First Female Chair of a Southern Baptist Seminary, Becky Gardner: ‘If God Opens the Door, I Need to Walk Through’

Becky Gardner believed she would grow up to be a schoolteacher in Tennessee. But now, as superintendent of an award-winning Christian school in Peoria, Ill., and as a seminary trustee chair, she believes she is right where God wants her to be.

“I have the philosophy that if God opens the door, I need to walk through,” Gardner told the Biblical Recorder, newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

Gardner was elected to chair Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s trustees during their April 8-10 meeting at the SEBTS campus in Wake Forest. The vote was unanimous. She is believed to be the first female trustee chair for a Southern Baptist seminary, according to SEBTS’ examination of SBC Annuals.

Since joining the board in 2010, Gardner has served as trustee secretary and chair of the campus planning committee.

“Throughout my life, I have tried to be obedient in whatever opportunities God provides,” she said in a telephone interview.

Fellow SEBTS trustees and administration officials have made her feel at home, not “forgotten or second-thought.”

“I never felt like I was just a check in the box,” Gardner said. “They really do value each one of the trustees and the perspectives they bring.”

Gardner’s experience at Peoria Christian School in central Illinois, where she has worked more than 25 years, seems to fit well with Southeastern’s mission and vision.

Peoria Christian, which educates more than 600 students from preschool through 12th grade, has a goal to “produce academically skilled students who are equipped with a biblical worldview and who will impact the world for Christ.”

It has been named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education twice in the last 10 years for high test score performance. Gardner has been superintendent for six years, previously serving as principal and an elementary teacher.

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