In the spring of 1970 I got on a plane in Nashville to return to Fort Worth after an interview for a position as director of Baptist student ministries at Middle Tennessee State University. I was in my last year of seminary with a wife, small daughter, and a baby on the way. I had a good visit in Murfreesboro and was impressed by Glenn Yarbrough, the state director of student work for Tennessee, who had invited me to consider the position, and the local committee. As I boarded the plane, I recognized Charles Roselle, the director of National Student Ministries at the Baptist Sunday School Board. I had met Charlie once, so I went over and reintroduced myself and asked if I could sit with him. Charlie was not only the director of NSM, but he was the former director of student work in Tennessee (and I could not imagine that I would hold that Tennessee position one day!). On the way back to Love Field, I “bent his ear” and learned what I could about MTSU and student work in Tennessee. As I made the decision to accept the position In Tennessee, I considered my time with Charlie a providential affirmation to pursue this opportunity. I thought about this encounter when I learned that Charles had died on Wednesday.
I liked Charles Roselle. He had the good sense to not only accept the veterans who flooded the campuses after World War II as leaders, he also encouraged them. Charles had a warm, accepting style that made him a good BSU director and a great mentor for college students. His charm and communication skills made him a success as state director in Tennessee. Most of all, I appreciated the fact that Charlie knew himself—his strengths and where he needed help. Whenever I think of Roselle, I think of Ed Rollins. Charlie was a great people person and was in his element meeting with state directors, denominational leaders, and agency heads. He brought Rollins to NSM to run the day to day operations. Charlie was “Mr. Outside” and Ed was “Mr. Inside.” They were a well matched team that trusted and supported one another.
As a new student director, I admired Charles Roselle because he was not only the leader of National Student Ministries but he was a person who had “paid his dues” as a local director and a state director. He had the good sense to know that he could not “tell” state directors of student work what to do; he encouraged and persuaded them to work on cooperative projects for the common good. When you talked with him about working with pastors and local committees, you knew that he understood the territory. As I had the opportunity to do some special assignments for NSM, I came to admire his vision and his political astuteness. I also admired Charlie as a husband, father, and church leader. He set a good example for me in all three areas.
After his retirement, I had the opportunity to work with Charlie, Ed Rollins, Joe Webb, and Tom Logue in setting up the BCM/BSU Advancement Fund to benefit collegiate ministry in newer conventions. Spending time with those guys was always a highlight in my schedule. They enjoyed teasing each other and reminiscing about the ministry they loved.
In the last several years, I have only seen Charlie a few of times, but he continued to be alert and expressed interest in me, my work, and my family. He leaves a great legacy.
Thank you, Charles Roselle, for a life well lived.