DULUTH - Lance Sperring knew the Bible like kids know nursery rhymes.
Well into his 60s, the Buford resident was so dedicated to scripture he'd often trek to a Pensacola, Fla., college to chip away at a doctorate in ministry, friends said.
A head-on vehicle collision last weekend will prevent Sperring from realizing that goal.
"He was shooting for (the degree)," said longtime friend Harry Walton, 87, "but he didn't get a chance to finish it off."
Sperring's sudden death has rocked a Duluth church - the massive Cross Pointe Baptist Church on Satellite Boulevard, near the Gwinnett Arena - where he taught Sunday school for adults.
Sperring was en route from Florida to teach the class Sunday, friends said, when the driver of a 2005 Chevrolet Trailblazer crossed a center lane on Buford Highway about 8 p.m. Saturday and struck Sperring's 2003 Cadillac Deville head-on.
Sperring, 65, died at the scene. The unidentified second driver was treated for minor injuries at Gwinnett Medical Center.
The exact cause of the crash is under investigation, but police don't suspect alcohol or drugs were factors.
"It's still too early in the investigation to determine the cause," Gwinnett police spokeswoman Cpl. Illana Spellman said Tuesday.
Sperring leaves behind his mother, a brother, his wife, two grown sons and three grandchildren, his friend said.
Parishioners plan to host a supper for the family Friday, followed by a service for Sperring at the church Saturday.
News of Sperring's death broke among his friends and pupils as they filed into his classroom Sunday, a space eerily devoid of his presence, Walton said.
"As the men and women walked into that class," he said, "there was only a couple men out of the whole outfit that didn't break into tears.
"He was a very smart man. He knew the Bible like nobody knew it."