Ed Rollins passed away on Tuesday. Ed was who I wanted to be when I grew up. Shortly after Charles Roselle became the director of National Student Ministries at the Baptist Sunday School Board, he asked Ed (then state director of student ministries in California) to join him as manager of the department. Charlie was “Mr. Outside” and Ed was “Mr. Inside.” They were a well matched team who trusted and supported one another.
Many knew Ed as committed family man, Sunday school teacher or faithful church leader, but to me Ed was the consummate administrator. He was the person who “made the trains run on time.” Despite his task-oriented side, Ed was respected and loved by those who worked with him. Some called him a true Christian gentleman. They knew that he expected the best of them, but he walked with them every step of the way. This was especially important when staff began to cross barriers related to sensitive issues like race and gender equality. Ed understood that the audience that NSM was intended to serve—college students and their leaders-- expected and demanded clarity on social issues. When NSM staff responded to this need, they often found themselves called on the carpet by upper echelons but Ed was always standing right beside them. When they were criticized, he accepted his role as their supervisor, leader, and friend.
David Hazelwood shared several “Ed says” quotes at the memorial service today. One of those was “Ed says, pass on what you learn to the next generation.” Ed Rollins did just that. He gave me a number of opportunities to stretch myself as young campus minister. He generously said that I got him out of a bind a couple of times. If I did, it was certainly the least I could do in return for what I learned from him.
Although Ed grew up in Mississippi and attended college in Louisiana and Texas, he had a passion that never waned to extend collegiate ministries into new areas and reach students for Christ. I was pleased to work with Ed, Charles Roselle, Joe Webb, and Tom Logue to organize the Baptist Student Union/BaptistCollegiate Ministries Advancement Fund to support collegiate ministry in “emerging regions” of the country. I am honored that my name is on the charter next to leaders like Ed.
I suppose one of the main reasons that I liked and admired Ed so much is that we had similar personalities and work styles, often seeing things the same way. I was at a meeting with Ed and Charles Roselle one time when Ed said, “I like washing dishes.” Roselle came back with an amused response and Ed explained, “It’s good to see at least one thing that I can really finish.” I think about that often when I am washing dishes.
Ed, you ran the race and you finished well. Well done good and faith servant!