Good Shepherds

August 31, 2015
Good Shepherds

This is a story about two world-renowned scholars with gentle souls, compassion and vision. Individually, their stories are worthy of articles and essays--each laying claim to national and international honors having reached the pinnacles of their careers. Together their story is extraordinary, a true example of servant-hood, love and mutual respect. The kind of story Jesus would have shared with his disciples in order to teach them how to live in his father's image.

Both adept at storytelling in graduate-level seminars, books, pulpits and one-on-one conversations, today, they become the story. David E. Garland, PhD, and Diana R. Garland, PhD, have been married for 45 years in August, and students at Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary and the recently named Diana R. Garland School of Social Work have been the beneficiaries of their tales for the past 18 years.

With six degrees between them, three each, the Garlands were deans of their respective schools at the same time; have endowed chairs named after them; and were instrumental in the growth, development and success of Truett and the School of Social Work. As prolific scholars having written at least 20 books each along with countless professional articles, they have brought national attention to their schools. In addition, when called upon, David unselfishly stepped out of his role as a professor or dean to serve in an administrative capacity, serving as the associate dean of academic affairs for Truett Seminary 2001-2007, interim president of the University 2008-2010, and most recently interim provost for the University 2014-2015.

"As a couple, they have had an unparalleled impact on Baylor. During my five years, I watched day in and day out, David and Diana energetically and selflessly pour their hearts and souls into this University," Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr says. "They've cared deeply not only about the School of Social Work and Truett Seminary but have been purposefully engaged in the broader life of the University."

Both had the desire to attend Baylor as undergraduates, but their story begins at another Baptist university--Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee. David was a senior, and Diana was a freshman. He was the leader of her chapel group, and as he tells the story, he tricked her into going on a date with him. They married two years after they met.

In the next eight years, the two completed five degrees between them in Louisville, Ky. With a call to ministry and a family heritage of ministerial service, David earned his master's degree in divinity and his doctorate degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary while Diana completed a bachelor's degree in sociology, a master's degree in social work and a doctorate degree in marital and family studies from the University of Louisville.

"I grew up in a culture where women who felt called could do two things," Diana says. "They could become a pastor's wife or they could become missionaries to China. There didn't seem to be any other path. I married a man who was going to be a pastor and did so, and I was the classic pastor's wife. I played the piano in church; I led the WMU (Woman's Missionary Union) group; and I taught Sunday school."

In 1979, the couple had their first child, Sarah, and found themselves working on the same campus at Southern Seminary. David was an assistant professor of New Testament when the director of the Carver School of Church Social Work asked Diana to join the faculty and develop the graduate social work degree at the seminary. Diana became the dean of the Carver School in 1993.

"The significance of having such a program within a religious context was a completely new concept," Diana explains. "In the 1950s and 1960s, social sciences were based on behaviorism and psychoanalytic theory, neither of which leaves any room for a reality that we do not know. Therefore, religion and the concept of God were not welcome. Social work, however, began in the church where mostly women felt called to missions and ministries at a time when they were not welcome in seminary.

"My contention is that social work developed because of gender bias in the church. These independent schools developed, often called training schools. These schools are the heritage we used to build the School of Social Work at Southern Seminary, and the School of Social Work at Baylor has been built on that tradition, as well."

While Diana was forging new trails in the field of social work, David was becoming a New Testament scholar of critical acclaim. His first commentary, "The Intention of Matthew 23," was published in a noted series in Europe, Novum Testamentum, in 1979. He followed it with numerous articles and several more books, including Beyond Companionship: Christians in Marriage and Marriage: For Better or For Worse, which he co-wrote with Diana in 1986 and 1989, respectively.

“In New Testament circles, David Garland is considered a clear, creative, compelling commentator who offers rare insight into scripture," says Dr. Todd Still, BA '88, current dean of Truett Seminary and holder of The William M. Hinson Professor of Christian Scriptures, "and does so in a way that is attune not only to the historical context but also to the theological contribution of any given biblical book."

Weathering the Storm

Fast-forward to the mid-1990s. David and Diana are the parents of two teens, Sarah and John, tenured faculty members of The Southern Seminary, deans of their respective schools, and each holding endowed chairs when a shift in Baptist leadership changed everything. Southern Seminary experienced leadership changes with a focus toward very conservative views on women's roles and positions in the church. These changes resulted in Diana being dismissed as the dean of the Carver School of Church Social Work, and the school was closed in 1995. It was transferred to a Baptist college in Kentucky in 1998.

Diana spoke publicly against the closure and the administration, and she was honored with the Jack Otis Whistleblower Award in 1996 by the National Association of Social Workers.

"David was there with me as I made the decision to stand and speak," Diana recalls, "and like Rosa Parks, I was the one to sit down on that bus, but what we didn't realize is that David was sitting on the same bus with me. My loss had deep implications for him as well."

She was heartbroken, and David was devastated, but they made a commitment to one another that they would not leave Louisville unless each had a career opportunity that was mutually beneficial.

"I thought it was basically the end," David says. "I did not want to leave where I was, and initially, my response was that I was going into exile. I was reading Jeremiah's running letter to the exiles in Babylonia, Jeremiah 29:7. He's writing, saying to them, 'seek the welfare of the city,' and that became a watchword for me. It starts in verse 5, 'build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce,' and in verse 7, 'but seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.'"

Providence, aka Baylor

Dr. Preston Dyer, BA '60, the director of the undergraduate program of social work at Baylor at the time, realized Southern Seminary's loss could be Baylor's fortune. He had been working on developing a graduate program for social work for some time, and he knew that Diana was the key.

"I wanted someone who was familiar with graduate education in social work, and of course as dean at Southern Seminary's school of social work, she was perfect," says Dyer, who today is professor emeritus in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. "I kid her all the time now saying, 'I have never known anyone who has made a career out of getting fired.' And the reality of it is that is exactly what happened."

Baylor also called on David's expertise, specifically for the young George W. Truett Theological Seminary which opened in 1994, and the couple began working on the same campus once more in 1997.

"Through his excellent scholarship and New Testament study, David has continued to draw attention of the academic community on one hand and congregations on the other including ministers and lay people to Baylor as a place that takes the Bible seriously and who employs academics of the first order," says Still, who was one of the scholars David encouraged and supported in his own research.

Eighteen years later, it's easy to see the physical changes that David and Diana had a hand in creating at Baylor. When they arrived, the programs they were working for were housed in various buildings on and off campus. Truett offered classes in the First Baptist Church of Waco, and David remembers teaching a seminar after vacation bible school let out for the day. For Diana, the social work program at Baylor was part of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work and Gerontology, and at one point its offices were housed in a parking garage.

"Today, one can see their contributions by driving across the Brazos River," Starr says. "If one looks to the west, one sees the corporeal embodiment of Diana's legacy in the multi-story building that bears Baylor's name. The very idea that the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work would move from our main campus to downtown to be close to those who the school serves is itself a great accomplishment of the dynamic growth under Diana's leadership.

"If you cast your eye over the east, you see the spire of the Truett Seminary, which David in a founder-like way built. As the fourth dean of Truett, I think he will be viewed as a genuine builder and founder of Truett from its very earliest times and moving from First Baptist Church-Waco to its beautiful home on campus."

"That's what Diana and David have both done," Starr continues. "They have built this university and have extended and expanded its reach literally globally."

The Power Couple

Known to many students as "the power couple," David and Diana have discovered a balance between work and home life that is admired by all who have witnessed it.

"Figuring out how to work through our dual roles was really interesting for us," Diana says, "and early on we made it a point to never sit together at Baylor events like the Council of Deans or University-wide faculty meetings, so that we communicated to others that when we are at work, we are not a couple. I certainly confided in him and consulted with him, and he in me, but it was always as a confidential colleague, and we recognized those boundaries."

While separately, they have made amazing contributions to their fields of study, they have collaborated as well, creating a dual degree program, for example, across their disciplines for graduate students interested in receiving a master’s degree in divinity and a master's degree in social work. This four-year program is the only one of its kind across the nation.

For current graduate students Will Ward and Emily Mosher, the dual degree program was the perfect combination for their individual career goals. As the children's minister at Cavalry Baptist Church in Waco, Ward says he has been able to practice his social work skills by connecting people with the right resources in a way that a minister without a social work background would not be able to do. Both Ward and Mosher point to Diana's introduction to social work professions class which is required for all dual degree students as one of the unique aspects of the program.

"She gets you to think about how you can integrate your Christian faith with social work and how to do it ethically," says Mosher, who is halfway through the program and works for REACH Therapeutic Riding Center coordinating and developing a program for at-risk youth. "I think this is where Baylor really stands out in its School of Social Work. It helped us look at why we are in the program and what our roles as Christians might look like in our careers."

Teaching and Living by Example

David and Diana take their roles as Christian educators and scholars very seriously, sharing their God-given gifts and talents unselfishly, says Dr. Helen Harris, assistant professor in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.

"Diana believes that the gifts and talents which are given to you should be used for the kingdom," Harris says. "She doesn't just expect others to do that, she lives that example. One thing Diana has insisted on is that we all understand how small the world is becoming. It isn't enough to care for your neighbor next door or across the street, but to recognize that our neighbors are people around the globe.

"One of Diana's favorite scripture stories is the story of the good Samaritan," Harris continues, explaining that Diana encourages students and faculty members to think about who their neighbors are today. "Whether we are talking about the Global Mission Leadership program, the Houston satellite program or online education opportunities, it's all a part of extending the School of Social Work's outreach to neighbors away from us geographically."

Along with that in Beyond Companionship: Christians in Marriage, Diana and David claimed that a good marriage has to look beyond itself in service to others.

"As Christians, we are certainly called upon to be companions in marriage, to be friends and lovers and live our lives in the little space that we call home together," Diana says, "but we are also called to be on mission together, and life in a community where we live should be different because we were there."

While they may have gone about making their community a better place in different ways, David and Diana have always shared one trait--compassion for others. Students feel it; colleagues feel it; and parishioners feel it.

"David cares deeply for other people," says Dr. Ron Cook, BA '71, an associate professor of Christian scriptures at Truett and director of the Center for Ministry Effectiveness. "He was a pastor before he was a scholar and that pastoral concern runs very deep for him. He also shows immense respect at all levels, and Diana has the same quality."

This compassion and mission to service makes each of them superb leaders, and is why David was called upon twice to step into administrative roles at the university.

"David embodies and exudes wisdom and sound judgment," Starr says. "He is filled with a spirit of graciousness and kindness yet he is strong as steel with firmness of purpose. It's a very impressive and formidable combination of character traits and skill sets. All the while, he is a towering intellect and prolific scholar."

Living Between Hope and Reality

Early in spring 2015, Diana was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and she and David retired from their administrative roles at Baylor. After completing research sabbaticals and spending time with their grandchildren, they plan to return as full-time faculty members in spring 2016.

"I have seen Diana do what few people do when they get a terminal diagnosis," Harris says. "They recognize that everyone is dying, and when you get the word that your time may be shorter than you thought, there is both threat and opportunity there. The opportunity is to do the things you want to do, say the things you want to say, see the people you want to see and live fully."

David has considered Diana's optimism as one of her greatest qualities throughout their marriage and shared a recent story about a full-grown moose which was stationed outside their home in Colorado. Most would feel threatened by such a dangerous animal in such close proximity, but Diana claimed it to be her guardian moose.

"We take every day as a gift now," David says, "and it's a wonderful gift. The watchword for me at Baylor has been 'seek the welfare of the city,' and now I turn to Hebrews 13:14 which says, 'for here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come,' and you understand that there is something more than just physical life."

Laughter and humor have been big parts of their union, as well. Diana believes that David taught her how to laugh throughout their relationship and now in a new way, even poking fun at cancer.

"I had the blessing of knowing my diagnosis," Diana says. "I'm living. I'm not dying. I don’t think God gave me cancer as a punishment for something nor do I think I should have been spared it because I lived a good life. Any of us could have disease or an accident happen to us. It is how we choose to live with it and find the meaning and how God would use us in this. That is what’s important, not the why."

As one of her graduate student's posted on Facebook, “She's still teaching us," and together, David and Diana continue to live out their story while modeling the lessons of the greatest teacher and story teller of all--Jesus.