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GTS Trustees Enact Plan for Restructuring
For Immediate Release
18 October 2010
GTS Trustees Enact Plan for Financial Restructuring and Elect New Board Chair
New Plan Leverages Assets to Eliminate Debt, Rebuild Endowment, and Balance Budget
New York City – Trustees of The General Theological Seminary, the oldest seminary of The Episcopal Church, unanimously approved moving forward with a comprehensive new initiative, the Plan to Choose Life, aimed at eliminating the Seminary’s $41 million of debt, restoring the school’s endowment, and allowing the Seminary to continue its mission with a balanced budget—all to be achieved within a period of eighteen to twenty-four months. The plan represents a $60 million turnaround achieved, in part, by the sale of several Seminary properties, yet it preserves General’s classic quadrangle known as the “Close,” as well as all the historic buildings fronting West 21st Street. In other Board actions, the Rt. Rev. Mark Sisk, the Bishop of New York and a 1967 graduate, was elected to serve as the Seminary’s new Board Chair, succeeding the Rev. Canon Denis O’Pray who served as Board Chair for five years.
“The adoption of this plan represents a comprehensive solution to financial challenges that have been a drain on morale and a serious impediment to the Seminary’s mission for many years,” said Bishop Sisk. “GTS trustees today took a bold but very carefully considered step to leverage assets through the sale of residential properties. The payoff is the substantial if not the complete elimination of all General’s debt.”
A subsequent step in the Plan, Bishop Sisk explained, will seek to find Episcopal or other not-for-profit partners to share in the ownership of the Desmond Tutu Center, the Seminary’s conference facility. The proceeds from the partnership would be used to rebuild quickly the Seminary’s endowment which, from its annual earnings, should enable General to achieve a balanced budget and to concentrate on its mission to educate and form leaders for the church.
“At the crux of our financial crisis we realized that this plan was the only alternative for a comprehensive solution that was achievable in a few years,” said the Rev. Lang Lowrey, the Interim President of GTS. “Someone at the table mentioned that our journey in the next few years would be similar to the years the Israelites spent in the desert and it called to mind a passage in Deuteronomy about choosing life and so the name for the comprehensive approach was born.” Lowrey admitted that in enacting the Plan to Choose Life, General will have a very busy and difficult eighteen to twenty-four months ahead. The trustee action enables the school to complete negotiations for the sale of the properties and the complex process of relocating students and faculty residents to newly renovated housing.
“The community is behind this plan; they are behind it out of a spirit of hope, a belief in the promise of renewal, and a trust, a trust in the future of this seminary, and its necessary role in education and its necessary role in formation,” said Mr. Ian Kinman, an M.A. student who also serves as President of the Community Council. Kinman joined Professor Robert Owens, Academic Advisor to the Dean, and by Mr. William Webster, Director of Admissions, who respectively offered student, faculty, and staff perspectives on the Plan. Bishop Sisk commented, “This was one of the most spirited and positive Trustee meetings we have had in years. I am delighted that the GTS community is coming together so quickly to make General the kind of place where our mission can flourish.”
The General Theological Seminary, located in the heart of New York City, educates and forms leaders for the church in a changing world. Founded in 1817 as the first theological seminary of the Episcopal Church, General offers certificate and degree programs including the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Theology. The Seminary is also home to the Desmond Tutu Center, a full-service conference center with sixty modern guest rooms.
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