By Alana Hu and Jacob Moore
After a yearlong search process and consideration of 130 candidates, the Union University Board of Trustees selected Dr. Samuel “Dub” Oliver as the university’s 16th president Feb. 10.
Oliver, 48, who has served as president of East Texas Baptist University for the past four years, was appointed as David Dockery’s successor by a unanimous vote.
“Dr. Oliver is a man of strong Christian conviction who is theologically informed, passionate about students and highly respectful of the work of faculty members,” said Norman Hill, chairman of the Board of Trustees and chairman of the search committee that selected Oliver. “His skills as an administrator and educator build on Union’s already established reputation for academic excellence, and we are honored and thrilled by this appointment.”
Hill introduced Oliver at a news conference held in the Heritage Center, which boasts a timeline featuring university milestones spanning more than 184 years.
“Being surrounded with all of the great historical moments of Union University, we certainly look with hope to the future to build on the excellent leadership and service,” Oliver said. “I look forward to working with the Union community: the faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of Union University, to enhance and enlarge everything that Union is for the glory of God and for the good of humankind.”
At the conclusion of the conference, Dockery handed off a red baton representing Oliver’s official start in senior leadership at Union. The baton has sat on Dockery’s desk during the 18 years he has served as university president.
Oliver also gave a gift to Dockery: a shepherd figurine that he brought back from his visit to Israel last year.
“‘David shepherded them with a pure heart,’” Oliver said, quoting from Psalm 78. “‘With skillful hands he led them.’ And that’s exactly what you have done for Union University.”
Dockery announced in January 2013 his plans to transition from university president to chancellor.
As soon as the announcement was made, the Presidential Search Committee was formed; it consisted of Board of Trustee members, representatives of the university and community representatives.
Oliver was one of more than 130 candidates considered for the position.
In meetings with faculty, staff and students, Oliver said he and his family felt overwhelming spiritual encouragement from the prayers offered by the Union community during the selection process.
“One of the great joys of our lives is getting to share life with students on a college campus,” he said. “The Lord made me to be an educator.”
Oliver will begin as president full time June 1.
In the meantime, he will begin his transition by spending time at the university this spring semester.
Prior to the ETBU presidency, Oliver served at Baylor University as director of student activities from 1992 to 1999, associate dean for campus life from 1999 to 2001, dean for student development from 2001 to 2005 and vice president for student life from 2005 to 2009.
While at Baylor, he also served as a visiting professor in the Hankamer School of Business, adjunct professor in the School of Education and interim university chaplain.
Oliver earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Baylor University.
He went on to complete a master’s degree in educational psychology and a doctorate in educational administration from Texas A&M University.
Outside his experience in education, Oliver has served in the U.S. Air Force and is an ordained Baptist minister. From 2003 to 2009, he served as pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in Crawford, Texas.
This year, Oliver and his wife Susie will celebrate their 25th anniversary.
She is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University and serves as director of the Spirit Program and director of the Ornelas Student Center at ETBU.
They have a daughter, Callie, who is a senior at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.