Pathways to Possibility
San Francisco Theological Seminary, University of Redlands Unite in a Transformative Partnership
To: University of Redlands and San Francisco Theological Seminary Communities
From: Ralph W. Kuncl, President
Date: July 1, 2019
Subject: Two Become One, and Stronger Together
It is my great privilege to announce that the union of the University of Redlands and San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS) is now official, in a permanent partnership that ensures a vibrant future for both. Accreditor endorsement has been received, the state Attorney General’s approval secured, and the legal transaction that binds us together has closed. We are one.
I want to be the first to extend a warm welcome and thank you to our new students and colleagues from SFTS. We are excited to greet you, humbled to take the helm of the venerable institution you call home, and dedicated to making the journey toward our new future together a positive and collaborative one.
I also want to thank all of you at both institutions who have worked so very hard on matters large and small, pragmatic and perplexing, planned and unanticipated, to make this day a reality. It has been a labor of love, but also of great intensity and complexity, since last summer, if not before – and we would not be celebrating this day without your care, hard work, professionalism, and trust. I want especially to acknowledge SFTS President Jim McDonald for his collaborative spirit. Thank you.
What it means for us all is a bright future indeed. For SFTS, you now have access to an array of new or expanded resources to support you in your academic or work experience – everything from broadened student advising, study abroad, and elective possibilities, to enhanced employee benefits and a second beautiful, historic campus to visit.
For the U of R, we now have a new graduate school – the Graduate School of Theology (GST) – which has already brought new programs here to Redlands and will soon bring more. We also have a new regional campus in the Bay Area – the Marin Campus – where the offerings of SFTS will continue on, as they have since that institution’s founding in 1871, and will soon be joined by new ones from our Schools of Business and Education and, eventually, the College of Arts & Sciences and its School of Music. This is the first expansion of our California footprint to the north, and it brings with it vast new opportunities and benefits. For example, the Marin Campus presents new opportunities for alumni and other event programming, which will be especially appreciated by the thousands of proud alumni whom our institutions now share!
For both communities, I’ll remind you of a few more points about our new relationship that are particularly important and exciting.
As I have written before, this event represents the first major structural change to U of R’s academic offerings since 1976, when Whitehead College was created to serve a new generation of non-traditional students. Redlands has been successfully forging new partnerships and pathways as part of our strategic plan for several years now. SFTS sought a partner with whom it could continue, and broaden, its mission. We found each other, and the mutuality of our choice of one another demonstrates the authenticity and predicts the success of the historic partnership upon which we now embark.
Our two institutions share a core set of values and interests, which are reflected in each institution’s vision for teaching, scholarship, and community. We are both committed to exploring and expanding academic and career pathways for students. We are enhancing those pathways by combining key strengths of both institutions into the new GST. Our many synergies have already been demonstrated in our collaborative development of a joint certificate program.
Thus, at its core, our partnership is squarely aligned with the goals of the U of R’s strategic plan, North Star 2020, to enhance graduate and professional education, and with SFTS’s mission as a graduate school offering a rigorous religious education focused on critical theological reflection, as well as non-degree programs centered on developing spiritual awareness.
I am able today to announce the Marin-based faculty and staff of the Graduate School of Theology who are now officially part of the University of Redlands. Jana Childers, Dean of the GST and now a member of my Cabinet, and her colleagues can be found here.
Once again, on behalf of the University of Redlands students, faculty, staff, trustees, and our nearly 60,000 alumni, I send a heartfelt welcome to the newest members of our thriving community. We are truly enriched by your addition to our world. All new members of the Redlands community will now regularly receive student, staff, and faculty announcements such as this one, as well as the University magazine, Och Tamale, and the Bulldog Blog.
We welcome our growing community’s comments and questions about this news. Please feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or to me at email@example.com. In the meantime, I look forward to my next visit to our new campus and to writing again to all of you about our important work – together, as one.
Ralph W. Kuncl
In recent years, the SFTS Board has been exploring ways to create a new kind of seminary for the 21st century—one that is intentionally designed to preserve the core values of SFTS while appealing to a broader constituency and opening new pathways for hopeful, loving engagement with the world. Even as SFTS and its degree programs will remain essentially unchanged at our San Anselmo campus, this innovative partnership will enlarge our geographic and demographic reach and give us the opportunity to offer interdisciplinary degrees and certificates in creative, new combinations with University of Redlands’ academic programs and other educational resources.
James McDonald, Ph.D.
President Emeritus of SFTS and Special Advisor to the President for External Constituents, Graduate School of Theology, University of Redlands
There is great excitement at SFTS about an expanded future with the University of Redlands. Programs we have long wanted to offer, students we have been anxious to reach, and resources for innovative ministry we have been eager to develop – suddenly all these aspirations have wind beneath their wings. Faculty conversations are popping with possibilities. Thoughts of new colleagues to engage in scholarly discourse, new ways to reach out to prospective students and new degree programs to model fuel our plans. In hallway discussions and committee meetings there is a kind of zing. We are dizzy with ideas as we begin work on the program expansion this partnership will make possible. Most of all, we are grateful for the new life — for the fullness of life — this merger promises and for the way it will extend the work and the community we love well into God’s future.
Jana Childers, Ph.D.
Dean of the Graduate School of Theology, Professor of Homiletics and Speech Communication
OUR COMMUNITY SPEAKS
There is a beautiful Frederick Buechner quotation we’ve probably all seen about the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need. I believe that SFTS has been devoted to dwelling in that place, with all the joy and challenge it brings. Now SFTS has received a call to become a new model of theological education and Christian community in the world. Through this merger with the University of Redlands, SFTS will become the nucleus of a new graduate school of theology in southern California while continuing its ties to the GTU and the PC(USA), and its ongoing presence and work in San Anselmo. This new identity will expand our longstanding mission. It will broaden what we offer and who we can offer it to, in a time when we are called to go wider and deeper into the world. By offering theological education in new forms to a wider range of potential students and continuing our core preparation for ministry, SFTS will keep building on its legacy of innovation, commitment to spiritual formation and dedication to openness and inclusivity in its understanding of Christ’s call. Your prayers and support in all ways will go far to make this possible, to affirm your love for who SFTS has been and who SFTS is called to be in the future. We’re the bones of this new endeavor, friends, and I look forward to discovering, along with you, what new things are in store! —
Rev. Dr. Mary Louise McCullough
MDiv ’02, SFTS Trustee, Alumni Council President
“Seminaries are by their nature places where tradition is both preserved and reimaged. As this beloved seminary enters a new century, I am thrilled to be joining with the University of Redlands. Already, our encounters have been warm and enthusiastic. We have begun dreaming of what we might do together, including developing more programs in spirituality and deepening our interfaith conversations. The twentieth century saw the seminary open its doors to women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community – shocking innovations at the time that have proved to be beautiful expansions of who we are. The twenty-first century is likely to present us with great difficulties as well as opportunities that spark our imagination in ways we cannot foresee. I am glad the seminary will enter this future with new friends and expanded resources.”
Wendy Farley, Ph.D.
Director of the Program in Christian Spirituality San Francisco Theological Seminary
As both a graduate of SFTS (1974, 1980) and a Trustee since 2010, I am very excited by the forthcoming merger with University of Redlands. The merger does address long-standing financial concerns, and gives SFTS the opportunity to thrive instead of just survive. But as Trustees, we think of the vast expansion of enrollment and program opportunities. Think of the possible synergies: courses on Business and Ethics, Science and Religion, Ministry and Administration, or Spirituality and Counseling or Crisis Care. SFTS will be embedded within a Graduate School of Theology, within a larger university. But we will continue to grant degrees, to maintain our historic Presbyterian connections, and the combined institution will maintain our beautiful campus. We will continue to train ministers of Word and Sacrament. And I believe SFTS, though no longer a stand-alone seminary, can offer a prophetic witness to the entire university. We made this recommendation after much prayer and deliberation, and I personally believe the opportunity is God’s answer to our prayer that we will continue “to have a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Thanks be to God!
Rev. Dr. Rick Snyder
(MDiv & MA ’74, DMin ’80, Trustee, Alumni Council Member)