Former Asbury President Kinlaw Passes Away – Asbury University
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April 11, 2017

Watch video of Dr. Kinlaw describing the events of the 1970 Revival.

WILMORE, Ky. — Dr. Dennis F. Kinlaw ‘43, one of the longest-serving presidents in Asbury University’s history, passed away at 94 on April 10, 2017. He is preceded in death by his wife, Elsie Blake ’43 Kinlaw, and is survived by children, Beth Kinlaw ’69 Coppedge, Dennis Kinlaw, Jr. ’70, Katy Kinlaw ’75 Key, Sally Kinlaw ‘76 Babcock and Susie Kinlaw ’76 Masters. See below for service information. Information will be updated as available.

Students sitting by a large gravestone
As students, Dennis Kinlaw ’43 and Elsie Blake ’43 Kinlaw visited the grave of former President Henry Clay Morrison, who passed away during their junior year at Asbury.

An eminent scholar, visionary leader and minister of the gospel, Kinlaw is remembered in the Asbury community as one who modeled a commitment to academic rigor, spiritual vitality and personal holiness. During his two presidential tenures (1968-81 and 1986-91), Kinlaw charted the course for a period of spiritual revival, enriched academics and unprecedented growth.

“A dear friend, giant in the faith and one of the leading Christian voices of Wesleyan-Holiness has passed on to his heavenly reward,” said Asbury President Sandra C. Gray. “My visits with Dr. Kinlaw over the past 10 years were a joy and inspiration; I always left more in love with, and in awe of, our loving Lord. While Dr. Kinlaw has long looked forward to this day of enjoying fellowship with Jesus, he will be greatly missed among our community.”

Born in 1922, Kinlaw received what he would later call “the most significant spiritual experience” of his life under the preaching of then Asbury President Henry Clay Morrison during the Indian Springs Camp Meeting in 1935. Thirteen years old at the time, Kinlaw heard Morrison preach on entire sanctification — an experience that would profoundly shape his spiritual life and academic career.

Kinlaw attended Asbury from 1939-43, where he distinguished himself in many areas. In addition to serving as student body president, he served as president of the freshman, sophomore and senior classes, volunteered in a college missionary society, led the debate team for three years and served as religion editor of the Collegian student newspaper.

After graduating from Asbury, Kinlaw married his classmate Elsie Blake ’43 Kinlaw and was ordained a minister. He pursued further studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary and University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and received his M.A. and Ph.D. from Brandeis University in Mediterranean Studies. Kinlaw served at various times as a pastor in New York, a visiting professor at Seoul Theological Seminary and was recognized as the leading holiness preacher in the U.S.

In 1968, Kinlaw accepted an invitation to serve as president of Asbury. Under his leadership, Asbury experienced great academic and institutional growth, adding a new department of student affairs, creating new majors including social work and computer science and hiring many new faculty members. In the first 10 years of Kinlaw’s presidency, the number of faculty rose from 50 to 96, the majority of new faculty having earned terminal degrees.

Dr. Victor Hamilton, a former professor of Bible and Theology at Asbury, studied under Kinlaw at seminary before joining Asbury’s faculty during Kinlaw’s tenure. Hamilton remembers Kinlaw as an exemplar of faith and scholarship — a model for the Christian academic.

“For the first time in my life, I saw in Kinlaw somebody who authentically modeled both a deeply spiritual life and a great academic mind committed to the pursuit of truth,” Hamilton said. “I had seen one or the other in a lot of people, but for the first time, I saw a model of what, by God’s grace, I could be.”

During Kinlaw’s two tenures, Asbury continued to achieve higher standards of excellence and innovation, completing two 10-year, self-study procedures for the Southern Association of Colleges and School (SACS), planting the first seeds of the Media Communication program and raising funds for and building the Kresge women’s residence hall. During this time, Asbury also entered into intercollegiate sports, reached a record high enrollment and adopted a rigorous plan for minority recruitment.

Asbury experienced spiritual awakening during Kinlaw’s presidency as well, especially through the 1970 Revival. On Feb. 3, 1970, a seemingly ordinary Chapel service became 144 hours of unbroken revival, and through students, its impact extended to the local community, around the country and across the world. Of the revival, Kinlaw famously said, “Give me one divine moment when God acts, and I say that moment is far superior to all the human efforts of man throughout the centuries.”

Asbury University’s Kinlaw Library, dedicated in June 2001 honors Dennis and Elsie Kinlaw, recognizing their lasting impact on Asbury and the life-long difference they made in the lives of students.

“When I think of Dr. Kinlaw, I think of his rich, vibrant, distinctive baritone voice, and I can hear him even now challenging us to live sanctified lives,” said Lisa Falin ’90 Harper, director of Alumni Relations at Asbury. “He was one of the wisest men I knew and I was in awe of him. He loved the ‘young people’ (as he would often call us) and wanted more than anything for us to have a deep and abiding relationship with God; for us to know of and experience His grace; for us to live holy lives.

He challenged generations of Asburians to pursue Christ with a thirst and passion — to pursue Him daily and in every aspect of our lives. He loved the Lord, he loved Mrs. Elsie, he loved his family and he loved his ‘young people.’ He was the embodiment of Asbury’s motto of Academic Excellence and Spiritual Vitality.”

Service Information:

  • Friday, April 14 — Visitation, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Hughes Auditorium, Asbury University
  • Saturday, April 15 — Celebration of Life Service, 10 a.m. (doors open at 9 a.m.), Hughes Auditorium, Asbury University
  • Enjoy Lunch at Asbury University — For those who wish to spend more time with the family and/or friends, Asbury has made the University cafeteria available. Lunch service lines in Z.T. Johnson Cafeteria will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The Gray Room has been set aside for this use.
  • Saturday, April 15 — Interment, Wilmore Cemetery