Gregory Tippins was all set to graduate from Samford University's Beeson Divinity School in December 2020 with his Doctor of Ministry degree.
But COVID-19 took his life two months shy of that milestone.
“Gregory was a man who was in love with our Savior,” Wanda, his widow, said. “He was passionate about the Word of God, especially the Old Testament. He loved to preach and share the Word with those who did not know the Lord because he wanted to see the lost saved.”
Tippins’ legacy will live on with the church he served as pastor—Rising Star Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa—as well as with his children, grandchildren and the community of Jerusalem Heights, where the church is located. Part of that continued investment will be through his son, Daron, who now serves as Rising Star’s pastor.
And Tippins’ legacy will also live on in the ministry of future Beeson students through the new Rev. Gregory Tippins Scholarship, which will be awarded in his honor to Master of Divinity students who need financial assistance.
Tippins’ widow—who received his diploma on his behalf in December—said her husband cherished his time at Beeson.
“Gregory loved the relationships that he established at Beeson, not only his professors and mentors but his cohorts as well,” she said. “He appreciated the kind treatment that he received from everyone he came in contact with there at Beeson. He loved spending time at the library and sitting on the beautiful grounds of the campus.”
Mark DeVine, associate professor of divinity who supervised Tippins’ dissertation work, said Tippins was “such a joy to work with.” Tippins’ doctoral work was a plan to deepen the theological understanding and practice of the Christian life in the congregation he led in Tuscaloosa. He was finished with his writing and about to defend his dissertation when he caught COVID-19 and never recovered.
“He typified the seriousness and maturity that students often exhibit who pursue doctoral work later in life,” DeVine said. “His experience and commitment to God’s flock under his care was inspiring. Gregory identified the strengths and the areas in need of growth among those the Lord called him to serve and then dedicated his research to the goal of bringing leadership tailored to their special needs and potential.”
Tippins modeled “the sort of conscientious pastoral shepherding” needed in congregations across the state, DeVine said.
That deep character is why David Sloan, a professor emeritus from the University of Alabama, started the scholarship in his honor.
Sloan, a member of First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa, met Tippins about 30 years ago when Tippins was starting a mission church from First Baptist.
“We became very good friends with his family,” Sloan said. “He had a real concern for the church and also for the community, the neighborhoods around the church. He had quite an impact on the people there. He was a very good-hearted, pleasant person who was a strong pastor and always devoted himself to other people. I felt like that needed to be remembered.”Tippins’ name will be read during the Spring 2021 Commencement and Service of Consecration on April 30, since the December commencement service was cancelled due to COVID-19. The service will be livestreamed at 11 a.m. at beesondivinity.com/live.