Doris Moody, PBA's Founding First Lady, Dies at 84

Doris Wade Cummins Moody, wife of prominent pastor, author and Palm Beach Atlantic University founding president Dr. Jess Moody, has always preferred to work quietly behind the scenes. But her legacy at Palm Beach Atlantic University endures through the University’s Workship program, the PBA Alumni Association and in countless other ways, say those who know her.

She died today (2/12/13) at 1:15 a.m. She was 84.

“Doris Moody was the elegant, compassionate, original First Lady of Palm Beach Atlantic University," said PBA President William M.B. Fleming Jr. "Her commitment to Christian young people is legendary. Mrs. Moody’s organizational abilities were significantly used and greatly instrumental in the launching of the University’s mission to ‘enlighten minds, enrich souls and extend hands.’

"We will greatly miss this PBA saint," he said.

The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., where Dr. Moody served as pastor. Following the service, the funeral processional will circle PBA's campus and then travel to Woodlawn Cemetery for the burial. In lieu of flowers, the Moody family encourages friends to give to the PBA Alumni Association in Doris Moody's name.

Mrs. Moody was born on March 7, 1928, in Fort Worth, Texas. Her family attended Riverside Baptist Church of Fort Worth. In the fall of 1945 she enrolled at Baylor University in preparation for a career in church youth work, and she met her future husband there. They were married in 1949 and had two children, Patrick and Martha.

At Texas Baptist College, she worked for three summers as a counselor in the student department. Later, when her husband served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Owensboro, Ky., she worked behind the camera on a show called Contact and wrote for various Southern Baptist publications.

The Moodys moved to West Palm Beach in 1961, when Dr. Moody became pastor of First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach. The college opened its doors seven years later.

Mrs. Moody was a fixture on the college campus in its early days. In her work as the first dean of women, a job for which she was not paid, she was frequently seen carrying a clipboard as she attended to her duties, which involved serving as a mentor and confidante for the college’s female students.

Founding President Dr. Jess Moody shares about the early days of PBA and the important role Doris Moody played. She developed community service conccept that grew into PBA's hallmark program - Workship.

“She would answer calls day and night. She was just very observant of things,” said Don Harp, the University’s first alumni director and a close friend of the Moodys. “She was just a warm spirit.”

Verna Whaley, a schoolteacher who graduated in 1976 with a degree in mathematics, worked as an office assistant for Mrs. Moody. She described her boss as extremely organized.

“She was very helpful,” said Whaley, who now lives in Longwood, Fla. “She did a lot of problem-solving for people.”

One of those people was her husband, Pastor Chris Whaley, who was then a ministry student, she said. One semester, when he was close to dropping out of school because of an unpaid tuition bill, Mrs. Moody called him into her office. She handed him an envelope containing the amount of money he owed on his bill plus a few extra dollars, Whaley said.

Mrs. Moody explained that the money came from a church member who came into the office and wanted to help a student at the school. Mrs. Moody said she gave the woman the option to choose from about 40 different students, but the woman chose Chris.
“That’s the way Doris was,” said Whaley, adding that she and her husband later met the benefactor and started a friendship with her.

In addition to her other duties, Mrs. Moody also started group for the wives of the young pastors who were attending PBA. The group met once a month, Verna Whaley recalls.

“She kind of helped prepare us,” Whaley said. “She knew what we were getting into.”

According to the book “Guided by God’s Hand: PBA’s First 35 Years,” Mrs. Moody was instrumental in helping to secure additional campus housing for female students in the form of a boarding house on Vallowe Court that was owned by a member of the church.

The next year, she helped the college find and later buy another building for student housing. That building, Weyenberg Hall, now houses honors students.

PBA’s Workship program, which requires all full-time undergraduate students to volunteer at least 45 hours annually, is often attributed to Dr. Moody. However, in a commencement speech in 2010, he credited his wife with coming up with the idea.
To date, PBA students have contributed more than 2.5 million hours of community service through the Workship program.

Mrs. Moody also was instrumental in organizing an ad hoc alumni association in the years before the official one was established under PBA’s fourth president, Dr. Claude Rhea, Harp said.

In April 2011, Doris Moody unveils the statue of her husband, Dr. Jess Moody, on the Rinker Green at PBA.

Dr. Moody stepped down as president of the college in 1972. In 1976, the Moodys left Florida and moved to California, where Dr. Moody became pastor of First Baptist Church in Van Nuys. The church later moved to Porter Ranch and became Shepherd of the Hills Church.

After he left Shepherd of the Hills Church in 1995, Dr. Moody served as part-time professor of religion at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He served for six years at the seminary and two years at Dallas Baptist University before retirement.

The Moodys are residents of West Palm Beach and Glorieta, N.M., where they have spent nearly every summer since 1953. The Moody Chapel at the LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center in Glorieta, N.M., is named in honor of Jess and Doris Moody for their service to thousands of visitors over the years.

Their son, Patrick, is a 1976 graduate of PBA and a local pastor. They also have three grandchildren: Jessica, Chris, a 2007 graduate of PBA, and Sean, a 2010 PBA graduate.