“A Beloved Friend and Trusted Colleague”
Dr. James B. Raiford, former Academic Dean of Calvary Theological Seminary, went to be with the Lord on June 7, 2019. His obituary is available here. The following article was written and contributed by his friend and colleague, Mr. Joel T. Williamson, Jr.
In December 1999, when Dr. James B. Raiford left Calvary Bible College and Theological Seminary (now Calvary University) to return to the pastorate, he left behind more than an empty office. He left a campus full of friends and an educational institution that was far better and more stable than the one he found when he arrived—thanks in large part to his own tireless efforts.
Coming to Calvary did not make much sense in 1990. Though recovering, the school had operated “in the red” for several years, and rumors of its demise were circling overhead. Yet, it was in 1990 that Dr. Raiford chose to leave a successful pastorate and become the chairman of Pastoral Studies. He came with everything Calvary looks for in its faculty—a record of academic excellence, extensive experience in ministry, and an established reputation as a godly husband and father.
Driven by a vision of what biblical and theological education should be, he tackled every challenge with the singular goal of making each graduating class better prepared for ministry than its predecessor. Though a popular teacher in both Pastoral Studies and Bible, Dr. Raiford’s greatest academic contribution may well have come in Theology, especially in his Contemporary Theology class, where he prepared students to have a stable faith in a world of constantly shifting ideas.
It was under Dr. Raiford’s leadership that Calvary’s graduate school was restructured to meet the needs of the modern evangelical church with courses that were both ministry-oriented and academically rigorous. In 1992, this revised program was officially christened “Calvary Theological Seminary,” and James B. Raiford became its first academic dean. Recognizing the need to make seminary education even more available, he initiated a modular program to allow pastors (and others) to continue their education without interrupting their ministries. In 1994, he converted the entire seminary program to an evening school so that students could support their families with good-paying day jobs and still complete their education for ministry at night. In the years since his departure, Calvary has experienced further expansion and development, but the improvements he initiated have not been lost or forgotten.
During his time at Calvary, Jim Raiford wore many hats, and wore them well. He even served as academic dean of both college and seminary for one year! Still, his greatest contributions were more personal. He was a friend and mentor to his students and a beloved friend and trusted colleague to the faculty and staff. By all who knew him at Calvary, he is, and will continue to be, sorely missed.