Samford’s fine arts dean named president of Campbellsville University

Samford’s fine arts dean was named president of Campbellsville University

Samford’s fine arts dean was named president of Campbellsville University

Campbellsville University has named a fine arts administrator 12th president of the Baptist-founded liberal arts school.

Joseph “Joe” Hopkins, dean of the School of the Arts at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., will become president at the central Kentucky school on Feb. 1. He was elected to the post by university trustees on Nov. 8.

While it has become for deans at liberal arts colleges and universities to ascend to school presidencies, it is exceptionally rare for musicians to be chosen as institutional heads.


Joe Hopkins

Hopkins is in his 16th year as dean of the School of the Arts at Samford, also a Baptist-affiliated university. Previously, he served as dean of the Petrie School of Music at Converse College in South Carolina and chair of the music department at the University of Evansville in Illinois.

He is known as a scholar-performer and leader in arts administration. At Samford, he has led the School of the Arts through extensive growth in enrollment, fundraising, and community engagement. He has recruited nationally known faculty and created international programs.

Hopkins founded and directed the Harlaxton International Chamber Music Festival, served on the faculty of the Opera festival di Roma, and has performed across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

He has performed in leading operatic roles as well as solo performances with the Moscow State Philharmonic, St. Petersburg State Orchestra, International Chamber Orchestra of Rome, at St. Martin in the Fields Church of London, Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall, and on Chinese National Radio. His wife, Suzanne, also is a performer and music educator.

Hopkins earned a bachelor of music degree from Shorter University, a master of music degree from Baylor University, and a doctor of music degree from Indiana University. He completed the Management and Leadership in Education Diploma from Harvard University.

The new president also is an ordained minister and has served in churches in Indiana, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Kentucky. Currently, he serves as worship pastor at First Baptist Church of Birmingham.

Campbellsville University currently is led by an interim president, H. Keith Spears, who took the helm after the retirement of the longtime president.

The school dates to 1906 and previously was affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Its traditional undergraduate enrollment is about 6,000 students, but the overall enrollment is about 12,000, including graduate students, extension campus students, and diploma and certificate program students.

A history of the university’s relationship with Kentucky Baptists, posted on the school’s website, was written in 2017 by Dwayne Howell, a university professor.

“Campbellsville University severed its ties with the Kentucky Baptist Convention in 2014 due to what was seen as undue pressure from the convention which, in turn, could threaten the accreditation of the university,” he explained. “Because of what was seen as a hostile attitude expressed by the convention, the university sought to immediately dissolve its affiliation with the convention. The university offered to enter into a new mission and ministry agreement with the Kentucky Baptist Convention to share in areas of ministry. This was seen as a shared ministry and would not require funding from the university and the university has entered into such an agreement with other Baptist organizations. However, the convention turned down the offer.”

Over the past two decades, the Kentucky Baptist Convention has taken a rightward shift, mirroring its affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention, which also has become increasingly more conservative.

All three universities previously affiliated with the state convention have severed that relationship. In addition to Campbellsville, those schools are Georgetown College and the University of the Cumberlands.

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