Sadler Named Emeritus After 29 Years
Standing on stage, looking out across the audience, Paul Sadler looked at the faces of students ready to receive their diplomas. It was graduation. Many of these students he knew. Some he had taught. A few he mentored. Commencement ceremonies were nothing new for the professor of religion. After all, he had participated in graduation at least twice a year for the last 29 years. This May ceremony was different, however. It was his last.
On May 11, Sadler was recognized by Wayland Baptist University and his peers as the title of Emeritus Professor of Religion was bestowed upon him. It was a well-deserved honor for a man who has served Wayland for the past 29 years in various roles ranging from public address announcer at basketball games to Dean of the School of Religion and Philosophy and his current position of Director of Church and Denominational Relations.
Committed to a life of ministry, Sadler began his career as a pastor. He was completing his doctorate at Baylor while pastoring a church in Waco when he received a call from an old friend.
“I had gotten to the point that I lacked only my dissertation,” he said. “I had a very good friend here (at Wayland), Gary Manning, who was already on the faculty. They had an opening and Gary called me and asked me if I would be interested.”
Sadler hadn’t given a lot of thought to teaching at the university level. He decided to pursue a doctorate in order to benefit his ministry as a pastor. Through his education, however, he saw the influence that professors have on students.
“I had started into that (doctorate) program I guess you’d say for self improvement, or to improve my knowledge that would contribute to better preaching or teaching in the church,” Sadler said. “But through the course of that time and being around the faculty members there and getting closer to them, I got to know them and got to see that role and I knew the impact they had on my life.
“The idea of being able to work with students coming through, and the opportunity to impact those young people possibly even be a mentor to them, that became a sense of calling on my life,” he said.
Sadler began his teaching career as an assistant professor of religion, bringing with him knowledge and experience from 20 years of working on church staffs. He worked his way up from assistant to associate professor, to professor and then to Dean of the School of Religion and Philosophy, learning each step of the way.
“I moved up each rank of the faculty and at every level you learn and you grow and you become more aware of what goes on in the larger university,” Sadler said. “What are the concerns that the university has for how we are structured; how we administer our work; how we organize ourselves.”
But Sadler didn’t confine himself to faculty issues. He branched out and began working with other areas of the university, primarily with athletics. He was approached by then athletics director Dr. Greg Feris about serving as the university’s Faculty Athletics Representative. It’s a role required by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), Wayland’s sanctioning body for athletics. It’s a role he kept for 15 years.
“I had always been interested in athletics, went to games and was just a fan,” Sadler said. “(Feris) noted that and approached me about doing that job and explained what it involved.”
The FAR’s job is to ensure that athletes are academically eligible to participate. But it wasn’t Sadler’s only athletics responsibility. He also served as the public address announcer for Wayland basketball games for several years.
“I thought that was great fun,” he said. “You get to know some of those coaches and players a little better. You see the game from a different perspective, sitting at the table and listening to the interplay between coaches, officials, players and table officials. I thoroughly enjoyed that.”
While the jobs with athletics were enjoyable and provided an avenue to interact with the university at a different level, outside of faculty responsibility, as he continued to advance in his career, additional job duties made it necessary for him to step away from athletics.
“Once I became Dean and we were expanding athletics; we were adding football, wrestling, swimming and diving at the time … and so my duties as Dean were much greater than when I was just a regular faculty and the load of the FAR was increasing significantly. I just couldn’t manage both of those,” Sadler said.
As Dean, Sadler’s classroom responsibilities diminished somewhat, but administrative responsibilities continued to grow. Sadler said he was able to draw from his experience working his way up through the faculty.
“At each level you gain knowledge and you gain a broader perspective and you gain an awareness of some of the administrative tasks that are vital to the university,” he said.
After several years as Dean, Sadler was ready for another change. It was about the time that Dr. Bobby Hall who had served as Executive Vice President, was promoted to President of the university. Hall had changes in mind for what had been known as the Office of Church Services. Sadler stepped into the position of Director of Church and Denominational Relations, a position that was meant to strengthen Wayland’s ties with churches and denominational organizations.
“I knew Wayland. I knew the churches. I knew Baptist people,” Sadler said. “Just bringing those together was a big part of this job and that is something I have enjoyed doing very much. I almost wish I had done it sooner.”
As Sadler steps into retirement, he imagines he will continue to work with churches, preaching and teaching as the occasions arise. He and his wife, Jimye, have no intentions of leaving Plainview. Jimye has been battling cancer, but is doing very well, giving the Sadlers hope for the future. Their main focus for retirement will be spending time with grandkids who live in Amarillo, and traveling. And while he is looking forward to retirement, Sadler said the time he spent at Wayland will always be special, especially the relationships he built along the way.
“The camaraderie among the religion guys was really something special. We were friends as well as colleagues. We socialized together as well as worked together,” he said.
But while Sadler appreciates his time with colleagues, he said it was the students and their transformations that really made his time at Wayland worthwhile.
“Watching students learn and grow,” he said. “… become more than they were when they arrived.”