Established in 1917, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was actually the fulfillment of a century-old dream of Baptists to reach the city of New Orleans (then one of the largest cities in America) and to establish a missionary training school at the gateway to Latin America. NOBTS was voted into being by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1917 as messengers met in New Orleans for their annual meeting.
New Orleans Seminary was the first theological institution to be created by the direct action of the Southern Baptist Convention. Originally named Baptist Bible Institute, the name was changed to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1946.
Following unanimous SBC approval in 1917, the Institute opened its first session in October 1918 under the leadership of Byron H. DeMent, who served as president of the Baptist Bible Institute from 1917 to 1928. Others who have served as president of the school are William H. Hamilton Sr. (1928-42); Duke K. McCall (1943-46); Roland Q. Leavell (1946-58); H. Leo Eddleman (1959-70); Grady C. Cothen (1970-74); and Landrum P. Leavell II, nephew of Roland Leavell (1974-95); and Charles S. “Chuck” Kelley Jr. (1996-2019).
On June 5, 2019, the NOBTS trustees unanimously elected James K. “Jamie” Dew Jr. to serve as the school’s ninth president. Dew brings a wealth of academic, administrative, and ministerial experience to the task. He holds two Ph.D. degrees, one from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and another from the University of Birmingham (UK). Dew most recently served as vice president of undergraduate studies and distance learning at Southeastern Seminary.
From its beginning until 1953, the school was located at 1220 Washington Avenue, in the heart of the Garden District of residential New Orleans. During the presidency of Roland Q. Leavell, the current campus at 3939 Gentilly Boulevard was purchased in 1947. The landmark entrance gates and fence from the Garden District mansion now are located on the front block of the Gentilly campus. The current property, once a 75-acre pecan orchard, has been transformed into a beautiful campus with 12 additional acres and more than 70 buildings.
The seminary began offering full bachelor's degrees during the 1992-1993 school year through its School of Christian Training. In 2003, NOBTS trustees approved the Leavell College name to honor the contributions of the two Leavells who led the institution. The program has grown over the years and in 2018, Leavell College celebrated its 5,000 graduate.
New Orleans Seminary, along with Leavell College, is accredited to offer degrees on both the undergraduate and graduate levels: associate, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral. The Seminary is committed to making quality theological education as accessible and affordable as possible to as many as possible. NOBTS and Leavell College currently serve more than 3,600 students. More than 20,000 men and women have studied and prepared themselves for ministry at NOBTS.
The future is bright at NOBTS/Leavell College and the school remains committed to the task of training men and women for Gospel ministry in this most unique setting. In addition to a continued focus on graduate programs, NOBTS leaders plan to expand and enhance the work of Leavell College. Dr. Dew also brings a new emphasis on raising up a generation of Gospel ministers marked by servanthood and total devotion to Christ and His kingdom. Servanthood and the basin and towel will characterize the NOBTS/Leavell College community as they proclaim the Gospel and grow in spiritual fervor.