Three Distinguished Alumni Honored

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary honored three alumni with the 2009 Distinguished Alumni Award on June 24 at the Seminary’s Alumni and Friends luncheon in Louisville. 

In keeping with the recent celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Northern California campus, the first of three alumni to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award was 98-year-old retired missionary and church planter, A.L. (Lewis) Davis, of Mena, Arkansas. Reverend Davis, who was a member of the very first graduating class of Golden Gate in 1949, wasn’t able to travel to Louisville due to his advanced age. Tom Jones, Golden Gate’s Vice President of Institutional Advancement, presented the award in person at his home church, First Baptist Church of Mena, on June 7, which Pastor David McCord declared “Lewis Davis Day.” 

Golden Gate Seminary president Jeff Iorg told the luncheon crowd how Davis “was appointed in 1962 by the Home Mission Board of the SBC as the first Southern Baptist missionary to the Sioux Nation.” After 30 years, at age 65, he retired from mission work, and went on to start four churches in South Dakota. During his career he planted a total of 24 churches in California, Washington, Idaho, Montana and South Dakota. Iorg recounted how Davis attempted another retirement at age 75, but soon accepted the pastorate at Rapid Valley Baptist Church in South Dakota, where he had previously served. There he led the 350-member church to complete a building program and become debt-free. 

On his 87th birthday Davis retired from the ministry for the third time. At 95 years of age he wrote and published his 467-page autobiography, My Memoirs: The Tapestry of a Life. 

The second recipient of Golden Gate’s Distinguished Alumni Award was Max Kell, a 1958 graduate. Kell, a native of Washington, pastored El Camino Baptist Church in Sacramento for 29 years, and is now pastor emeritus. 

“This is a tremendous honor to be chosen out of the hundreds of Golden Gate graduates,” said Kell. “Thank you for this tribute.” 

Iorg noted that Kell had served in many denominational capacities during his career, including vice president of the California state convention, member of the SBC educational commission, moderator of the Sacramento Southern Baptist Association, chairman of the Christian Heritage Celebration, member of the steering committee for two Sacramento Billy Graham crusades and chairman of the Sacramento prayer breakfast. 

“Max is known as a man of prayer as well as an evangelist,” said Iorg. “We are delighted to recognize him as an example of the dedicated focus we hope all Golden Gate graduates will have.” 

The third Distinguished Alumni Award was given posthumously to Sid Smith, Jr., a native Texan who earned a Master of Religious Education degree in 1968, and who passed away in April 2009 at age 65. Accepting the award on his behalf was his wife Arnetta Smith and son, Sid Smith, III, who is currently a student at Golden Gate. 

“Sid Smith, Jr. was a Southern Baptist African-American pioneer,” said Iorg, noting that he had served for more than 40 years in a Southern Baptist denominational role, longer than any other African-American leader. “Smith left a legacy of a faith-filled leader who had deep convictions about his faith in God, as well as his culture and the African-American church,” Iorg added. “Dr. Smith will be remembered as a powerful and strong mentor of many who are serving in denominational ministries for the Southern Baptist convention. 

At the luncheon, Iorg also reported on the work of the Seminary, including how the five-campus seminary is staying strong in the down economy, the inspiring 50th anniversary of the Northern California campus, the positive feedback from the reaccredidation team and the extended planning process which has resulted in the Diamond Plan, a blueprint that will guide the seminary through its 75th (diamond) anniversary in 2020. Sid Smith, III, also shared his experiences as a seminary student.