At the end of each calendar year, Seminary communications chief John Spangler and I independently compile lists of what we consider the “top 10 LTSG stories” of the year, and then compare notes. Usually there’s an amazingly high degree of correlation between our lists; this year was no exception. In the end, the final selection is my personal “top 10” list, and here it is (not in order of relative importance):
1. Voices of History Soon to Speak: After more than a decade of planning, in 2011 the Seminary and joint venture partner Adams County Historical Society got green lights all the way to proceed with the rehabilitation of Schmucker Hall (“Old Dorm”). Federal and Pennsylvania grants and tax credits totaling more than $8 Million enable us to forge ahead in creating a world-class museum, set to open mid-2013, just in time for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
2. New Partnership Emerges with Luther Seminary: In a move some found surprising, LTSG entered into a new collaborative partnership with the ELCA’s largest sister school, Luther Seminary of St. Paul, MN. Sharing faculty and resources, the schools will work together in Luther-led “distributed learning” (a hybrid of on-campus and online courses and formation) and a new M.A.R. concentration in Religion & Media led by Gettysburg Seminary. Faculty and administrators at both schools continue exploring additional areas of work, even as we maintain our strong commitment to the Eastern Cluster and Washington Consortium.
3. Seminary Receives ‘Unqualified’ Reaccreditation: Two years of concerted work in preparation for our decennial comprehensive accreditation review resulted in an unqualified (no major deficiencies noted) reaccreditation for ten years by both the Association for Theological Schools and Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The Seminary was commended especially for our sound fiscal status, entrepreneurial spirit and broad network of support.
4. Chapel Geothermal Conversion Completed: In keeping with the Seminary’s commitment to continue “growing greener,” an old steam heat system in the Church of the Abiding Presence was replaced with 21st century geothermal HVAC systems. Combined with the sustainable energy conversion was interior face-lifting, which included new wood flooring and renewal of the 70-year-old pews. Schmucker Hall will be the next campus facility to “go geothermal.”
5. Faculty Promotions, Publications, Emeriti Passing: During the year, two faculty members—Drs. Leonard Hummel and Robin Steinke—were promoted to full professor status; Dr. Kristin Largen was granted tenure; and senior faculty member Dr. Nelson Strobert became a “chaired” professor as the first to be conferred the newly-established Paulssen/Hale Chair of Church & Society. Multiple books and significant articles were authored by faculty writers. The Seminary community also marked the passing of two giants among our emeritus cadre, as services celebrated the lives of Larry Folkemer and Richard Thulin. As the year ends, we also honor the life and witness of Marlene Beekmann, spouse of the Seminary’s eleventh president, Dr. Darold Beekmann.
6. Gettysburg Seminary Media Presence Expanded, Recognized: Together with our outstanding Communications Office, a new Admissions staff team has taken the lead in making the Seminary more prominent on the multi-media map through expanded presence on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. The radical redesign of our Seminary Ridge Review journal by John Spangler and Katy Giebenhain gained national recognition as the publication received the prestigious DeRose/Hinkhouse Award from the Religious Communications Council of America.
7. Major Gifts a Godsend Amidst Economic Slump: In an extraordinary act of generosity, Ms. Ruth Shaw, member of a small-town parish in Maryland, and unknown to the Seminary, left the bulk of her estate to Gettysburg Seminary. This marvelous gift enabled the board to complete the Paulssen/Hale chair, designate start-up funding for the collaborative ventures with Luther, and offer “matching funds” for gifts to complete the chapel renovation and geothermal conversion. In another act of extreme generosity, the Glatfelter Foundation completed full funding of the named biblical studies chair occupied by Dr. Richard Carlson. Once again, despite the economic slump and with no increase in student tuition, the Seminary ended the 2010-11 fiscal year “in the black.”
8. Payne Bicentennial Celebrations: One of the Seminary’s most renowned alumni, the Rev. Dr. Daniel Alexander Payne, was born in 1811. First African-American to receive a theological education in a Lutheran institution, Payne was founder of a major university and a bishop in the AME Church of his day. In partnership with Payne Seminary in Ohio, named for our illustrious alumnus, Gettysburg Seminary celebrated a year-long commemoration of his birth bicentenary. Soon to be published is a Payne biography authored by Professor Nelson Strobert, also completed during 2011.
9. Student-led Public Witness: Among seminaries around the country, Gettysburg Seminary’s public profile has been raised in recent years by student-led initiatives. This fall, a “sleepover” by students in the Gettysburg town square raised awareness of the plight of homeless persons in our community and around the country. Multiple events sponsored by the Student Association have gained public recognition, including hosting the annual LutherBowl flag football tournament here on our campus. In November, unfortunately, an early snowfall caused mid-tournament cancellation, leaving the 2011 Bowl without a winner (wait ‘til next year!)
10. Graduates Get Calls, Serving Faithfully: Amidst some inaccurate rumors of a growing “clergy oversupply,” the Seminary’s 2011 seniors received their first calls to parishes and other ministries around the country apace of prior years’ graduates. Always the most important indicator of a Seminary’s faithful service, the work and witness of another group of outstanding women and men gives credence to our claim that despite the challenges of another difficult year in our nation and globally, it was a very good year at the Seminary in so many ways, and we thank God for it!