Senior MDiv/Dual Degree student Kristi Click continues a legacy in theological education that extends across a century at Austin Seminary.
Austin Seminary's community has been described as an extended family. For senior student Kristi Click, that sentiment resonates on the most literal of levels. Click's interest in knowing about her family's lineage led to an exciting discovery.
"When I arrived at Austin Seminary I wanted to learn about my great-grandfather the Reverend Dr. John Milligan (Jack) Lewis," said Click. "I had been told that he graduated from the Seminary before pastoring several congregations; his longest term was at First Presbyterian Church of Lubbock, from 1922 to 1951. I asked around and was encouraged to talk to our archivist, Kristy Sorensen. What Kristy found was, in my opinion, amazing."
“I’m always excited when a student comes in to do research in the archives, and Kristi’s family connection to the Seminary through her great-grandfather was an irresistible research project," said Sorensen. "When the two of us discovered that her grandfather had been a student here exactly 100 years ago, it turned a family history investigation into a wonderful story about our students and our school. Discovering the long connection Rev. Lewis had with the First Presbyterian Church in Lubbock in our Congregational History Collection added to the depth of information we had on his ministerial life, and Kristi and I spent a lot of time tying his story, documented in the church history materials, to her memories of her family’s connection with the church in Lubbock.
"When Kristi first contacted me, I started by searching through our records to determine when her grandfather graduated from the Seminary. After we found his graduation date and his full name, I was able to use my inventory of the Austin Seminary records to locate an alumni address he gave at commencement in 1932 as well as his signature in the original Declaration of Intent book. Finding Kristi’s signature when she started Seminary in 2009 in a later book let us see those two symbolic documents side-by-side.
"Our research took us through the Congregational History collection, the Presbytery of Central Texas collection, the Synod of Texas (PCUS) collection, and the Presbyterian Historical Society of the Southwest records."
The research yielded surprising and compelling results, including a revelation that Lewis' father, Rev. Wilber Mason Lewis, was also a Presbyterian minister in Texas. Along with that, it turns out that Click's graduation marks a serendipitous milestone for her and the family.
"Come to find out, my great-grandfather graduated from Austin Seminary in 1914. Seeing as I will graduate this May—when all is said and done, my great-grandfather and I will graduate from this institution exactly a century apart," said Click. "I am still astounded as to how the timing works out!"
Margaret Jang once wrote that, "To know your future, you must know your past." With this in mind, it's clear that Click's future in the church and beyond will likely bless many lives, and it is a vocation grounded in the strong roots her father and great-grandfather set before her. Thanks to Click's pursuit of knowledge and Sorensen's work, we get to see just how far those roots extend.
You can visit the Seminary's Archives page and contact Kristy Sorensen if you'd like to do research on a project of your own or are looking to donate materials to the archives relating to Seminary or Presbyterian history in Texas.