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November 22, 2019

Dr. Dennis F. Kinlaw arrived as a student on Asbury University’s campus in 1938, but his impact could still be felt today as many gathered to celebrate the opening of the University’s brand-new Dennis F. Kinlaw Study Center. A Chapel service and ribbon cutting ceremony for the study center were held in honor of the former Asbury president on Nov. 22, 2019. View a photo gallery below! 

Located inside Kinlaw Library, the Dennis F. Kinlaw Study Center houses approximately 1,000 books of distinction from Kinlaw’s collection. Capturing his unique insights, this collection will be a valuable resource for researchers, students and pastoral staff.

Family members, friends and alumni whose lives were impacted by Kinlaw’s teachings and guidance traveled far and wide to be present at the special dedication ceremony. Tears were shed and smiles abounded as several guests shared stories about Kinlaw prior to the ribbon cutting. His impact as a professor, spiritual leader, friend and grandfather was evident through the many stories that were shared.

Dr. Chris Bounds ’88 spoke in Chapel, drawing on teachings he learned from Kinlaw as a student.

“I am reminded that my own father came to know Jesus Christ as his savior and Lord through the preaching of Dennis Kinlaw while I was a student at Asbury in the 1980s,” Bounds said. “I’m also deeply indebted to Dr. Kinlaw because it was in Chapels like this that I had an opportunity to hear messages on the beauty of holiness and began to realize that there is a work of grace that God can do in our hearts where our lives can truly be about perfect love, to love God and love neighbor.”

Following Chapel, family, faculty, distinguished guests and community members attended a special dedication ceremony in the Dennis F. and Elsie B. Kinlaw Library. Speakers included:

  • Dr. Kevin J. Brown, Asbury University president
  • Sarah Luce ’72, Board of Trustees member
  • Jared Porter ’01, director of Library Services
  • Susannah Searls ’19, great-granddaughter
  • Jerald Walz ‘96, alumnus
  • Bill Ury ‘80, alumnus
  • Cricket Coppedge ’95 Albertson, granddaughter
  • Suzanne O’Neal ’65 Gehring, head of Archives & Special Collections
  • Larry Brown ’80, Board of Trustees chair

“Dr. Kinlaw has modeled a profound understanding of wisdom for me,” Dr. Brown said. “He moved the dial for Asbury College in ways we are still reaping the benefits of [through] seeds that he planted decades ago.”

Searls, one of Kinlaw’s great-grandchildren, shared fond memories of the time she spent with her great-grandfather at his residence in Wilmore throughout the years.

“My twin and I are the oldest of Dr. Kinlaw and Elsie’s great-grandchildren and we got to spend our toddler years in their basement,” Searls said. “Today we’re celebrating and dedicating Papa’s academic contribution, which is great, but I want to celebrate his contribution to our family. My privilege was coming home to him and being welcomed by him. I wish I could take you with me to these memories.”

Thanks to the generosity of the Kinlaw family, more than 7,000 volumes from Kinlaw’s personal library were donated to the University, along with more than 66,000 pages of personal correspondence and monographs.

The Study Center is part of the Library’s Archives & Special Collections area and will provide a tranquil space for reading and reflection. The room was designed to facilitate small-group discussions and scholarly conversations.

Exhibits highlight leadership roles that Kinlaw filled while at Asbury, in addition to roles at One Mission Society and Christianity Today. Personal correspondence within the collection features vintage letters from Kinlaw’s parents who helped guide his thinking and ideas throughout his youth.

While books in Kinlaw’s collection focus primarily on holiness, there is a wide range of literature as Kinlaw was an avid reader and sought to understand the culture in which he lived.

Kinlaw graduated from Asbury College in 1943 and married his college sweetheart Elsie Blake ’43 the same year. He furthered his studies with a degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in 1946 and later received an M.A. and Ph.D. from Brandeis University.

He spent time serving in South Korea before returning to his alma mater. Kinlaw was Asbury’s 11th president. He served as a professor of Old Testament, history, theology and languages from 1963 until he accepted the invitation to assume the role of president in 1968. He served as president for two terms from 1968-1981 and 1986-1991, and founded the Francis Asbury Society in 1983. 

Learn more about Dr. Dennis F. Kinlaw.