JACKSON — Union University trustees unanimously elected Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, president of East Texas Baptist University, as the 16th president of Union University Feb. 10.
“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 Union’s 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.”
Oliver succeeds David S. Dockery, who has served as Union’s president for the past 18 years.
“We are deeply humbled by this call to serve at Union University,” Oliver said. “I am hopeful and enthusiastic about working with the board of trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the university to extend, enhance, and enlarge all that Union is — for the glory of God and for the good of humankind.”
Oliver said the list of things that attracted him to the position included Dockery.
“David has been a great leader for Union and for Christian higher education,” Oliver said. “His encouraging spirit has meant a lot to me over the last few years, and he is committed to ensuring that the transition ahead is seamless.”
Oliver also cited his appreciation of Union’s mission and core values. “The integration of faith, learning, and living has had a transformative effect on my life, and as I seek to live out my calling as an educator I believe that Christian higher education is where we can most influence and shape young people so that the kingdom of God may be enlarged,” he said.
Oliver will be spending some time at Union throughout the spring semester and will begin full-time on June 1.
A native of San Antonio, Oliver has been the ETBU president since 2009. The university in Marshall, Texas, enrolls about 1,250 students and employs about 300 faculty and staff.
Prior to the ETBU presidency, Oliver served his alma mater, Baylor University, in several roles, including director of student activities (1992-99), associate dean for campus life (1999-2001), dean for student development (2001-05), and vice president for student life (2005-09).
While at Baylor, Oliver also served as a visiting professor in the Hankamer School of Business, an adjunct professor in the School of Education, and interim university chaplain. He served in the U.S. Air Force in the late 1980s at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas.
Oliver completed a bachelor of science degree in education from Baylor and a master of science degree in educational psychology and a doctor of philosophy in educational administration from Texas A&M University.
Before entering graduate school, he was a third grade teacher in the Fort Worth Independent School District. He is also a licensed and ordained Baptist minister, serving as pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in Crawford, Texas, from 2003-2009.
Oliver and his wife Susie Combs Oliver will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary later this year. Susie is a native of Hazard, Ky., and a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University. They have a daughter Callie who is a senior at Baylor.
“I have had the privilege of knowing Dub Oliver for several years, both in his role at Baylor and at East Texas Baptist University,” Dockery said. “During this time I have come to recognize Dr. Oliver’s genuine commitment to students and his approachable, kind, and caring manner as a leader.
“I will look forward to opportunities in the days ahead to help welcome him to Union University and to introduce him to the wonderful people who are a part of the Union University community.”
Robert Sloan, president of Houston Baptist University, described Oliver as “a person of great integrity, faith, strong theological commitments grounded in Scripture, and a love for students.”
The trustee vote affirms a recommendation from the search committee appointed one year ago this month to select a new president. The committee conducted a national search, considering more than 130 nominations prior to bringing their recommendation to elect Oliver.
“The search process was composed of prayer, people, and procedures,” Hill said. “We are confident that the Union community quickly will see the consistent patterns of service and commitment that led us to Dr. Oliver.”