posted on June 10, 2013 16:01
David Vesper is one of the oldest students to graduate from Campbell University Divinity School. Living in Newport, NC, and commuting from there and from Mount Olive since 2006, he is the pastor of Beaufort Original Free Will Baptist Church. By his side figuratively and literally has been his wife, Roxie, who was awarded a bouquet of roses at the Divinity School’s last chapel service.
David Vesper is a high-school dropout who could never shake his call to Christian ministry. After a career in the Marines and service as a pastor, and through major health issues, he endured and graduated from Campbell University Divinity School with a Master of Divinity Degree with languages at the age of 71.
David Vesper made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ in 1953 at the age of 12 and felt the first nudge toward preaching. It wasn’t until after 22 years in the Marines that he began preaching in 1981. In May, he graduated from Campbell as one of the oldest graduates in the school’s history.
Vesper has been asked why he went back to school later in life. “I believe that my calling to Christian ministry involves a discipline to learn and better serve the Lord,” he explains. “When members of a church ask me why I do all this study, my reply is because of you. God wants them to have the very best I can give.”
In 1986, prior to enrolling in Campbell Divinity School, Vesper graduated from Mount Olive College with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Religion. He credits the late Dr. Burkette Raper, then President of Mount Olive College, for his courage to seek a college degree and for his connection with Campbell. He said that Dr. Raper once told him, “Son, if God has called you to the Christian ministry, then God has called you to prepare. God has never called anybody to do a sorry job.”
After taking “The Life and the Work of the Minister,” taught by Dr. Roy E. DeBrand, Vesper says “I learned more about the life and work of a minister than I had learned from the past 20 years.” After this class, he admits that he “felt more qualified and confident as a minister” than he had ever.
Vesper could have graduated without taking Greek or Hebrew but he chose to take both. “The languages were courses I found most difficult to learn but they are most satisfying also.” He says that Biblical Hebrew I “made the entire journey in Divinity School worthwhile.”
As is the case with many students, not just the older ones, Vesper had to deal with major health problems during his Divinity School journey. He underwent bypass surgery in 2008 and had to sit out the fall semester but he returned in Spring 2009. That summer, he had a mild stroke and missed the fall semester.
What drives a high school dropout, a retired marine, a pastor already serving a church to go to college and then seminary to continue after having heart bypass surgery and a stroke? “My goal as a pastor is to give to the people I serve the very best service that I can give because, to me, they deserve my best and God deserves my best,” he explains. “This requires a never-ending discipline of study, prayer and meditation.”