Judson community grieves passing of Dr. David E. Potts
The Judson College and Alabama Baptist families mourn the loss of Dr. David E. Potts, who was known for his kindness, wisdom, and love for God and other people. Potts passed away peacefully at his home in Marion on March 28.
Born in Birmingham on July 1, 1950, David Potts graduated from Samford University in 1972 and began serving his alma mater as an Admissions Representative. He would go on to become Financial Aid Director while earning a master’s degree from Samford.
In 1980, Potts began service as Judson College’s Vice President for Development. In this role, he was instrumental in establishing the Adult Degree Program, a non-traditional, external degree program for adult learners that would grow into Judson’s Distance Learning Program.
Potts briefly returned to Samford in 1985 to organize and implement “The Samford Commitment,” a $28 million capital campaign, rejoining the Judson administration as Executive Vice President for Administration in 1987. In this role, he sought to create a student-centered campus culture driven by continuous improvement, based on research completed for his doctoral dissertation. Potts earned the Doctor of Philosophy in the Administration of Higher Education from the University of Alabama in 1989.
In 1990, Potts was appointed President of Judson College by the Board of Trustees. Highlights of his tenure include growing Judson’s endowment from $2 million to $19 million dollars and raising $35 million through capital campaigns for new construction and facility restoration, including the refurbishment of Judson’s historic Jewett Hall. Nine new academic programs were added during his tenure as President, including three of the current five largest majors. Throughout his tenure, the college increased the diversity of its faculty and student body and remained faithful to its Christian mission.
In addition to his service at Judson, Potts worked to improve higher education across the Southeast. He served as both a Commissioner and Executive Council Member for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the regional body that accredits Judson and hundreds of other colleges and universities in the southeastern United States. He served as a member or chair of countless SACSCOC on-site review committees, designed to help institutions measure their effectiveness. In 2013, Potts was honored with the James T. Rogers Distinguished Leadership Award for Outstanding Contributions to Higher Education by SACSCOC in recognition of his lifetime contributions to the field of higher education.
In addition to his professional contributions, Potts was a tireless advocate for people living in poverty, especially those who made their home in the Alabama Black Belt. Working with community members and leaders around the state, Potts was a founding board member of Sowing Seeds of Hope, a faith-based non-profit organization seeking to address the root causes of poverty in Alabama. As a member of Sowing Seeds of Hope’s Board of Directors and Health Care Task Force, Potts helped bring a dialysis center to Marion, promoted programs that helped children gain health insurance coverage, and actively worked toward the re-opening of a hospital in Perry County. He was a former president of Alabama Possible, formerly the Alabama Poverty Project, an organization co-founded by his father, former Alabama Baptist Convention executive secretary A. Earl Potts, which seeks to raise awareness of poverty issues statewide.
Potts’ personal commitment to service heavily influenced the Judson community as well. For each of the past eleven years, more than 80% of Judson students have voluntarily participated in community service through the college’s nationally recognized Faith-Based Service and Learning program, which Potts established in 2005. Potts served alongside them, often engaging in manual labor as he listened to students’ stories and told them about ways they could use their gifts to serve those referred to as “the least of these” in Matthew 25, a passage that he often read to students. His life exemplified the Judson Alma Mater’s call to “live for service” and “send forth blessed light.”
“An image that is ingrained in my memory is Dr. Potts in a starched white shirt and a beautiful tie changing a tire for one of our students on a preview day,” said Scott Bullard, who is currently serving as Judson’s Interim President. “To me, that picture poignantly illustrates David Potts’ commitment to service in the name of Christ. It wasn’t just something that he talked about or arranged for other people to do. He was a man who rolled up his sleeves and got down in the trenches with people who needed help, wherever he found them. Dr. Potts had a deep understanding of educational, healthcare, and religious institutions that informed his service, but he also had the ability to relate to people on a personal level, meeting them where they were with the love of Christ.”
An active member of Siloam Baptist Church and a lifelong Alabama Baptist, Potts worked diligently to strengthen the relationship that Judson, Samford, and the University of Mobile share with the Alabama Baptist State Convention. His ability to apply distinctively Christian values to the practice of higher education earned him respect among the laity and leadership of Alabama Baptist churches, as well as the devotion of the faculty, staff, students, and alumnae of Judson College.
Potts is survived by his wife Nora Beth Bloodworth Potts, daughters Kristin Potts Helton (John), Shannon Potts (Phil), sister Libby Potts (Dale Peterson), and grandchildren John David, Laura Beth, Teague, Levi, Patch, Gavin, Harper, and Ryder.
A service honoring the life and legacy of David Potts will be held in Judson’s Alumnae Auditorium at 3:00 pm on Sunday, April 8. Visitation will follow the service in the Gladys Hale Dunkin Parlors in Jewett Hall. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that gifts be sent to Judson College, Sowing Seeds of Hope, Siloam Baptist Church, or Marion Academy in Potts’ memory. Letters of condolence can be sent to the President’s Office, Judson College, 302 Bibb Street, Marion, Alabama 36756.