2018 Alumni Distinguished Service Award | Gary DeSalvo (ThM, 1981)

Thirty-seven years ago a group of ordinary people called Gary DeSalvo to lead Temple Bible Church in Temple, Texas, straight, “fresh out of seminary, in 1981,” DeSalvo explains. He was twenty-six years old, and he and his family “fell in love with the people.” 

DeSalvo explains further, “There’s no other place we would rather serve than at TBC.” Now the largest church in the area, TBC is looking to expand.

DeSalvo grew up in New Orleans and studied premed at Louisiana State University. He soon became involved in Campus Crusade (now Cru) and led Bible studies, which shifted his passion. In the fall of 1974, having already said yes to God’s calling to pastoral ministry, Gary went on a blind date. After a two-year romance, he married his date, Bev, and they moved to Dallas so he could attend DTS. Four years later, with a daughter and baby boy in tow, DeSalvo accepted the call to serve as senior pastor at TBC.

The Nomination

Doug Mackinnon, senior advancement officer at DTS, nominated DeSalvo not knowing him personally. “I had heard of him. I read an article by Jeff Osborne in the Killeen Daily Herald several years ago, and I was moved by how they described him as a faithful pastor of more than thirty years.”

DeSalvo’s dear friend for over seventeen years, Grant Kaul, wrote, “He is my friend, fellow senior pastor of Bible churches in central Texas, and I see him as a mentor who has been very helpful in navigating some of the difficult waters of pastoring a growing church.” 

We are determined to enjoy every day we have together and to fight this battle to the end. Ultimately, like Jesus, we are trusting that our Father’s heart is for our good.

In 2013, DeSalvo received the diagnosis that he has a rare form of cancer, ocular melanoma. The disease has not slowed him down. Instead, it has motivated him to make sure TBC prepares for the next generation of leaders. He reminds people that the work of the church is about spreading the Word of God. Casey Burke, family pastor at TBC, explains, “In the last five years, Gary has [fought] cancer…even through that battle [he] wants to be an example of a faithful man.”

His Leadership

In a recent blog post written by his wife, Bev describes DeSalvo’s undying passion for God. “We are finding refuge under the shadow of [God’s] wings. We are determined to enjoy every day we have together and to fight this battle to the end. Ultimately, like Jesus, we are trusting that our Father’s heart is for our good. He never promised that this world would be easy, but he did promise that he would be with us every step of the way.” Her husband, she explains, desires to live his life “to the fullest, serving God until [his] last breath.” 

“Gary,” Bev wrote, “has this quote on his desk at work: ‘With his sword unsheathed and his armor in place, he went directly to see the King with the stain of battle still on his garments.’” 

Asked how he would like people to remember him, Osborne wrote DeSalvo’s response: “[Gary] picked up [his] framed inspirational quote that sits on his desk. ‘I hope one day this sums it all up.’”

About the Award

All nominations for the Alumni Distinguished Service Award come solely from fellow DTS graduates. Nominees are prayerfully considered in light of 1 Timothy 3:1–13Titus 1:6–9Ephesians 5:1–33Galatians 5:22–23; and Romans 12:1–21. For more information or to nominate a fellow DTS graduate, please visit the Alumni Distinguished Service Award page.

Editor’s note: Read more from staff writer Raquel Wroten (MAMC, 2012).