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Mission & History

For the glory of God and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is a seminary in the Presbyterian-Reformed tradition whose mission is to educate and equip people for ordained Christian ministry and other forms of Christian service and leadership; to employ its resources for the nurture of the church; to practice and promote critical theological thought and research; to engage a range of voices and perspectives within and beyond the life of the seminary; and to be a winsome and exemplary community of God's people.

–Mission Statement

Incoming president of the Consultation on Church Unity (1976) Rachel Henderlite greets outgoing president, AME Bishop Frederick D. Jordan. Rachel Henderlite was Austin Seminary's  first woman to serve as a full professor and the first woman ordained in the Presbyterian Church U.S.
Photograph courtesy of Presbyterian Historical Society

Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary opened its doors on October 1, 1902, to educate ministers to serve in the emerging frontier of the Southwest and meet the needs of a rapidly growing Presbyterian Church. Its institutional predecessor, the Austin School of Theology (1884-1895), was created during a time of excitement and growth in the Texas capitol, but became unsustainable during a period of economic uncertainty. By 1899 the Synod of Texas determined to locate and support a theological seminary, which began life on the grounds of another institution in east Austin, Stuart Seminary. This former school for young women included a building with dormitories for 35, an 1100-volume library, and an assembly hall that seated 300. The first president of Austin Seminary was elected in 1900, and the first endowment gift to fund two faculty chairs came one year later. In 1905 the Seminary sent out its first class of six prospective ministers, and in 1908, the Seminary relocated to a five-acre parcel adjacent to the original 40-acre campus of the University of Texas where it resides today. Over the course of the twentieth century, the campus doubled in size, adding separate academic and administrative buildings, a large hospitality center, and multiple buildings comprising residential housing for single students and student families. The Seminary’s signature lecture series, the MidWinter Lectures, begun in 1945, continues to this day. Women students began to enroll by mid-century, and Rachel Henderlite, the first woman ordained for ministry in the Presbyterian Church US, served on the faculty. A doctoral program began in 1970 and a dual degree program with the University of Texas started in 2006. Today Austin Seminary offers wide-ranging educational opportunities to adults from many Christian denominations—as well as other faith traditions—through traditional classes, online learning, lifelong-learning seminars and workshops, and within collaborative learning cohorts.