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Baylor University Mourns Passing of Retired Chair of Religion
Glenn Hilburn, Ph.D., remembered as ‘a gifted teacher, a detailed and careful historian, and a Christian gentleman’
WACO, Texas (June 9, 2016) — Glenn O. Hilburn, Ph.D., retired chair of the religion department in Baylor University’s College of Arts and Sciences and recipient of a national honor society award for his leadership, passed away Tuesday, June 7, at age 86.
Dr. Hilburn, a Waco resident, served as chair of the religion department for 15 years, during which time he had a “profound influence on the lives of many Baylor students and faculty members as teacher and colleague,” said W.H. Bellinger Jr., Ph.D., chair and W. Marshall and Lulie Craig Professor of Bible in Baylor’s department of religion. “He loved to tell a good story and remained connected to faculty members and to former students as long as his health allowed. He is remembered very fondly and will be genuinely missed. We give thanks for his life and witness.”
Services for Dr. Hilburn will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 14, at First Baptist Church of Waco, 500 Webster Ave. Visitation is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, June 13, at OakCrest Funeral Home, 4520 Bosque Blvd.
In March 2000, Dr. Hilburn received the Laurel Crowned Circle Award in recognition of campus leadership and service to Omicron Delta Kappa Society (ODK), the oldest national leadership honor society in the United States. The award is the highest given by the society.
He was one of five recipients of the W.R. White Meritorious Service Award in 2003. The award is given to individuals who have rendered outstanding service to Baylor and expressed continued interest in and loyalty to the university.
Dr. Hilburn, who retired in 2001, served for more than 40 years as a member of the department of religion and helped raise nearly $5 million as chair of the department's endowment committee.
“Glenn was an outstanding church historian and a caring department chair,” said Jeter Basden, Ph.D., professor of religion and The Raymond O. Hubler Chair of Ministry Guidance.
“In many ways, he treated each of us in the department of religion as part of his extended family,” Basden said. “He knew how to make friends with all kinds of people. He worked hard to build bridges of trust and respect. I am especially grateful for his constant support and encouragement in helping us build and grow a ministry guidance program to educate Baylor undergraduates called to vocational Christian ministry. He will be remembered as a gifted teacher, a detailed and careful historian, and a Christian gentleman.”
Dr. Hilburn, a native of Plain Dealing, Louisiana, earned his bachelor's degree from Centenary College of Louisiana and a bachelor's degree and doctorate in theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.
Before coming to Baylor, Dr. Hilburn enjoyed a varied career that included stints as a research and analytical chemist and as a pastor for churches in Arkansas and Texas. He joined the Baylor faculty in 1961 and was named The George W. Baines Professor of Religion. He served as director of the Baylor Honors Program for eight years. He was instrumental in obtaining a Phi Beta Kappa chapter for the university. His community involvement included serving as a school board president and as chair of the Special Olympics Committee.
“Glenn Hilburn was proud of his background in the state of Louisiana,” Bellinger said. “He was also proud of his Baptist heritage, and he was proud of the contributions to Baptist life and scholarship made by the Baylor department of religion. He played a major role in shaping the department during the 1980s, a time of considerable controversy among Baptists in the South. He contributed much to the life of Baylor University.”
A respected authority in church history, Dr. Hilburn authored the essay "Medieval Views of the Church" in “The Believers' Church: Essays in Honor of James Leo Garrett Jr.” and numerous book reviews in such publications as the Christian Scholar’s Review and the Southwestern Journal of Theology.
Dr. Hilburn was selected as a member of ODK in 1951. He helped charter the Baylor Circle in 1962 and for 38 years served as faculty adviser or faculty secretary. In 1978, he was elected national president of ODK and held that office for seven years.
Dr. Hilburn and his late wife, Martell Hilburn, were active in First Baptist Church of Waco.
Dr. Hilburn is survived by son Kelly Hilburn and his wife, Sherrie, and stepson Sheridenn White of Waco; son Jeff Hilburn and his wife, Nancy, of Montgomery, Alabama; grandsons Dylan Hilburn and Sean Hilburn, both of Waco; granddaughter Haley Anderson and her husband, Jessie, of China Spring; granddaughter Taylor Hilburn of Dallas; and great-granddaughter Zoey Hilburn of Waco.
Memorials may be made to his foundation Glenn O. and Martell B. Hilburn Endowed Graduate Research Scholarship Fund by visiting www.baylor.edu/give