|SFTS Board of Trustees announces closure of its Southern California campus
The San Francisco Theological Seminary Board of Trustees has regretfully announced the closure of its Southern California campus in Pasadena effective June 30, 2011, marking the second major budget reduction in the past two years.
The Board of Trustees voted to take its latest action in order to achieve financial equilibrium within a four-year horizon. The closure of the SFTS Southern California campus, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2010, is part of a larger plan to reduce the seminary operating budget by $850,000 annually.
The Board of Trustees voted to immediately look at new ways to extend the SFTS mission to other locations, especially in Southern California.
“This is a painful decision for everyone associated with the Seminary,” said Dr. Laird J. Stuart, interim president and professor of pastoral theology. “As we mourn the closure of our Southern California campus, we also celebrate the important ministry it has accomplished over the past 20 years. Our Pasadena campus has graduated nearly 300 outstanding alumni who now serve in a variety of ministry settings, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and other protestant denominations.”
A plan is being developed to allow current Southern California-based students to complete their degrees. The seminary will also provide SFTS Southern California faculty and staff with severance packages to assist in their transitions.
Since the economic collapse in 2008, the Seminary has taken many steps to improve its financial status, including a 2009 plan involving increased fundraising, property sales and $1.5 million in operating reductions. Concurrently, SFTS has worked toward eliminating debt, building new on-campus housing for its students and faculty, and adding an estimated $10 million to its endowment.
“The members of the board and I felt it was critical for us to make these painful reductions to balance the budget,” said Peter van Bever, chair of the SFTS Board of Trustees. “These difficult economic conditions for all higher education institutions require us to practice disciplined stewardship of the gifts and funds entrusted to our care.”
According to Dr. Elizabeth Liebert, SFTS dean and professor of spiritual life, this action is not the final word on theological education in Southern California by SFTS.
“For example, we want to respond to new trends in online education and distance learning and we see these alternative learning options as important enhancements to our core academic program,” Liebert said. “We need to further develop our extended learning program, a plan that needs to include Southern California, as we strive to balance access with our fundamental belief in building community through worship, shared meals and personal conversations.”
The SFTS Southern California campus was established in 1990 and has enjoyed outstanding leadership from three vice presidents: Rev. Dr. Jack Rogers, a former moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Rev. Dr. David Tomlinson, former executive presbyter of Los Ranchos Presbytery, and current vice president Rev. Dr. Judy Yates Siker, professor of New Testament and Christian origins, and former dean of the American Baptist Seminary of the West.