Seminary Plans for Changing Future

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CHICAGO, IL (November 11, 2011) – Broad-based assessment and program development activities have begun at North Park Theological Seminary in recent months as the school addresses a changing educational climate and continues its search for a new dean.

Calling this “a critical moment,” North Park University President David Parkyn told the Board of Trustees recently, “All of us who have worked on this over the course of the summer are hopeful for the future vitality of the seminary. That’s our goal, and that’s what we’re looking toward. We think there is a very special place in the life of the Evangelical Covenant Church for North Park Theological Seminary.”

Under review are issues including alignment of mission with the Covenant; curricular development; tuition and financial aid; and marketing and enrollment. Seminary and university leaders, meanwhile, will address matters related to faculty profile, workload, and practices; a sustainable economic model for the seminary; and fundraising.

At its May meeting the board had requested that Parkyn prepare a report on the status of the seminary and its search for a leader, which was done in collaboration with seminary faculty and university leadership. The draft report was discussed at an August retreat with the seminary faculty and the university leadership team.

David L. Tiede, former president of Luther Seminary, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, served as consultant and facilitated the discussion at the retreat. The report was informed by internal data on seminary enrollment, finances, and curriculum, along with conversations with Covenant leaders and board members, Parkyn said. He also said he consulted with presidents of four other universities with theological seminaries.

The board’s Seminary Committee and the full board also reviewed the president’s internal report and approved a “recasting” of the senior leadership position. The seminary leader will assume the title “Dean of the Seminary,” and will continue to report to the North Park University president. The job functions will remain largely the same as in the past. An update on the search process will be coming next week.

“To have a common understanding of both the grand opportunities and the very real challenges gives good compass bearings for finding our way forward,” said denomination President Gary Walter. “I am expecting that North Park will be a leading example of missional theological education for the future.”

Also at the meeting, it was reported that $51 million already has been raised toward the $57 million goal of Campaign North Park, with some areas of the campaign surpassing their goals.

The campaign, formally launched in June, seeks $8 million for the university’s annual fund; $6 million for scholarships; $1 million for Chicago-based academic programs and faculty development; and $42 million for a new Science and Community Life Building. Mary Surridge, North Park University vice president for development and alumni relations, said fundraising for the new building has reached $31 million, with nearly $11 million more to be secured. The university hopes to break ground for the new building in 2012.

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