General James M. Hutchens was brought to faith in Jesus Christ while he was an enlisted paratrooper by his Army unit chaplain. And because of that chaplain, General Hutchens not only became a Christian but also felt a call to follow him into military chaplaincy.
After leaving the Army and while both were students at Wheaton College, General Hutchens was asked a simple but profound question by his fiancé: “If you could do anything you wanted to do without a fear of failure, what would you do?”
He replied, “I think I’d like to serve in the chaplaincy; that’s where I found the Lord and that’s where I got direction and a sense of purpose.”
After college and seminary, General Hutchens entered the Army as a chaplain, serving as a Green Beret in the 10th Special Forces Group. During the Vietnam war, he served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade and became the first chaplain wounded in Vietnam. He later was awarded the Purple Heart and two Bronze Star Medals for valor. By the time he retired in 1994, General Hutchens had earned the rank of Brigadier General.
Just like the chaplain that changed General Hutchens’ life, he changed the lives of many men in his units, including Birmingham doctor Alton Baker.
Dr. Baker, a nuclear medicine physician at Princeton Baptist Medical Center and part-time Beeson student, met General Hutchens while serving in the 10th Special Forces Group as Group Surgeon.
“Jim Hutchens was a real stabilizing influence in our lives in the Special Forces,” Baker said.
For that reason, Baker wanted to honor General Hutchens and ensure his legacy by making it financially possible for men and women to prepare for military chaplaincy at Beeson Divinity School.
Thanks to the generous gift of Dr. Baker and his wife, Mary, the General James M. Hutchens Military Chaplain Scholarship will be awarded to men and women enrolled in the Master of Divinity program and who are committed to pursuing a career in the military as an active duty chaplain.
“We want to make Beeson the premier divinity school that supplies military chaplains,” Dr. Baker said.
One of Beeson’s strength is that students interface with faculty members in person and not over the computer, he added. This incarnational approach is important to the military.
"We are tremendously grateful to the Bakers for establishing this scholarship and being fully committed to providing an excellent pathway to military chaplaincy for appropriately called and gifted Beeson students,” Beeson’s Dean Douglas A. Sweeney said. “Those serving in the Armed Forces stand in need of the best possible spiritual guidance and care. Now some of them can get that care from future Beeson alumni."
The scholarship was recognized during Beeson’s community worship on Tuesday, Oct. 15, by Dean Sweeney. Present during chapel were the Bakers, special guests of the Bakers’ and Hutchens’, and members of the Armed Forces who were on campus for the school’s annual military chaplaincy fair.
“Dr. and Mrs. Baker are a perfect example of how our donors can provide current and future Beeson students with resources otherwise non-existent,” said Carolyn Lankford, Beeson’s advancement officer. “I am touched by the genuine delight the Bakers take in their giving of this scholarship.”