an 18-year-old freshman. The first in his family to attend college, he left rural farm life for the big city of Nashville during World War II when many young men his age left home—not for college but for military service.
But Dad was convinced of God’s special call on his life, the call to the Christian ministry of the gospel. After two years at the college (all that was offered at the time), Dad finished his degree at Columbia Bible College, pastoring a church while he completed his studies.
Pastor and Leader
Dad was an enthusiastic, effective pastor who went into his community to carry the gospel to the unsaved. What happened on Sunday was a product of sharing his Lord and life with people Monday through Saturday. Dad pastored 17 years in three states, then spent the next 25 years as public relations director for Welch College.
I’ve never completely understood Dad’s motor. It was always running! He never seemed to tire of whatever his hand found to do. The trait that stands out most in my mind is how he never tired of being a friend to others. He’d go out of his way to maintain a friendship because friendships meant so much to him. As time has passed since his death (1987), many people have said to me, “Your dad was my best friend.” Truth is, he was my best friend, too.
About the Photo: Greg Ketteman is standing in the lobby of the Welch College.
I often think of Dad and wish I could get his take on a number of things. His opinions and advice came from the purest motivations I ever knew. I trusted him to speak the truth in love. I always knew that underneath Dad’s optimism, humor, and gregariousness was a deep love and respect for the Lord and His Word, and a passionate desire to live out the gospel.
The best I can do now is speculate what he would think about Welch College today. But regardless of the details, I believe he’d be cheering on the college God used so greatly in his life and in which Dad invested his life.
I’ve wondered what Dad would think about the college’s name change. He loved FWBBC, and this love was second only to his love for his Lord, his wife, and his family. I believe Dad would have some concerns about the name change, combined with a little sadness.
However, I believe he’d want what’s best for the college he loved and, if the name change resulted in more Free Will Baptist students coming to the college and an expanded influence, he’d be all for it. I believe Dad’s love for the college’s ministry would lead him to embrace the name change, in spite of his long history and emotional ties.
I know Dad would be in favor of the new campus. Over the years as a pastor, board member, and public relations director, he worked tirelessly to raise friends and funds for the college. Many of the miles Dad traveled were in his own vehicle and he spent many nights in the homes of generous Free Will Baptist people. He understood the value of every dime for the college and worked hard to do his job with excellence without being an extravagant spender.
One reason for this was his belief that the money raised was God’s money. He understood the sacrifice made by God’s people. My point is that Dad knew the difference between wise and unwise spending. Seeing the high cost of maintaining our aging campus, I’m confident Dad would conclude we were throwing away our money, that it’s time to relocate.
I know from personal experience that Dad would support the expanded curriculum the college has pursued. I was among the college’s first teacher education graduates, and he proudly announced to everyone that I had received a teacher education degree along with my Bible major, and that I had already landed a teaching job.
In fact, the first time I heard about the concept of the “Bible college umbrella” was when Dad explained it to me. He was committed to this important, broader role of our denominational Bible college. He understood the importance of educating Christian pastors and missionaries as well as Christian teachers and business leaders (For many years, Mom taught in the college’s Business Department).
Interestingly, I believe Dad would be among those who employ today’s advanced technology to advance the college mission. There were no cell phones and the personal computer was just a novel idea when he worked at the college. Still, I remember Dad embracing existing technologies like bank draft processing, mini-recorders (so he could dictate letters while driving), and long-distance phone deals that saved the college money.
Dad was among the early users of statistical data to track giving, and I expect he’d quickly embrace any tool that would improve the process. I’m not sure Dad would be a Facebook fanatic, because he felt face-to-face, in-person, eye-to-eye relationships were vital. However, I can’t imagine that a people-person like Dad could resist the opportunities to network afforded by today’s social media.
Dad always told me, “There’s just one way to do business—the right way.” This reminder most often followed our handshake when I’d borrowed a few dollars from him. Although he was as generous as the day is long, he’d expect me to pay it back in full because of the principle of the thing, family ties notwithstanding. He understood best business practices and wholeheartedly supported them.
I believe this illustrates the reason Dad would embrace the college’s regional accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and national accreditation with the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE). Dad would understand that the college should embrace these measures of excellence in higher education because “There’s just one way to do business—the right way.”
Thanks, Dad, for your still-shining example of encouragement, enthusiasm, and your tireless efforts on behalf of our alma mater! We’ll take it from here.
About the Writer: Greg Ketteman (pictured above) serves as provost at Welch College.