Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2010-03-03


Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School honored graduates Bob Hatfield and Susan Wanninger Laney as its 2010 Doctor of Ministry and Master of Divinity Alumni of the Year Tuesday, March 2.

Hatfield, a 2001 D. Min. degree graduate, is minister of music at Birmingham’s Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, which he has served since 1978.

Susan Wanninger Laney, a 1994 M. Div. degree recipient, is director of adult ministries at Birmingham’s South Highland Presbyterian Church.

Both also hold bachelor’s degrees from Samford.

In presenting Hatfield his award, Beeson director of D. Min. studies Mark Searby cited the honoree’s longtime dedication to music ministry. Hatfield’s doctoral dissertation, he noted, dealt with leading Dawson in authentic worship through “convergent elements of traditional and contemporary styles.”

“It was a worthy project that focused on helping his church to be the church that God wanted it to be,” said Searby, adding that Hatfield’s program at Dawson involves more than 1,100 participants in various phase of music ministry. Hatfield also frequently helps lead worship services at Beeson.

Laney has served in a variety of ways during her career, noted Beeson professor Kenneth Mathews. “She has coupled her intellect and wit with a passion for the gospel and for those who are often neglected in our community,” said Mathews in presenting the award. “The spring in her step is contagious.”

Laney’s ministry has included coordinating tornado relief for devastated west Jefferson County in the late 1990s, providing project leadership and serving a church in rural Wilcox County, and directing new church development at Grace Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. In her current post, she has expanded the senior adult ministry at South Highland to include the elderly in the Southside community.

The awards were presented at the first of a series of sermons and lectures presented by famed preacher Dr. James Earl Massey during this year’s William E. Conger Lectures on Biblical Preaching.

Massey, dean emeritus and distinguished professor-at-large, Anderson University School of Theology, will speak again at 11 a.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, March 3 and 4.

A 2 p.m. reception in Beeson Divinity Hall S-111 on Wednesday will celebrate the occasion of his 80th birthday and the new release of Our Sufficiency is of God: Essays on Preaching in Honor of Gardner C. Taylor. The book is edited by Beeson dean Timothy George, Dr. Massey and Beeson professor Robert Smith, Jr.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.