Pictured above: Thomas Kinchen, retiring as 30+ year president of Baptist University of Florida, thanks students and alumni for their support through the years during alumni breakfast at Florida Baptist State Convention gathering in 2022.
GRACEVILLE – Thomas A. Kinchen, president emeritus of the Baptist University of Florida (formerly Baptist College of Florida), died Thursday, Jan. 11, of pancreatic cancer. He retired from the school in December 2022 after 32 years as its president.
His tenure was the longest of any person serving as president of the same Southern Baptist institution of higher education.
Founded in 1943, BUF trains and develops Christian leaders for the church and marketplace through offering 19 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The college is a cooperating ministry of the Florida Baptist State Convention, and it operates campuses in Graceville, Central Florida and Miami.
In 1990 when Kinchen was called to lead the college, “He inherited an organization experiencing declining enrollment and with the mandate that if things did not change, the college would likely close within 18 months,” according to a resolution adopted by messengers to the 2022 Florida Baptist State Convention annual meeting in Pensacola.
“When I arrived, I thought that the first two words in the name of the school were ‘Poor Old,’” Kinchen recalled.
“When I bragged about what was going on, I was cautioned not to brag on a poor little school in a tiny town in rural Florida. What folks did not recognize was that I was bragging on a mighty God in heaven who had initiated and supported this unique school.
“I have sought to face the challenges by never letting the school be defined by what we are not, but by what we are.”
The school did not close; instead, it grew tremendously over the decades of Kinchen’s leadership.
“BUF is asking our faithful Lord to provide love, comfort, and support for the Kinchen family,” the school posted on social media. “Please join in praying and supporting the Kinchen family. We grieve Dr. Kinchen’s passing but rejoice in our great hope of eternal life for him through the Lord Jesus.”
Tommy Green, Florida Baptist Convention executive director-treasure posted: “Dr. Kinchen was a friend to Florida Baptists, and his impact and influence in Christ continue across Florida and to the nations!”
Survivors include his wife, Ruth Ann; two children, Alexander (Gretchen) Kinchen, church planter in Lexington, Kentucky, and Lisa Ann Kinchen, former adjunct professor of music at BUF; and six grandchildren.
Visitation will be Sunday, Jan. 21, from 2 until 5 p.m. CST, at Damascus Baptist Church in Graceville, where Kinchen was a member, Sunday school teacher and deacon.
Celebration of life service will be Monday, Jan. 22, at 1 p.m. CST, also at Damascus.
The family asks that any monetary donations be given to Damascus Baptist Church in memory of Kinchen for the construction of a family life center, 5083 Hwy. 77, Graceville, FL 32440.