All hat and no cattle



Or perhaps, all Steinways and no students.

Over the last 15 years, Paige and Dorothy Patterson had two very clear objectives, judging from the seminary’s press releases: Get as many Steinway pianos and Dead Sea Scrolls at Southwestern Seminary as they could. Fortunately, Dorothy Patterson (D.Min, Luther Rice; Th.D. in Women’s Studies, University of South Africa) is the only person in the history of Christendom to be doubly qualified in both Dead Sea Scroll authentication and fancy piano selection.

Don’t believe me? Check out the seminary’s own news reports:

Steinway Piano stories:

  • “New piano dedicated for Gospel service” — Sept. 19, 2008
    • “The top-of-the-line piano, donated by friends of the seminary who wish to remain anonymous, replaces a piano that has served the institution well but “had three legs in the grave and the fourth on a banana peel,” remarked president Paige Patterson.” (Question: Don’t these pianos only have three legs?)
  • “Seminary welcomes guests to Steinway experience” — Oct. 24, 2011
    • “George Tynes, pastor of Truth Baptist Church in Philadelphia and current trustee from Pennsylvania-South Jersey, played a rousing rendition of ‘Kumbaya.'” (Seriously? Kumbaya?)
  • “New Steinway & Sons piano selected for Reynolds Auditorium” — Sept. 21, 2012
    • “Recently, first lady Dorothy Patterson, SCM Dean Stephen Johnson, two donors and professors Jill Sprenger and Robert Smith visited the Steinway & Sons factory in New York City to select a new piano for Reynolds Auditorium.” (Of course she flew to New York City for this.)
  • “Music school highlighted at Women’s Auxiliary Luncheon.” —  Oct. 31, 2012
    • “Over an autumn lunch of tomato basil soup and sourdough sandwiches, attendees of the Oct. 17 Women’s Auxiliary Luncheon gained a glimpse into the heart of Southwestern’s ever-expanding School of Church Music. . .the campaign to outfit the seminary in Steinway pianos, Southwestern has purchased 23 pianos and has 43 to go.” (You HAVE to read this article. And thanks to Sharayah Colter for another contribution to SWBTS news.)
  • “Pianorama showcases faculty, student musicianship” — Dec. 17, 2012
    • “Faculty and students from Southwestern’s School of Church Music played all the right notes at the seminary’s “A Steinway Pianorama Christmas” concert, Dec. 6. Pianists tickled the ivories of eight Steinway grand pianos on the main stage in Truett Auditorium during the event, and eight additional Steinway pianos were played in the rotunda prior to the concert.” (Tickle. Teehee.)
  • “Pianos play on despite ice storm” — Dec. 17, 2013
    • The event is part of the school’s effort to become an “All-Steinway” school. This year the seminary did not have to rent any of the pianos, all of them already being found on campus. Day said that is just another sign that they are nearing their goal.” (Thank God you didn’t have to rent any pianos, but how many were the Pattersons renting before?)
  • Fifteen Steinway pianos delivered to Bowld Practice Room Suite” — Dec. 18, 2013
    • “All of Southwestern’s pianos are handcrafted by Steinway & Sons in New York. When Southwestern becomes an all-New-York-City-handcrafted-Steinway school, it will be only one of 10 schools in the world and the only seminary to hold such a distinction.” (With one of the fastest enrollment declines in the history of theological education.)
  • “Carroll, Scarborough award recipients honored for investment” — Mar. 19, 2014
    • Eventually, [they] became the right people at the right time for Southwestern Seminary. When the seminary was in need of new pianos for the music school, the Behans stepped in and funded the purchase of eight new Steinway pianos.”
  • “Keyboards and Carols highlights musicianship at SWBTS” — Dec. 10, 2014
    • “‘The concert is an important part of the seminary’s efforts to join the worldwide roster of more than 170 “All-Steinway” schools. “To reach this goal means all students will learn, practice and perform on these beautiful instruments, the finest in all the world,” said Southwestern President Paige Patterson.”
  • “Keyboards & Carols spreads God’s love in the community” — Dec. 11, 2015
    • “There is a generation coming that is going to say, [Patterson remarked,] ‘Three guitars and a drummer are not enough. We need an orchestra, we need a piano, and we need an organ.’ And Southwestern is determined to lead the way in providing that.” (Yes, what is the coming generation going to say, Paige?)
  • “Carroll, Scarborough award recipients recognized” — Mar. 11, 2016
    • “Eventually crossing paths with First Lady of Southwestern Dorothy Patterson, she was asked by Patterson to assist in landscaping the grounds of the new Horner Homemaking House. . . .She also established a church music scholarship in memory of her husband and contributed funds to purchase a new Steinway piano in memory of her mother.”
  • “Gala celebrates Southwestern’s distinction as ‘All-Steinway School'” — Apr. 7, 2016
    • “When the announcement was officially made that Southwestern had earned this distinction, Patterson herself pressed the button to activate six double canons that launched gold, white and black streamers across MacGorman Chapel in celebration” (Oh for the video of that grand moment. At least we have a picture.)
  • “SWBTS celebrates first Keyboards and Carols as “All Steinway School” — Dec. 5, 2016.
    • “Elmore particularly recognized the efforts of Dorothy Patterson in achieving this goal and unique status for Southwestern’s School of Church Music.” (Of course he did.)
  • “Annual Keyboards & Carols performance features SWBTS Night” — Dec. 12. 2017
    • “An ‘All-Steinway School’ since last year, Southwestern’s collection of Steinway pianos were prominently featured, not the least because 16 of them were positioned on stage for the entire performance.”
  • “Carroll, Scarborough awards honor generous partners” — Mar. 8, 2018
    • “In 2016, thanks in part to [their] contributions, Southwestern Seminary earned the designation of being an “All-Steinway School,” a title held by only 187 institutions worldwide. “Because of their generosity, current and future students can learn to play on the best of instruments,” Patterson said.”

Now check out the enrollment stories:

So every five years or so, Patterson tells trustees the seminary has “record” enrollment. Sometimes it’s “double-digit” increases, and other times it’s “triple-digit.”  When the seminary is forced to lay off dozens of student workers, enrollment is reported as “sustained” by Vice President Charles Patrick.

Yet when the trustees meet in a special session this past May, they acknowledge “enrollment challenges” just a few months after they were told of “historic enrollment.”

The Baptist Blogger suspects the Horner Homemaking House on campus was used for more than baking scones.

Somebody has been cooking the books and enrollment reports too.

At least they have all those pianos, though. Six million dollars worth of pianos.

Speaking of pianos . . .

Stay tuned . . .

UPDATE: One of our readers has pointed out that Southwestern no longer employs any full-time professor of piano.  There are, however, five master’s level courses offered this Fall in Jazz Studies, one of which is taught by the dean of the School of Church Music.

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17 thoughts on “All hat and no cattle

  1. An interesting statistic would be the ratio of Steinway pianos to piano majors. I’m curious if there are teaching studios that had to settle for an upright Steinway instead of a Yamaha C series baby-grand for the sake of being an all Steinway school.

  2. Ben,

    There comes a moment during reading articles written by you regarding SWBTS that a wave of sadness comes over me. Sadness. I don’t blame Paige Patterson (or Dorothy). They know no better. My steely eyes are directed toward the trustees who read every single press release about Steinways and never questioned why the President of their institution is more interested in wood that creates melody instead of students that learn theology. I am sad.

    1. Wade,

      As a general rule, I do not get involved in comment threads. But I figured THE Wade Burleson deserved a response. :)

      I disagree, in part. Paige and Dorothy knew better. It was the trustees who didn’t know any better. Do you remember the day you and I interviewed Paul Paul in his office in Waco? Remember how he said the biggest frustration he had with the takeover was that the Committee on Committees regularly sent trustees to the Annuity Board who couldn’t even read a balance sheet?

      And remember the day we drove to Houston to have lunch with John Baugh? Remember how he talked about the “caliber of trustees” that came out of the “fundamentalist camp.”

      If blame falls on trustees, then it also falls on the convention who elected those trustees. Hopefully, this entire ordeal has been an instructive lesson for the new convention president. And hopefully, SBC entities are about to get competent AND conservative trustees. Of course, the problem at Southwestern could be that they didn’t have enough conservative trustees. What, exactly, were they conserving?

      Certainly not the reputation and solvency of the institution.

      Of course, as Bob Cleveland always says: If everybody is to blame, then nobody is to blame.

      As for the former First Couple Emeriti, I will say this:

      “Forgive them for they knew exactly what they were doing.”


      1. Will you write more about the music school? I am sure there will be a lot of interesting things going on there.

    1. Yes SWBTS holds the distinction of being the only All Steinway institution in the world with no Full Time Faculty
      (Last year Dr Smith retired and Dr Sprenger was fired by Patterson after accidentally crossing the BeHatted One)

      1. Shame… No full time piano professors. Dr. Sprenger was very good one, I heard. Now all levels including Doctoral students are taught by adjunct professors who have no previous experience teaching even Bachelor level.

        I am not related to the school, but am currently listening a lot of bad things about their music school.

  3. Did Pecan Manor get a new Steinway? I’m trying to figure out four locations on campus where a 9 foot concert grand makes sense. Reynolds, MacGorman, ? and ?.

    To Wade’s point, the opulence is overwhelming considering the core mission of the institution. While it may be none of my business how a generous donor wants to support the institution, it is clear that leadership was more interested in luxury projects than fortifying the foundation of the institution.

  4. Gee I feel somewhat vindicated (for what, I’m not sure).

    Not only do I get mentioned, but all this seems affirm my prior observations about Dr. Patterson resembling more the Babylonians God mentioned to Habakkuk, than the Moses who led Israel out of Egypt.

  5. And, if I might: I wonder if the Couple-In-Chief might be analogous to the kid that gets a trophy for just showing up. I could play with that idea for hours….

  6. Jazz and Homemaking.

    But a Counseling degree that included the ability to get a state license? Well, that was well beyond the mission of a seminary.

    I’m still a little bitter about that.

    1. The MA in Communications degree was lost as well. However, communicating is not necessary unless we did it his way. Right?

  7. My piano recital at SWBTS, many years ago, was performed on a lovely Steinway. Elizabeth McKinney and a few other faculty members had gone to NY for the procurement. It was specially chosen for the acoustics in Cowden Hall where all recitals were performed. It was indeed perfect for the hall and such a pleasure to play. I wonder where it is now?

    1. It’s still in there. Seminary has two 9ft pianos in Reynolds, one in Truett (hardly ever played because that room is never used), and one in MacGorman. All are kept in perfect condition thanks to endowments. Not sure if those endowments left with PP though. Time will tell.

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