President R. Alton Lacey, who has led MBU since 1995, shares some personal insights with MBU Timeline reporter Hannah Wood as part of our ongoing series recognizing MBU’s 50th anniversary. Click and read below to see Wood’s exclusive interview.
Dr. R. Alton Lacey has served as the longest-tenured president in the history of Missouri Baptist University.
Prior to Dr. Lacey, there have been five past presidents at MBU: Dr. L.A. Foster (1966-1970), Dr. Frank Kellogg (1970-1974), Dr. Robert S. Sutherland (1976-1981), Dr. Patrick Copley (1982-1990), Dr. J. Edwin Hewlett (1990-1991) and Dr. Thomas S. Field (1991-1995).
When Lacey started working at MBU in 1995, the campus consisted of only five buildings.
“The campus always had a problem with funds and being able to keep up the buildings and keep up proper maintenance,” Lacey said. “They did as good a job as they could but the landscaping and all was rather sparse. … So that’s what it looked like when I came 20 years ago.”
Twenty years ago, chapel was held in what is now called the Field Academic Hall, where the records office and provost office are located.
“It was really a basement is what it was,” Lacey said. “One side of it was mostly just concrete and storage.”
While the university was much different, significantly smaller and consisted of fewer students, it had a lot of potential.
“The thing that’s different about us in this area is that we’re the only evangelical Christian school,” Lacey said. “There are other schools that have a faith dimension, but we’re the only school for which that is part of our mission.”
As an evangelical Christian institution, MBU strives to teach students from a Biblical standpoint.
“The way that we approach education from a biblical worldview is one in which we try to get students not to concern themselves just with making money and just success in financial terms but we want our graduates to go into the community,” Lacey said. “We want them to make a difference. We want people to hire our graduates because they have a moral outlook, a moral foundation.”
MBU has been cited by the annual “top workplaces” survey in the St. Louis Post Dispatch newspaper in 2013 and 2014. The university has ranked in the top 5 among larger employers throughout the St. Louis area, and ranked No. 1 in a survey question that focused on how much employees feel appreciated in their workplace.
“The other thing that I think makes us a little bit different is that our people seem to really like to work here,” Lacey said.
President Lacey offered some insight into where he would like to see the university 50 years from now.
“My vision probably doesn’t extend quite that far, but there are some areas the university can move into that will have an impact on whatever it does in the next 50 years,” said Lacey.
Lacey continued to praise the people who helped build and keep the campus alive 50 years ago and who helped build the institution into what it is today.