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Top Gunn: Mississippi College Scholarship Opportunity Helps Students Pursue Careers in Ministry

During the Board of Trustees meeting Dec. 14, MC President Blake Thompson, left, and Ronnie Falvey, right, chair, MC Board of Trustees, present a citation to Frank Gunn and inform him that the new ministerial scholarship competition will be named in his honor.
During the Board of Trustees meeting Dec. 14, MC President Blake Thompson, left, and Ronnie Falvey, right, chair, MC Board of Trustees, present a citation to Frank Gunn and inform him that the new ministerial scholarship competition will be named in his honor.

Seven decades ago, Frank Gunn’s destiny was changed when a brush with death led him to answer God’s call to spiritual service.

A new scholarship competition named for the longtime Mississippi College trustee and retired senior pastor at First Baptist Church Biloxi will undoubtedly alter the destinies of countless ministerial students enrolled at the Christian University.

The Dr. Frank Gunn Ministry Scholars Competition will help incoming MC students joyfully pursue their commitment to full-time, vocational ministry by awarding scholarships that lessen their financial burden.

The scholarships are the result of generous donations from many alumni and friends who continue to support MC’s mission and vision to be known as a university recognized for academic excellence and commitment to the cause of Christ.

A 1957 graduate of Mississippi College, Gunn was honored to learn of the competition naming during the MC Board of Trustees meeting Dec. 14. He was rotating off the board after 13 consecutive and 32 total years of service.

“I had no idea this was coming,” Gunn said. “It’s one of the few times that I didn’t know what to say. I am unworthy of receiving anything of this magnitude. I mean that sincerely. Nothing could please me more than what this competition is going to do for students.

“I have loved working with students and serving on the Board of Trustees and the Student Experience Committee. I’ve always preached Jesus first and Mississippi College second, and I’m humble and grateful. I’ve been so blessed in my relationship with Mississippi College.”

It is a relationship that began in near-tragedy. Gunn had initially planned to attend Mississippi State University and eventually become an attorney. While working for the highway department the summer before he started college, God changed the direction of his life.

Gunn was riding in the back of a dump truck headed to a job site when the vehicle encountered a school bus crossing over a narrow bridge. The truck driver slammed on the brakes, which threw Gunn, who was leaning against the cab, onto the pavement below. The school bus never stopped, and its tires came within inches of rolling over his head.

“I remember getting up and walking over to the side of the bridge,” Gunn said. “It was there I had a vision: there was a candle being held by a hand. All of a sudden, a finger came down to snuff the light out. And it was like I heard a voice. It said, ‘Frank Gunn just died.’

“This is how quickly your life can change.”

He walked away from the incident with only a small cut on his elbow – and a renewed purpose. The next Sunday, he went forward at First Baptist Church Indianola and, without telling anyone about the near-accident, explained his decision.

“I said ‘I don’t have a clue what is involved – if it’s going to be preaching or youth ministry – but I’m changing the direction of my life.”

He canceled his room at Mississippi State and enrolled at Mississippi College instead. It is a relationship that has benefited both parties for the better part of 70 years.

“No one loves Mississippi College as much as Dr. Frank Gunn,” said Chip Stevens, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Jackson. “Some people say they love their alma mater while others show it by their actions. That’s Dr. Gunn – he has been a faithful member of the Board of Trustees for many years, has been a consistent presence at athletic events, and has encouraged families to consider MC for their children’s education.

“For students who sense a call to vocational ministry, Dr. Frank Gunn is exactly the kind of minister they should aspire to become – a man who pursues Christlikeness, is faithful to proclaim God’s word, is a Biblical example of a Christian husband and father, and who passionately loves the church.”

Michael Wright, dean of enrollment management at MC, said Gunn is the “ideal person” to have his name lent to the competition.

“He is a legend in the Southern Baptist Convention for his gifts in the ministry and a legend on MC’s campus for the decades of investment he has made to the culture by attending here, sending his kids and grandkids here, and serving on our board,” Wright said.

Evan Lenow, associate professor, chair, and director of church and minister relations at MC, said recipients of the scholarships should aspire to the quality of ministerial faithfulness that Gunn exhibits.

“He has faithfully served the church, has faithfully been involved in ministry in the state of Mississippi, and has contributed to MC through service to our board,” Lenow said. “He embodies the character and service to the church we want our students to model.”

The Dr. Frank Gunn Ministry Scholars Competition is patterned after the University’s Select Scholars Program, in which incoming freshmen who meet certain academic and service criteria compete for additional scholarships.

“Students will compete for ministry scholarships by submitting an essay, a resume, and a pastoral letter of recommendation,” Wright said. “They will then come to campus to interview with a panel of faculty and local ministers.

“MC is a training ground for future ministers of the Gospel and this competition will help create awareness of the students’ amazing access to scholarships that our donors have provided.”

Lenow likens the competition to an investment in the state’s pastoral future.

“We’re attempting to generate a pool of applicants that are the best and the brightest of incoming ministerial students and reward them for what they’ve accomplished already, both academically and in service to the church,” he said. “We want to invest in what we believe to be their bright future for ministry.

“With the help of the MC Foundation, we have identified endowments that will allow us to maximize the impact of this competition. Qualified applicants will be eligible to receive a variety of scholarships from those endowed accounts.”

Over a four-year span, Lenow expects the competition to have a considerable impact on enrollment. During that time, he estimates about $400,000 in scholarships may be awarded to anywhere between 75 to 100 recipients.

“This competition can make it more affordable for students pursuing vocational ministry to get the high-quality education that we offer at MC,” he said. “It will benefit students who are called to a career in vocational ministry and would love to come to MC, but may think they won’t make enough money to warrant the expense.

“This will allow students who otherwise might have delayed their training for ministry until seminary to begin pursuing their Christian education while they are undergraduates.”

Winners of the competition can receive multiple tiers of scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $17,000 per year. The scholarships also stack on top of any other MC scholarships, making it an opportunity ministerial students won’t want to miss.

Wright said the competition will attract even more full-time ministers to MC’s campus.

“We at MC cherish the opportunity to invest in future ministers of the Gospel,” Wright said. “We are thankful for the donors who have made this competition possible.”

“No other undergraduate institution that I know of is doing anything like this,” Lenow said. “I hope the Dr. Frank Gunn Ministry Scholars Competition will make Mississippi College the destination for educational training in preparation for ministry for students across the Southeast.”

The scholarship competition is currently open – high school seniors have until Friday, March 29, to submit their materials for consideration. The interview for the competition will take place on Tuesday, April 9. Scholarship recipients will be notified approximately two weeks after the interviews conclude.

For more information about the Dr. Frank Gunn Ministry Scholars Competition, click here or email Josi Anthony at