Austin Seminary Receives Three Grants Totaling $731,000

Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary has received two grants from  Lilly Endowment Inc. totaling nearly $725,000, and a $6,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The Lilly grants will fund two new programs: a program addressing economic challenges facing future ministers, and another helping ministers grow as public leaders.

The first Lilly grant, in the amount of $225,000, will support a three-year program addressing the economic challenges facing Austin Seminary Master of Divinity (MDiv) students, particularly debt management. This grant will enable the Seminary to build its capacities to monitor student debt, counsel students about debt, and routinize a culture that clearly attends to the economic welfare of future ministers. Administrators will work with students to encourage lower levels of borrowing while in school, explore alternate models for delivering theological education that entail lower costs to students, and work to broaden the Seminary’s base of support.

A second initiative called “Public Leaders, Public Life” will be funded by a nearly $500,000 grant. This five-year program will help ministers grow in vision, competence, and confidence as public leaders. Public Leaders, Public Life will rely on the discipline of practical theology to help pastors in their first five to ten years of ministry broaden their scope as partners with other leaders in their communities.

Melissa Wiginton, vice president for Education Beyond the Walls, who will administer the Public Leaders, Public Life program said, “We believe the church has a role to play in the common life shared by all people and all creation. This project gives pastors a chance to learn more about that common life by spending time with strong leaders from across the spheres of public life—from economics to education and everything in between—and by reflecting together as leaders of communities of faith. As their vision expands and their knowledge deepens, these pastors will become more thoughtful, informed, effective and vital leaders invested in the connecting their congregations with the communities in which they live.”

“I’m delighted that we have received these grants from Lilly Endowment and am grateful for its generosity and support of Austin Seminary,” Allan Cole, academic dean at Austin Seminary said. “These grants will help the Seminary further its mission to form and educate leaders for the church in the world while benefitting our students, past, present, and future.”

Cole adds, ““I am also grateful to Melissa Wiginton and Timothy Lincoln, associate dean for seminary effectiveness, for their leadership and hard work to help secure these grants.”

The $6,000 grant from NEH will provide preservation assessment, environmental monitoring equipment and rehousing, and emergency response supplies for the Austin Seminary archival collection. This grant is among 246 projects funded by the NEH that spans academic disciplines.

“The Austin Seminary Archives houses a unique combination of institutional and denominational records that document over 150 years of Presbyterianism in Texas and the Southwest. This funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities will help us in our mission to preserve and provide access to these records and to share the stories of the people, churches, and institutions that make up our community,” Kristy Sorensen, associate director of the Stitt Library and head of archives and records management said.

“Receiving this grant will allow us to make sure that we are the best possible stewards of our resources for years to come. NEH grants are competitive and I applaud the work of Ms. Sorensen in crafting a winning proposal,” said library director Timothy Lincoln.

More about Public Leaders, Public Life

We believe pastors have something to bring to the public conversation, and that becoming part of the public conversation is in fact part of expert pastoral leadership.

Program Design:

12-member cohorts will gather for nine community learning sessions over 24 months. Each session will focus on one aspect public life.

Sample focuses:

Good News to the Poor: Places to Live | Where do people with no, limited, and diminishing financial resources live? What are the economic realities of housing options in terms of cost, location, quality of environment? What are the implications of "poor neighborhoods" and "rich neighborhoods" for public life?

Release for the Captive: Justice and the Prison System | What is the relationship between justice as defined by American jurisprudence and imprisonment? Who goes to prison? How do current practices benefit and cost public life?

Recovery of Sight to the Blind: Access to Health | Who has access to what is necessary to recover health and who makes those decisions within the medical complex?

Participant qualification:

  • Five to ten years of ministry practice
  • Demonstrate leadership abilities, potential for future leadership, commitment to region and ministry
  • Located within geographic boundaries: south of Waco,  north of Victoria, east of San Antonio, and west of Houston

Call for nominations for this program will begin Summer 2013. If interested, contact Melissa Wiginton at