Dr. J. Randall O’Brien serves as the 22nd president of Carson-Newman University. Previously the executive vice president, provost, professor of religion and visiting law professor at Baylor University, the McComb, Mississippi native is a graduate of Yale Divinity School, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and Mississippi College. He has also held appointments as a Research Scholar at Yale, and Fellow at Oxford.
O’Brien began his tenure at Baylor in 1991 after serving as senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark. During his service at Baylor, he served as vice president for academic affairs, professor and chair of the department of religion, acting dean of the George W. Truett Theological Seminary and executive assistant to the president of the university before serving as executive vice president and provost. From 1980-1987 he held a tenured faculty appointment at Ouachita Baptist University.
As a Baylor professor, O’Brien received numerous teaching awards selected by students, including Mortar Board’s Circle of Achievement Award on three occasions, the Carr P. Collins Outstanding Professor Award presented annually by the graduating class, the Outstanding Professor Award given by Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society, and the Outstanding Faculty Member Award presented by the student congress.
O’Brien is a noted author who has published more than 115 scholarly and popular articles, including entries for the Anchor Bible Dictionary, as well as for Eerdmans, Mercer and Holman Dictionaries. His books include: “Set Free by Forgiveness: The Way to Peace and Healing,” “I Feel Better All Over Than I Do Anywhere Else,” “Who Is Jesus?” and “The Progression of the Mosaic Motif to the Johannine Concept of Messiah.”
O’Brien has also served as pastor or interim pastor of 19 churches in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. He regularly preaches and teaches in churches and conferences, conventions, and universities across the United States and abroad.
Listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in Religion, Who’s Who in Humanities in Higher Education, C-N’s president is a 25-year member of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature. He has served as president of the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion, Southwest Region; and presently sits on the boards of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, the Consortium for Global Education, and the Center for Justice and Peace.
He is a decorated military veteran who served with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. In that role he received, among other decorations, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the United States Air Medal, The Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross, and the Bronze Star.
O’Brien is married to Kay, a licensed social worker who taught in Baylor’s School of Social Work before moving to Jefferson City. The couple has three adult children and two grandsons.