Central Baptist College
Central Baptist College in Conway (Faulkner County) is the only institution of higher education in the state affiliated with the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas. It complements the mission of sister schools in Texas (Jacksonville College), Mississippi (Southeastern Baptist College), as well as the disbanded Midwestern Baptist College in Oklahoma.
Central Baptist College opened in 1952 in Conway (at the site of the previous Central College for Women) under the name of Central College for Christian Workers, as the educational ministry of the North American Baptist Association (NABA), which was later renamed the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas (BMAA). The college began as an extension of Jacksonville College in Texas, holding classes in the Temple Baptist Church facilities in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Soon, however, the denomination purchased for the site of its school the park-like, tree-lined, eleven-acre property in the heart of Conway—formerly owned by the Central College for Women—for $85,000. To avoid confusion with the girls’ seminary that had occupied the site, the college changed its name to Conway Baptist College. Ten years later, the name was again changed to Central Baptist College.
Doss Nathan Jackson was selected as the institution’s first president and was considered by many within the denomination to be the only man capable of making the college a success. Denominational leaders felt that Jackson’s name recognition would favorably assist his fundraising activities for the college, which they believed to be his primary endeavor. However, Jackson’s tenure was cut short after he was criticized for not raising enough money for debt service, operating expenses, program offerings, expansion, and equipment. College trustees were alarmed at the nearly $10,000 decline in revenue from 1952 to 1953. Jackson felt he could not stand against the internal fighting and criticism and so resigned at the March 27, 1954, board meeting. He was succeeded by Abner R. Reddin in June 1954.
Central Baptist struggled through its first three decades of existence. The school competed with local and international missionary efforts for support from the small, struggling denomination, and some from the denomination felt that money should be spent on missions and not a luxury like a college. As a result of persistently low funding, survival seemed precarious. Only during the presidency of Charles Attebery (1990–2004) did the school’s financial posture stabilize. Attebery secured the largest single donation to the school up to that time, paid off the college’s debt, instituted a college master plan, and launched several major capital campaigns to fund building projects and keep the ledger in the black.
Central operated under Arkansas Department of Education certification until the board of trustees recommended that it join the American Association of Junior Colleges in 1962. With the knowledge that specialized and regional accreditation was necessary for continued acceptance in the academic community, the college received applicant status with the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges, later renamed the American Association of Bible Colleges (AABC), in 1972 and received full accreditation in 1977. Affiliation with the North Central Higher Learning Commission was secured in 1993. The institution also holds membership in Arkansas’ Independent Colleges and Universities.
Central Baptist College was chartered as a school to aid Arkansas Baptists in effectively filling vocational positions in their churches. A strong biblical foundation still stands at the heart of all instruction. In addition to vocational ministry-related degree plans, the college offers associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in general education, business, music, and social services; it also has a business-oriented adult degree completion program. Although the school had envisioned a student body of 500 by 2000, that goal was finally met in 2006. As of 2007, fifty-eight full- and part-time faculty were employed by the college. In 2012, the 38,000-square-foot David T. Watkins Academic Building was completed. The college competes in the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference. Enrollment as of September 2014 was 858 students.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Central Baptist College announced a revised mission statement that summarizes its purpose: “Central Baptist College, a community of learners dedicated to the integration of Christian faith and academic excellence, exists to instill in our students a commitment to lifelong learning, spiritual development and service to God, through a program characterized by academic rigor, practical experience, and spiritual direction in a Christ-focused environment.”
For additional information:
Central Baptist College. http://www.cbc.edu (accessed June 15, 2023).
Bender, Melvin. “The Founding of Conway Baptist College (1952).” Faulkner County Facts and Fiddlings 37 (Fall/Winter 1995): 55–67.
———. She May Be Small…But There Are Those Who Love Her So: The History of Central Baptist College. Conway, AR: River Road Press, 2001.
Tio, Norma. “Central Baptist College:1950–Present.” In Faulkner County: Its Land and People. Conway, AR: Faulkner County Historical Society, 1986.
M. E. “Dusty” Bender
Central Baptist College
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