ABOUT DANNY LOVETT
• Became Tennessee Temple University’s seventh president in 2005.
• Former dean and vice president at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
• Pastored at Open Door Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where he increased its membership from 40 to more than 1,200.
• Graduate of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary; appointed dean of the seminary.
Source: Tennessee Temple University and Highland Park Baptist Church websites
Students’ concerns over plagiarism by Tennessee Temple University President Danny Lovett ultimately led to his resignation from the school.
But Lovett, while acknowledging that he plagiarized some passages in his book “Jesus is Awesome,” said he was leaving the university anyway.
“I was planning on making a transition out of the presidency because I became a pastor at Highland Park [Baptist Church],” Lovett, 57, said Thursday in a telephone interview from Belgium, where he’s attending a pastor’s conference.
Lovett, president since 2005, resigned June 16 after a group of students approached a Tennessee Temple board member with concerns that Lovett had plagiarized, according to Lovett and board of trustees Chairman John Borek.
Borek would not identify the board member. In a news release Tuesday, the school said the board “decided to accept Lovett’s request to implement the executive transition plan that he had been discussing for a number of months.”
Jim O’Neill, executive vice president at Tennessee Temple, will take over as interim president July 1.
Lovett said he was contacted two years ago by Buddy Murphrey, author of “Drawing the Net,” about the plagiarizing of about 20 pages from Murphrey’s book.
“I told him, ‘Let me check into it,’ ” Lovett, said.
After discovering the plagiarism, both men hired lawyers to settle the matter, Lovett said, but he would not disclose the settlement amount.
“It was a mistake,” he said. “I wrote it 15 years ago; it was the first book I ever wrote. My book had been edited twice by editors. We didn’t catch it.”
Murphrey, who lives in Corpus Christi, Texas, couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.
Asked why the two-year-old issue came up now, Lovett said, “Some people who don’t agree with you see an opportunity to come after you.”
But Lovett said his resignation only accelerated his previous plans to focus more on being a pastor.
“Even if it wasn’t for this, I promise you, we were already talking about making the transition this year,” said Lovett, who has written four books.
Lovett said he never tried to hide the plagiarism incident but said he never notified the board.
“Looking back, it would have been probably a good thing to tell the board,” he said.
Borek said Lovett’s resignation gives the college an opportunity to improve.
“We have to build trust in the minds of people who feel like there’s been something that’s not correct,” he said.
“[But] we believe that it gives us an opportunity to do even better, to see what we can do to improve, how to take on our new leadership and get behind the new leadership,” he added.
O’Neill said that if asked by the board, he would consider taking the president’s job permanently.
“It would be an honor to work with our students and faculty for this next round of service,” he said.
Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...