Gail Linam is Academic Dean and Institutional Accreditation Liaison at Dallas Baptist University, where she has worked since 1988. She is also an active member of First Baptist Church in Arlington.
From the depths of a Texan’s heart, she shares her journey and thoughts on Christian higher education. To suggest a leader affiliated with the Texas Baptist General Convention for inclusion in this column, or to request to be introduced yourself, click here.
Where else have you served and what were your positions there?
After graduating from Baylor University, I was a teacher at a public school in the Austin Independent School District. Prior to my tenure at Dallas Baptist University, I had the great privilege of serving 17 years as the Minister of Childhood Education at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco. Boys and girls and their parents hold a special place in my heart.
For many years, I wrote preschool curricula for the Baptist Sunday School Board in Nashville; an author of preschool / children’s books for Broadman Press; and a speaker for churches locally and nationally, including two weeks a year at the Glorieta Baptist Conference Center.
In 2005, I had the privilege of serving as president of the Baptist Association of Christian Educators, culminating with the organization’s 50th anniversary celebration meeting at the Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. strategic organization supporting ministers of administration, education, youth, and children in Baptist churches, as well as educators in Baptist colleges and universities.
In 1988 Gary Cook invited my husband Dennis and I to come serve with him at Dallas Baptist University. At that time, few women held strategic administrative leadership positions at the university level. Dr Cook was a pioneer for women.
Over the decades that followed, Dr Cook trusted me and appointed me to various positions at DBU. Initially he appointed me Dean of the College of Education, then Vice President for Undergraduate Affairs and Dean of Studies. Subsequently, I was appointed rector of the university, serving in that capacity for 13 years.
Where did you grow up
I was born in Waco.
I fell in love with my husband Dennis in Waco High School when I was 15. Since then, we have served the Lord together with joy.
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How did you come to faith in Christ?
The Columbus Avenue Baptist Church was central to our family’s life. Even though my father did not have a college degree, the church’s nominating committee asked him to teach a men’s Bible study class because of his leadership and his great love of the scriptures.
During the day, my father owned a hair salon, where he built relationships with countless members of the community. I can still imagine my father, after 12-hour workdays, opening his Bible on the table after our family dinner to study the Bible passage and prepare for the next Sunday’s lesson.
It was also not uncommon to hear a knock on the door when a customer came to the house to learn more about following Jesus after seeds were planted at the barber.
I was 10 years old when I gave my life to Jesus on a Billy Graham crusade in Fort Worth. I have felt it very deeply in my life. Sometimes I would line up my dolls and tell them stories about Jesus. Since Jesus was the Master Teacher, I wanted to become a teacher like Jesus, sharing the good news.
Where did you study and what diplomas did you receive?
I graduated from Baylor University College of Education in Waco. Later, feeling a deep desire to enrich learning at the university level, I obtained my masters and doctorate degrees. degrees in Foundations of Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Why do you feel called into education?
I take such pleasure in helping others discover enriched lives through meaningful learning. Whether it was as an educator at a public school in Austin, minister of childhood education at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, or an administrator at Dallas Baptist University, my deepest desire has been to promote the discovery of the truths which help the learner to better understand, value and appropriate the wealth of knowledge that God brings into our lives through quality education.
How does being a Christian influence your work in education?
True Christ-centered education enriches life and fosters a deeper understanding of God’s plan for His people in our world. Like Paul, believers are equipped to share the good news according to their individual callings.
Quality learning brings about meaningful and determined change in our lives and the world around us as we seek to become whatever Christ wants us to be. When I teach, I pray that the Holy Spirit will help me reflect Jesus and his relevance to daily life.
What aspect of education gives you the most joy?
Discovery! What awe I feel when I connect with learners as I discover new truths about God and this amazing and needy world we live in. We can’t change the whole world, but surely we can invest deeply in learners, shaping one life at a time, so that they can then go out and meet needs as Jesus would wherever he leads them.
What is your favorite class to teach? Why?
I am the dean of the general studies course required for all traditional age students entitled “Developing a Christian Spirit”. Twelve to 13 sections of this course are taught each semester, allowing students to see the world and its challenges with their faith woven into every element of their life experience.
How has your place in education or your perspective on education changed?
I have seen the profound impact of quality Christ-centered higher education on the lives of the students God leads at DBU. The administrative capacities of women and men are much more recognized and used today.
Another gifted Christian educator, Norma Hedin, is currently the chief university administrator of DBU in her role as provost. Through his elevated call to this role under the leadership of current DBU President Adam Wright, God faithfully continues to equip graduates whose influence will reach the entire world.
Global vision and outreach are essential for servant leaders called by God to witness to Christ in all fields.
Why are you a Baptist?
Certainly, no denomination will ever be a perfect model of our Savior. But we can always be grateful to our Baptist founders for giving their lives for religious freedom.
I rejoice that the Bible is the source of our truth. Our denomination’s long-standing commitment to personal and collective Bible study and reflection provides individuals and churches with a “solid rock” to stand on no matter what this tragic time in our world may be.
Being part of the great Baptist family is a spiritual birthright that we appreciate at DBU. In the Ford Village of DBU, the university is home to the Baptist History and Heritage Center, which helps introduce faculty, students, staff and guests to the rich heritage that is ours as Baptists.
Who were / are your mentors, and how have they influenced you?
Alma May Scarborough was my Baptist Sunday School Board editor-in-chief for a guide for preschool teachers that I have written annually for many years. Alma May’s delight in laying a spiritual foundation for babies, vines, and toddlers provided invaluable information as we created meaningful teaching guides for preschoolers in the church.
Alma May also wrote many songs for young children who are learning about Jesus. Now deceased, her photo in my house is an inspiration to me every day. Over the decades she has been a part of my life, Alma May has shown how to learn throughout her life and possessed an endless capacity to love until the last days of her life.
Another important mentor in my life is Gary Cook, the Chancellor of DBU. In Dr. Cook’s first chapel speech after his inauguration as DBU president in 1988, he used a quote from medical missionary Albert Schweitzer to inspire the DBU family to become servant leaders. Schweitzer shared, “I don’t know what your fate will be but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve. I personally and regularly experience the veracity of Dr Schweitzer’s words.
Ultimately, Dallas Baptist University shows our students Christ as the perfect example of the One who serves.
Outside of the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors and explain why.
In the dark days now unfolding across the world, I found inspiration in Nancy Koehn’s mighty book Forged in the Crisis: The Training of Five Courageous Leaders. The account offers revealing and timely truths from the lives of Ernest Shackleton, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Rachel Carson. Each has faced crises that ultimately revealed qualities that have fortified these historic leaders through difficult times. Their examples shed light on the ways in which we can mentor students in our service as educators.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
Philippians 3:14 inspires me. Each day I pray that the Holy Spirit will fulfill in me the sincere commitment expressed in this verse which reads: “I am heading to the mark for the price of God’s high calling in Jesus Christ. Ours is a “high vocation”. Only our best is good enough in the service of the King of Kings.