State of the Seminary

Here at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary we are still near the beginning of a new academic year. As I ponder the season past and look for the one to come, I would surmise that 2012-2013 is not a bells-and-whistles kind of year, not a year when we are rolling out a new curriculum or dedicating a new building or jumping through the hoops of accreditation. It is not a year when we start something with great fanfare, or end something with a big celebration.
Instead, it was a year which finds us—on a number of fronts—in the middle of things, and I’d like to take a moment to share with you our journey along this “middle” way.
We are, step-by-step, filling vacant faculty positions, and this fall we begin our search for an Ethics professor. When that search is over I am hoping that we will prepare soon thereafter for the search for an Evangelism and Mission professor. Steadily, we are making great progress toward filling the gaps we now have on the faculty.
As you know, this has been a hard year for investments. The return rate on our endowment, because of the economy, has not been the locomotive that it was in the first six years of my presidency here; and we have not yet climbed back up to the $132 million we had before the market collapsed. But we are, as we were this time last year, a little above $100 million, still one of the fifteen largest seminary endowments in NorthAmerica. And every time we endow a new chair or fellowship, that gift helps to grow our endowment.
On another front, our Admissions Office is now fully staffed again, and we are seeing good results in this year’s entering class and in our overall enrollment. This fall we greet a masters-level entering class of 43 students. Their male-female ratio is 50%, 42% are married and 58% are single, 24% come from racial-ethnic minorities, 47% are PC(USA) and 26% are United Methodists, and the rest come from six other denominations ranging from free-church traditions to Anglican. And our overall enrollment is larger than last year’s—our first upward turn since the economic downturn. This is a very positive sign.
And we absolutely have other things to celebrate—some big things! Lemuel Garcia, one of Austin Seminary’s own, has come back to his alma mater to manage Alumni and Church Relations, and PaulHooker, who like Lemuel has come here from the ranks of presbytery leadership, is still settling into the position of Ministerial Formation and Advanced Studies, and we are excited about that! Lemuel comes from having served most recently as Associate General Presbyter of Salem Presbytery, and Paul comesfrom having served for the past thirteen years as General Presbyter of St. Augustine Presbytery.
We have a brand new degree program. The two-year Master of Arts in Ministry Practice, or MAMP, will allow the Seminary to resource additional communities of learners and leaders called into ministry. Already this fall we have new students matriculating into the MAMP program and we are excited to see the ways in which new approaches to teaching theology, communication, and spiritual growth will enhance their ministries. As for new ways of teaching and learning, stay tuned for more to come in that arena!
The Office of Education Beyond the Walls, in addition to the great work going on in the College of Pastoral Leaders, is seeking higher visibility and creativity around targeted lifelong learning opportunities: for caregivers, for people interested in beauty and creativity in worship, for Christian educators, for bi-vocational pastors, for people interested in the ethical issues surrounding the borderlands. I have not seen a richer palette of continuing education engagement with the larger communities around us than I am seeing right now—here at Austin Seminary.
Looking ahead, we will kick off 2013 with a challenging and relevant MidWinters featuring Dr. Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, associate professor of theology at Bellarmine University, Louisville, who will address the very interesting matter of faith and economics. The Jones Lecturer will be Dr. Margaret Aymer, associate professor of New Testament at the Interdenominational Theological Center; and our Westervelt Lecturer will beRev. Joseph Small, former head of the Office of Theology and Worship at thePresbyterian Center in Louisville.  How about that for some theological diversity? Our own board member Karl Travis, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, will be the MidWinters preacher.
So, off we go into another year—a year in which, again, we’re in the middle of things. That’s okay, by the way, because most of our years are like that. And as I stand here—in the middle of so many things begun but not yet ended—I am nourished by wonderful visions of things completed someday. As I go about doing my part to raise money for student housing, for library enhancements, for more endowed chairs for professors, more full-ride fellowships, I imagine a day when the church sees us as even more of a resource to its life than we are now, when students come in larger numbers to prepare for larger numbers of available churches, and when alums and other pastoralcohorts come back to this place because it is a sanctuary and a wellspring.That day will all be great occasions for celebration and thanksgiving.
So, in this in-between time, let me express my thanks to all of you for your steadfast support of our work here. And thanks be to God—the One who stands by us as we give a measure of our lives to this great, good place.


Theodore J. Wardlaw
President of Austin Seminary