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GTS Next  is where you will find all official Seminary statements on recent developments in its institutional life with the most recent appearing first. Please contact Bruce Parker, Executive Director of Communications (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) with any questions you may have.

 

 


General Seminary Closes on Gateway Restructuring Transaction

 

March 30, 2011


Closing Paves Way for Completing Revitalization Plan

New York City--The Rev. Lang Lowrey, Interim President of the General Theological Seminary (GTS), announced today that ownership of the Seminary’s residential property on West 20th Street known as Chelsea 2,3,4 was transferred on March 30 to The Brodsky Organization. This transaction is the latest in a continued and successful working relationship between the two organizations that started with the development of the Chelsea Enclave, a building that will house GTS’s new Keller Library. The mutually beneficial relationship also will result in Brodsky renovating a large portion of GTS’s campus while helping to address GTS’s financial needs as well as improvements to the neighborhood through the preservation and renovation of the acquired historic buildings.

 

The closing on the property followed the February approvals by the New York State Attorney General and the Supreme Court.  The sale involves the first of four properties the Seminary will sell to The Brodsky Organization as part of the school’s Plan to Choose Life, a comprehensive financial undertaking designed to eliminate nearly all of the Seminary’s debt, restore its endowment, create a balanced budget, and revitalize its mission.

 

“This is a gateway transaction and an important milestone because so many of the legal and financial details that were finalized pave the way for the next three closings, a new bridge loan and leveraging the Tutu center to rebuild our endowment,” said President Lowrey, referring to the upcoming sale of the apartment building at 422 West 20th Street, the Seminary’s multi-use property known as West Building, and land it owns on West 20th Street where a tennis court now stands. All the properties are included in a sales contract between the Seminary and The Brodsky Organization. The proceeds from this first sale have enabled GTS to repay with interest the $2.7 million the school borrowed from its own endowment and the $5.3 million bridge loan taken out to fund this year’s operations. In addition this sale allows GTS to fund $8 million to increase the number of on-campus dormitories and to create new offices in the Seabury building adjacent to the seminary entrance. The sale will also trigger the release of funds that had been held as collateral but are part of a generous gift earmarked for the completion of the Seminary’s new Keller Library. The next closing, on the 422 West 20th Street property, is expected to take place early this summer.

 


GTS Community Update


February 12, 2011

Friends,

This Update will expand on several of the subjects mentioned in the one we sent to you on February 7. We would like to reiterate our thanks to the GTS community for the hospitality shown to our visiting trustees last week. It should come as no surprise that many trustees gauge the climate at GTS and how well our mission is realized by the attendance they find at our Chapel worship services. For this reason we were very pleased by the extra effort made by so many of our students, staff, and faculty members to be present in Chapel during the trustees’ visit. An update on the trustees meeting will follow, but first we have some important news to share.

Progress on the Plan to Choose Life
We are delighted to report that the New York State Supreme Court on February 9 ratified the Attorney General’s recommendation that the sale of Chelsea 2,3,4 be allowed to proceed. While a few documents still need to be finalized, this highly significant development allows us to move ahead with a “soft closing” on 2,3,4 and with the full closing that will take place a few weeks later. The full closing will clear the way for our team of professionals to begin work in leveraging the Tutu Center to rebuild the Seminary’s endowment. We are greatly indebted to our attorney Max Friedman for his good work in making this approval a reality.

Please remember that the sale of assets is not only about the reduction of debt and the reduction of high interest costs but is also about increasing student housing on the Close, providing renovated offices, and further eliminating deferred maintenance (on the property being sold). With respect to debt, we have been asked by our bank to reduce our debt as quickly as possible which will mean that “422” needs to be sold by June 30th. Since we must have a vacant building by then, we are busy now assisting outside tenants to find other living arrangements and securing  off-campus housing for students this summer and into the fall if needed. This will be discussed in the community meeting this Tuesday. We expect that we may need up to 12 units depending on variables that have yet to be worked out. We are extremely grateful for the spirit of co-operation shown by those whose living quarters will be affected. We are very aware of the stress and inconvenience these relocations cause and thank everyone in advance for their forbearance. If you have not seen it, the rationale behind our plan was featured in a recent story in the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 9 issue, p. A19). Though accurate in most respects, the story wrongly alluded to “declining enrollment” at GTS, while in the interview President Lowrey had been speaking about a church-wide decline. With 59 new students attending GTS this year, our enrollment is very healthy indeed.

February Trustee Meeting
We both want to acknowledge and thank our student representatives to the Board of Trustees. Their contributions to the commission meetings were highly valued (and this is where so much of the Board’s work is done). Likewise at the plenary sessions their comments were thoughtful, forthright, and very much appreciated. Our new meeting format sets aside time for spokespersons representing students, faculty, and staff to address the Board directly with their concerns while also allowing the voting members of the Board to meet by themselves (both with and without the presence of the Dean and the President) for equally beneficial deliberations. Meeting in executive session no longer means that just student, staff, and faculty representatives are excluded but the Dean and the President also. This new format will not only respect the role of all participants but will allow elected trustees time and space to build corporate identity, to become a more cohesive body, and to engage in longer-range discussions about the institution’s future.  This format is widely considered a best practice in the governance of many types of institutions.

Of some concern to continuing students will be the decision of trustees to raise tuition at the Seminary by 5% beginning next year. This is a modest increase in light of our ever-increasing operational costs and the fact that there was no increase last year. Trustees believed this action was a fair increase and was needed to fulfill their fiduciary responsibility, especially given that the responsible management of our income sources is being closely monitored. Regarding the related issue of student debt, it needs to be restated that after the goals of the Plan to Choose Life are met (particularly the rebuilding of our endowment) a primary focus will be on finding ways to reduce student indebtedness. At the February meeting trustees began this process by calling for a committee to study the cost of theological education and student debt. The issue of seminarians’ debt has been a church-wide concern voiced by the Society for the Increase of Ministry, General Convention, and others.

Our financial situation has also caused leadership at GTS to reconsider a number of other practices of governance and the Board now has a committee on trusteeship to make recommendations about other changes concerning governance of the Seminary which will be discussed and voted on at their May meeting. These may include an expanded Executive Committee with greater breadth of expertise in the disciplines of business and finance. Although everyone recognizes the value of face-to-face meetings, more telephonic meetings are also being considered as a hedge against the considerable cost of bringing so many participants to New York City and to promote involvement of trustees in all aspects of the Seminary. We will share these recommendations with you as they are published to the trustees. We invite you to check the Newsroom section of the GTS website as more items from the recent trustee meeting (including President Lowrey’s speech) are posted there.

In trustee matters beyond the most current meeting, we have asked the trustees to look into academic governance as well. The recent meeting made everyone acutely aware of the urgent need to replace and add new faculty members, to improve enrollment numbers in our masters degree and certificate programs and to make the necessary changes to make study at GTS more attractive to commuter students. We have therefore asked our Board’s Executive Committee to make a comprehensive evaluation of academic governance at GTS and to recommend changes that need to be along a number fronts, including our faculty policy agreements.

Business Office
Both your Interim President and Dean believe that we need to make improvements in our Business Office both in its functioning and in customer service. Given the financial challenges and opportunities that GTS faces and the complex nature of the Plan to Choose Life, we have decided that we need a CPA to lead the day-to-day affairs of the Business Office. We are grateful for the past efforts of Frank DiMaiuta as our Associate Vice President and Controller. We would like to thank Frank for his good work in this regard. Frank has agreed to remain with the Seminary until a new CPA controller can be found and to use his best efforts to facilitate a smooth transition, a task we feel can be accomplished in the next 90-120 days.

We also wish to thank Maureen Burnley for her years of service to GTS. We want to focus Maureen more fully on the upcoming renovations and issues with housing as well as on achieving the very demanding timetable presented by the Plan to Choose Life. It is extremely important that the Seminary be on time and on budget with these projects and we believe it will require Maureen’s full time concentration on them. Therefore effective immediately responsibility for human resources will be lodged with Sandra Johnson as CFO. Maureen will remain in her role as Executive Vice President and will assist in the transition this summer when the EVP’s former responsibilities for operations are moved to the Dean’s Office and former finance responsibilities are lodged with the CFO. This new configuration will also strengthen our institutional checks and balances. Sometime in the  future Sandra will relocate to Maureen’s current office to gain closer proximity to the Business Office staff and Maureen’s office will move to the second floor of West Building. A new organization chart will soon be uploaded to the Rookery.

GTS Goes Green!
This was a tagline General used to publicize its geothermal heating and cooling initiative several years ago when the articles began to appear inBusiness Week, Christian Science Monitor, and the Chicago Tribute on the Seminary’s innovative program (a New York Times story remains available on line). GTS is still going green and at an accelerating pace! The network printers in our offices now default to double-sided printing to save paper, our communications efforts are going increasingly electronic, other printed materials been enormously reduced, and we are trying to reduce the number of meetings we have for which participants need to attend in person instead of utilizing distance technologies. The carpeting throughtout the Tutu Center and the Keller library are made from recycled materials. Both facilities use only high efficiency lighting, as will the new offices in Seabury. The library and Seabury will be equipped motion detectors. All of the paper and pens used in the Tutu Center are made from recycled materials. The Tutu Center even recycles its cooking oil which is made into biofuels. Our trustees have given great support to these efforts and we hope you will also. Please let us know if you have other ways we can be more environmentally responsible as a seminary.


God’s peace,

The Rev. Lang Lowrey                       The Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee

Interim President                                 Interim Dean

 

 


 

Interim President Lang Lowrey’s Address to the Board of Trustees

February 4, 2011

First, just for the record I want to note that during the “official” recruiting process for Interim President – no one mentioned that the NYC weather would be so unaccommodating this year. Not that I mind of course! Yet you would think that God might have noticed that General is facing enough challenge ‘as it is’ and that at the very least the weather might give us a break.


It dawned on me the other day as I crawled into my office (on all fours) that perhaps God is not throwing more us one more curve snow-ball (with the record low temperatures and snow) but to the contrary was giving us a great gift trying to remind us that just as the world is changing so must GTS as well! For not only did the 18” of snow create a calm sense of Divine beauty over the Close but I noticed that our community built a new snow bell tower in the middle of the close.  For me it was a striking symbol that our struggles are perhaps a loving reminder of what we are capable of building here at GTS If we are willing to recognize the reality of a rapidly changing world and that we quickly embrace the significant change that we need to make in our Mission, organizational structures and in our financial constructs to be an ongoing contributor to the mission of the church.


Unfortunately I have seen too many organizations fail to embrace the changing landscape of their Mission. Most often well meaning and qualified leaders realize that the amount of change needed in the timeframe that is required to survive is too risky so they sanctify the status quo and pray that the problem will outlive their time to lead.


This is not to mention that change will affect us personally – not only the way we have always done things but often in our pocket books. Therefore given the institutional risk and personal implications to the need for rapid change, I have noted that most organizations go about change by finding ways to deny it or sanctify it. Even when change is accepted as necessary, it is often too late or the approach to fixing the problem “is like trying to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.” Sadly, I have seen too many shipwrecks not to say in my second address to you that GTS must change rapidly if we are to be a contributor to the mission of the church.


I pray that you will receive this message not as criticism of the past but as an observation by a hybrid Priest and businessman who sees the theological education landscape changing at a very rapid rate. All the leading indicators from attendance in seminaries, to statistics in our parishes, to the increasing cost of theological education point to this rapid change. We must either embrace these changes rapidly or have the flagship of theological education in the Episcopal Church perish.


You might be surprised to know that I am less concerned with the financial aspects of this change. Most assuredly, the Plan to choose life is complex , daunting and based on many things out of our control coming together to be successful. Yet we are likely to close on the first of four closings on the sale of assets in a few weeks which paves the way for the renovations and the building of our new library. We have an excellent partner in The Brodsky Organization and the stakes of failure are now very high for M$T bank. The attorney general has approved our plan, most the documents are signed and $5mm is on deposit. Clearly the plan has challenges ahead but if all goes well we could be substantially out of $41mm in debt in the next 12-18 months.

After the first closing we need to focus on the renovation plan. We have worked very hard in coming up with construction budgets and bringing on professionals to ensure we stay within those budgets. We do have complications as the bank is now requiring us to vacate 422 by June and close on the transaction to reduce debt. We must now start moving faculty, students and moving out market tenants which will undoubtedly be an inconvenience to all. This will be the part when we must remember the name of our plan and understand that we will have to move the tents quickly to make the plan work and not get back into hot water with the bank.


At the same time we start renovations we will also need to choose the best way to leverage the Tutu center. We have brought in an exciting team including Jeff Small our new trustee and Matt Tarkenton (an associate of mine in Atlanta) whom understand how to leverage real property transactions. We must find a way to maintain Tutu’s mission and build the endowment to at least $35mm or find other suitable means to accomplish our goals. For as I am sure you remember while the sale of assets substantially reduces debt we still must balance the budget in large part by leveraging Tutu.


This is not to mention that balancing the budget is a difficult task in itself. In addition to leveraging Tutu we need to reduce $1.5mm year in non-cost of capital costs to break even. So I am sure by now you ask why I am less concerned about the financial aspects of the plan when I say we need to change rapidly.


The reasons I say this are fairly simple. First, we have no choice financially speaking… we either change or perish. M$T bank has accepted the plan as the best plan and we are close to completing the first and crucial sale of assets that gives us operating headroom , the renovations and reduction of debt. So as concerning the financial aspects of the plan are Change itself is really not a concern.


No, my concern is our ability to rapidly change institutionally to a rapidly changing theological education landscape. I say this because we must attract another significant M.Div. class to GTS and we must revisit our MA program that was basically put adrift last year because we must stabilize our tuition at current levels or find ourselves back in default of our loans and find ourselves in the middle of the plan not having the revenues needed to finance our costs.


Given the spectacular year that we had last year this is very possible. Yet we need to offer our existing students and new students an even greater experience at GTS by replacing outstanding professors like the Koenig’s and Bishop Carnley. We also need to add practical theology to our strengths and be the best at church leadership in the world. We need to do a better job of involving our students in the education process and we need to promise them a more robust formation experience and back it up by focusing more on their deployment . This is not to say that we do not compare favorably to other seminary’s but only to say that we must be the best if we are to attract the quantity and quality of students that we have been used to having at GTS.


We will have to do all of this rapidly given what the leading indicators are telling us. If we move at glacial speed ( as I have observed is our custom) the opportunity will pass us by and even though we might have successfully restructured our financial landscape we will have failed to offer what students will be looking for in this rapidly changing world of theological education.


All of this will take a restructuring of the way we make decisions in all aspects of the institution. It will mean improving our business office and the willingness by those whom serve GTS to embrace the need for rapid change. The willingness to change is what I worry about because just maintaining the status quo is a losing proposition.


I am thankful that capable leaders like Bishop Sisk and Bishop Lee, Sandra Johnson, Sandy Davies, Jack Murray and Ken Kramer have joined the effort to lead this change. These leaders in addition to others whom have fought to keep GTS alive ( including students , staff and dedicated faculty) and especially your very committed executive committee and alumni members , not to mention  the new energy among us like James Reho, our new dynamic chaplain … all bring great hope for our future.


Given this leadership and the good work that our trustees do in care of GTS no doubt we will change rapidly. Yet perhaps the greatest reminder of the hope for our future is the divine beauty of this place (especially with it crowned in snow). I just pray that we at GTS remember that the very essence of the Gospel of Christ is transformative change and that if we embrace it here at GTS perhaps we will send what we achieve out unto the world.



GTS Community Update

January 31, 2011

 

Friends,


As of today, nearly all of us who have been away from Chelsea Square for the celebration of the holidays or who have taken a hiatus during January have returned to General. Whether your time was spent here or elsewhere, we welcome you back to the start of our snow-bound Easter term! Though this semester begins with wintery days that are often dreary, it ends in springtime when our Close is spectacularly beautiful.  But in addition to a lot to look forward to, we have a lot to catch up on.

Our New Chaplain
As many of you are aware, the Rev. Dr. James H. Reho of Trinity Cathedral, Miami, Florida, has been appointed our Chaplain and Director of Pastoral Care, Deployment and Formation.  Prior to graduating from GTS in 2008, Chaplain Reho earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Princeton University and taught at East Carolina University. At Trinity Cathedral he developed an experimental Eucharistic service, led multiple retreats, gave forums on spiritual practice in a pluralistic world and provided spiritual direction for individuals.  Chaplain Reho is quickly settling into his West Building office as well as a new home facing the Seminary on West 21st Street. Having already been friends with many GTS faculty and staff members, he very much looks forward to meeting students and to his new ministry here at the Seminary. Plans for a reception welcoming him to GTS are currently underway. Chaplain Reho will also be conducting a webinar soon to explain what he wants to achieve as Chaplain.

Seminary Chancellor Arrives
Another arrival to West Building, also with a second floor office, is GTS Chancellor Kenneth M. Kramer, the first chancellor in the history of the Seminary. A retired senior partner in the international law firm of Shearman & Sterling, Mr. Kramer’s headed his firm’s litigation group and served as a member of its Practice Management Committee. Here at GTS, Ken will be an invaluable member of the team of professionals working with us on the legal and real estate dimensions of the Plan to Choose Life. He is a 1965 graduate of Colgate University, a 1972 cum laude graduate of Albany Law School and is active in community affairs, serving as Chairman of the Board of Episcopal Social Services and Music for Life International. We ask staff and faculty members to please note that henceforth no document which creates a legal obligation on behalf of the Seminary should be signed without Ken’s prior review. He is available in his office and by phone and email so his review should not cause any delay. We are delighted to welcome Ken to the GTS community.

The Plan to Choose Life
In late January the Seminary learned that the proposed sale of Chelsea 2,3,4 received the required approval of the New York state Attorney General. It is expected to be approved by the New York State Supreme Court in the upcoming days, which should pave the way for the first closing of our sale of assets in February. This first real estate closing is a significant milestone, allowing us to begin work on the new library and the renovations of our dormitories, and promises to provide operating expenses for the next 18 months. The remaining closings, for the West Building, 422 West 20th Street, and the land under the Enclave, will allow us to reduce our debt (as well as the staggering cost of interest!) and will give us time to develop the plan to leverage the Tutu Center in building our endowment. The next closing, on 422, is expected in June. The last closing, on the West Building, will not take place until November 2011 following the renovation of Seabury Hall this summer (so that the offices now located in West Building may be moved there).

Between now and June, Chelsea 2,3,4 must be vacated prior to the Brodsky Organization’s taking possession. The retirement of current residents Professors John and Elisabeth Koenig at the end of this term was noted in our last Update. Other Chelsea 2,3,4 residents needing to relocate include Prof. David Hurd (who will be moving to Moore Building), Bishop Lee, and the three families who are currently leasing apartments from GTS.   All of these residents will continue to live in their 2,3,4 apartments until June. We are particularly saddened to say goodbye to Jeannette and David Redden who have been such faithful supporters of the Seminary’s mission and have done so much to beautify the gardens of the Close. Knowing how difficult and time-consuming it is to relocate one's home, we are deeply grateful to David Hurd and John and Elisabeth Koenig for being so very understanding.

Regarding the eventual need to vacate 422 West 20th Street, outside residents there have been informed and have begun finding apartments elsewhere. Although none of these tenants have long term leases, we have given them the courtesy of more than six months advance notice as well as a generous number of months of free rent. It is important to note that 422 has always been designated as student housing and the market-rate tenancies have always been a temporary accommodation.

Although we have frequently noted that The Plan to Choose Life is a complex one with many “moving parts,” we wish to stress once again the delicate balance between its various components. Although we have the Attorney General’s signoff, this must be ratified by the state’s Supreme Court, something which is usually done pro forma but about which there are no guarantees. In addition, certain property tax liabilities must be satisfied for the closing to take place, M&T Bank must give final approval and we have a host of documents to negotiate. While we have confidence events will move ahead as scheduled, even a small impediment could seriously imperil our ability to move forward. The Plan continues to generate interest in the local media.  A story quite favorable to the Seminary and the Brodsky Organization appeared in Chelsea Now, our local newspaper, as the cover story in the January 26 issue.  

Professor J. Robert Wright
To assist the Seminary in the relocation of additional families into the Moore Building and in anticipation of his own fuller retirement following the 2012 school year, we are pleased to announce that our most senior GTS faculty member, Professor Wright, advises us that he has decided to purchase one of the units in the Chelsea Enclave as his future home.  Although his “final” retirement is somewhat in the future, Professor Wright is graciously accommodating the Seminary’s need for space by relocating to the Enclave over this coming summer.  The decision is but one more example of his remarkable generosity to General Seminary and his singular record of 43 years of faithful service to his alma mater.  We are pleased that this arrangement will allow Professor Wright to be able to continue to teach selected courses after the 2012 school year as Professor Emeritus and especially that he will remain on the Close living in the Enclave, and will continue to dine in the refectory and to be a very special part of our community.

Key Performance Indicators

In this and future Updates we would like to begin sharing with you three statistical indicators of performance for GTS:  the state of donations to our Annual Fund to date, Admissions Office projections for next year, and lastly, how our current expenditures measure up against our institutional budget. Our External Relations Office reports in its year-to-date Annual Fund giving comparison that as of 1/24/11 a total of $458,077 of their $1.1 million goal had been raised. This compares with $456,844 which had been received by the same time last year. The number of donors is also up, 610 donors for this year as compared to 550 for last. While the increased number of donors is encouraging, we are very aware of the need to continue to pursue our fundraising efforts with diligence. Our bank is watching these numbers very carefully as a leading indicator of the community’s care of GTS.

Statistics from our Admissions Office are also quite hopeful. By the last week of January 2010 the Seminary had admitted 6 students for the fall term as compared to having admitted 13 students this year. M.Div. applications this time last year totaled 14, whereas this year we have already received 24 applications for this program. While we would like in 2011 to be able to equal the very impressive 59 new students we enrolled in 2010, it is simply too early to tell. Admissions is our most important leading indicator.

We have more serious concern about the last indicator, how expenditures and revenues are  tracking against our approved budget. After conducting monthly financial reviews with all departments, we have identified over $700,000 in additional expenditures or reduced revenues from the $5.1 million dollar budget adopted by the Board of Trustees for fiscal year 2010/11. That is a significant “miss" on last spring’s budgeting process of about 15% which not only increases the challenge of bringing the Seminary's operating budget into balance but also has a significant impact to our cash flow.  We are working in every possible way to minimize this overage. We will need to dramatically improve our budgeting processes going forward . If we embrace these three indicators as objective measures of the reality in which we operate and leadership manages and holds itself accountable to this measurement, then most likely we will have a much smoother road ahead.

Refreshing the Seminary’s Mission

While eliminating debt, building our endowment, and achieving a balanced budget are key goals of the Plan to Choose Life, it is the fourth goal that gives the whole Plan its reason for being:  Refreshing our mission as a seminary in service to the Church. Preparing for ministry at GTS has always meant that unique integration of academic and spiritual growth we call formation. Our ability to form leaders for the Church is dependent on our excellent faculty, our library, our worship life, and our steadfast commitment to life in community. Getting our finances in order creates the terra firma which supports all these. But our restructuring will also create exciting new opportunities. Among these, we believe, is the chance for GTS to become a leader in the practical disciplines of pastoral care, parish administration, preaching, and Christian education. Our Certificate Program in the Spiritual Guidance of Children is a major step forward in this endeavor. We need to educate leaders who can educate others and who can make a compelling and articulate case for our faith as Christians.  What an exciting opportunity to be given the chance to re-envision theological education for the new millennium!

Along with our faculty, students, and staff, GTS trustees are significant partners in this enterprise. They will be meeting here on February 4 and 5 so please extend to them a warm GTS welcome. Our board chair, Bishop Mark Sisk will be the preacher at the mid-day Eucharist on February 4 and we hope not only students and faculty but also staff members will join us if they possibly can. Lastly, we are pleased to note that the Seminary has been featured in the national press with an excellent article appearing in Time magazine about GTS student Patrice Pike and her decision to enroll at General (p. 58 of the 1/31 issue).

So, welcome back to classes, to lunch again in the refectory, to evenings spent in the library, to papers and exams, and to the daily rhythm of our worship together in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. As we gather there again this week, let us all remember to give thanks for each other and for the General Seminary.

God’s peace,


The Rev. Lang Lowrey                       The Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee
Interim President                                 Interim Dean

 

 

 


General Seminary Trustees Strengthen Management Team

Professionals from Law, Finance, and Business Join GTS Leadership

December 20, 2010

Meeting on December 20, Trustees of The General Theological Seminary (GTS) elected three new board members, Sanders Davies, Kenneth M. Kramer, Esq., and James K. Murray, Jr.  In accordance with recommendations from the Trustees’ Executive Committee which met earlier in the month, trustees also approved important leadership roles for the new trustees. Sanders Davies will serve as Chair of the Trustee’s Audit Committee. Kenneth M. Kramer will serve pro bono as the Board’s Chancellor (chief legal counsel), and James “Jack” Murray will serve as the Board’s Treasurer succeeding retiring Treasurer Stephen Burrill. In additional actions, Trustees approved the appointment of trustee Sandra Johnson as Interim Chief Financial Officer, at the same time accepting her resignation from the Board so that she might assume this staff position.

“I believe that these elections and appointments of eminently qualified and deeply committed leaders of our Church to these vital positions on our Board of Trustees is a crucial step forward on our long yet promising journey toward achieving the goals envisioned in our Plan to Choose Life,” said Board Chair the Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk, Bishop of New York, referring to the school’s comprehensive plan to reduce debt, build its endowment, and balance the budget.

Sanders Davies, chair of the audit committee, is a certified public accountant and senior partner of O'Connor Davies Munns & Dobbins, LLP, an accounting firm of over 250 professionals with offices throughout the New York tri-state area. Mr. Davies serves in a firm-wide managerial role while serving his clients in the areas of audit, tax and consulting related engagements.  His client experience includes an extensive list of both commercial and not-for-profit engagements. A graduate of Rutgers University, Mr. Davies is a member of numerous professional societies and has served as a board member of several commercial and charitable organizations including the Salvation Army Advisory Board where he was Co-Chair of its Finance Committee. He is an avid sailor and with his wife, Ann, resides in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Sandra Johnson, Interim Chief Financial Officer, is a retired senior banker and senior credit officer.  Ms. Johnson started her banking career with Citibank in 1975 and has handled large corporate accounts, syndications and workouts, served on credit committees and financed mergers/acquisitions and LBO’s.  In addition to her professional responsibilities, she has served as Junior and Senior Warden of Christ Church Riverdale and Treasurer of the Diocese of New York from 1989 to 2002.  In the latter capacity she was a founding Board member and Treasurer of Episcopal Charities, a Trustee of The Diocesan Investment Trust and a Trustee of the Diocese of New York.  She currently serves as a Trustee for the Diocesan Investment Trust of the Diocese of Newark, is an EFM mentor at Christ Church in Short Hills and has facilitated Careers in Transition at the parish for 13 years.  Ms. Johnson and her husband, Bill, reside in Short Hills, NJ.

Kenneth M. Kramer, Seminary Chancellor, is a retired senior partner in the international law firm of Shearman & Sterling LLP. His private practice focused on commercial litigation with specialization in financial service industry disputes, securities class actions, antitrust actions, and corporate governance and contract cases. Mr. Kramer headed his firm’s litigation group and served as a member of the firm’s Practice Management Committee. On his retirement from Shearman & Sterling he joined JAMS, a leading alternative dispute resolution organization, where he serves as an arbitrator and mediator. Mr. Kramer is a 1965 graduate of Colgate University and a 1972 cum laude graduate of Albany Law School. He is active in community affairs and currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Episcopal Social Services and Music for Life International. Mr. Kramer and his wife, Susan, reside in Brooklyn Heights.

James (“Jack”) K. Murray, Jr., Treasurer, currently serves as Chairman of Murray Corporation, a private merchant company.  In 1970 Mr. Murray was one of the founders of a company that is today HealthPlan
Services. In 1978, the company was acquired by The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation and in 1989 Mr. Murray assumed the position of President of Dun & Bradstreet Credit Services.  In addition, he held the position of Corporate Senior Vice President of D&B.  In 1993 Mr. Murray retired from Dun & Bradstreet and, with other financial partners, acquired HealthPlan Services from Dun & Bradstreet in 1994. In May 1995, HealthPlan Services became a public company and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Mr. Murray serves as a trustee of numerous institutions in Tampa, Florida including Sykes Enterprises, Inc. (SYKE, a public company listed on NASDAQ).  In addition, he has served as senior warden for St. John’s Episcopal Church, as a trustee of numerous schools in Tampa and currently serves as a trustee of the University of Tampa.  He and his wife, Sandy, live in Tampa, Florida.

“While the Seminary’s mission is to prepare leaders for the church and the world, we have been reminded by our financial circumstances that we must become much better at attending to our own internal business practices,” said GTS President Lang Lowrey following the meeting. “Jack, Sandy, Sandra and Ken are at the top of their professions and will bring to the Seminary a wealth of experience not only to assist in our financial turnaround but to rebuild our business practices and systems as well.  I continue to be grateful for the willingness of so many who love General to respond actively by getting involved to make the Plan to Choose Life a reality."


# # #
Media Contact:
Bruce Parker
Associate Vice President for External Relations and Alumni/ae Affairs
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Avenue, New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285,
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www.gts.edu

 

 


GTS Community Update
November 30, 2010

Friends,

As you know, this month has been a very busy time on the Close with the 2010 Alumni/ae Gathering, the Paddock Lectures, the Annual Lecture of the Anglican Society, and meetings of the Friends of the Library and the Associate Alumni/ae Executive Committee all having taken place recently. We both want to thank the entire GTS community for the wonderful hospitality that was shown to all our visitors. In this Update you will also find news about the implementation of the Plan to Choose Life and some important developments concerning our staff and faculty.

Alumni/ae Gathering and Paddock Lectures

The Matthews Room of the Tutu Center was filled to its capacity for the three Paddock Lectures, each of which featured the fine scholarship of the Rev. Dr. Bruce Chilton ‘74. If you were unable to attend, please check upcoming issues of TWAG concerning the availability of recordings. Another noted scholar and GTS graduate, the Rev. Dr. John Kater ’66 was this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Alumni/ae Award which was presented at a wonderful banquet in the refectory on November 11.

Contract Signed with Brodsky Organization
As you receive this Update a press release is also being finalized to announce that GTS and the Brodsky Organization have signed a contract leading to the sale of the GTS properties specified in the Plan to Choose Life. Although additional third party approvals are needed before the agreement is finalized, the signing of the contract clears the way for us to start implementing a number of components of the plan. Residents of Pintard Hall and of Dehon Hall will begin to be relocated and the Seminary will begin to end the practice of renting housing units to outside tenants living in 422. Please visit the Blogs section of the Rookery for the most up-to-date information about implementation. On the evening of December 7 the Seminary will be inviting residents from the surrounding neighborhood, as well as local media representatives, to learn about the Plan to Choose Life by joining us in Seabury Auditorium for a meeting with President Lowrey.

Relocation of Faculty Residences on the Close
As part of the further implementation of the Plan to Choose Life, the relocation of faculty residents of Chelsea 2,3,4 will also soon begin. Prof. David Hurd’s household will be moving into the Moore Building apartment previously occupied by the household of Prof. Drew Kadel. The soon-to-be vacated apartment of our retiring Chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Stuart Hoke, also in Moore, will become the new residence of the Kadel household. The Seminary is deeply appreciative of the patience and generosity shown by all students and faculty members who are being relocated as part of the implementation plan.

News from Prof. John Koenig and Prof. Elisabeth Koenig

Long time professors at GTS John and Elisabeth Koenig have informed us that they are investigating early retirement. Serving as Glorvina Rossell Hoffman Professor of the Literature and Interpretation of the New Testament, Prof. John Koenig joined the GTS faculty in 1978. As an effective and engaging teacher, he has enkindled a love of the New Testament in hundreds of GTS graduates. He is also a noted scholar and author having written many articles and several books relating biblical studies to the ministry of the church. Joining the faculty in 1986, Dr. Elisabeth K.J. Koenig, Professor of Ascetical Theology, is currently at work on a book about discernment and she teaches an extremely popular GTS course on the same subject. A sensitive and accomplished teacher, her foundations course in spirituality has served to introduce generations of GTS students to the inseparable connection between spiritual practice and social commitment. With special expertise in areas of patristic spirituality, fourteenth century English mystics, and the relationship between ascetical theology and psychology and art, she is frequently published in journals such as Theology Today. Our Easter term will feature a wonderful event at which we can all celebrate the impressive contributions John and Elisabeth have made to the life of General Seminary and express our thanks.

Chaplain’s Position

We were pleased so many were able to join the community on the afternoon of November 19 at a lovely reception to celebrate the ministry of our departing Chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Stuart Hoke. Stuart’s last day with us was November 22. His time here at GTS has been a blessing to all of us. The search committee under Bishop Lee’s direction has narrowed the field to several candidates who have been invited to the campus for interviews and a tour. A new Chaplain is expected to join the community in January.

Administration News

We both want to express our appreciation to Maureen Burnley for the energy and effectiveness with which she has assumed responsibility for the logistical implementation of the Plan to Choose Life, particularly the relocation of residences and offices. We are also indebted to the staff of the Business Office and Sandra Johnson, our new Interim CFO, for undertaking all the extra duties that have had a critical role in assuring a successful outcome to the agreement with the Brodsky Organization. Lastly, a special word of thanks is also due to the staff of the External Relations Office who worked so hard to insure a successful Alumni/ae Gathering. A prior Update informed you of the merger of the former institutional advancement and communications offices to create the Office of External Relations. This announcement will soon be made public in a press release that will be sent later in the week of November 29.  Also, a complete organizational chart of the Seminary’s administration will soon be added to the Rookery for your reference.

After chapel each morning, it has been great seeing so many students, faculty, and staff starting their day with our new “continental breakfast” in the lobby of West Building. We encourage you to join the community as often as you can for a hot beverage, pastry, and good conversation. After all, as we all know, the coffee hour is an inseparable part of the Episcopal experience.

As we return from our Thanksgiving holiday and as we mark the beginning of Advent, let us all give thanks for the innumerable ways God has blessed us, for the people we love, for the love we receive from others, and for the privilege of sharing a life of study, worship, and community here in Chelsea Square.

God’s peace,

 

The Rev. Lang Lowrey       The Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee
Interim President                  Interim Dean

 

 


30 November 2010

General Seminary Enters Agreement with Brodsky Organization
Contract Signed Enabling Seminary to Continue Its Historic Mission in Chelsea

New York City -- The Rev. Lang Lowrey, President of The General Theological Seminary (GTS), the oldest seminary of The Episcopal Church, announced today that a preliminary agreement had been reached between the Seminary and the Brodsky Organization, a Manhattan real estate developer, which would result in the sale of several residential and mixed use properties owned by the Seminary. The contract is subject to additional approvals but is expected to become final in the next 30-60 days.


GTS trustees in October 2010 unanimously approved a comprehensive financial 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 within a period of eighteen to twenty-four months. The first phase of the plan involves the sale of property to eliminate debt. The second phase is leveraging the Seminary’s $30 million investment in the Desmond Tutu Center by bringing in partners and increasing General’s endowment.

The Seminary properties targeted for sale include the building known as Chelsea 2,3,4, a residential structure on West 20th Street near the corner of Ninth Ave; the West Building, also on 20th Street near the center of the block, currently being used for Seminary offices, and an apartment building at 422 West 20th Street. Additionally, the Seminary will transfer ownership to Brodsky of the land along Ninth Avenue currently being leased, as well as a portion of property the school currently uses for a tennis court.

“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 Mark S. Sisk, chair of the Seminary’s Board of Trustees, adding, at the October meeting, that the Seminary had taken “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.”

In the months since the October Board meeting, Seminary leadership has been meeting with students, faculty, donors, and others to explain all the details of the complex financial plan as well as adding press releases and other public documents to a section of the Seminary’s website entitled “GTS Next.” President Lowrey has also been hosting a series of Friday afternoon webinars (on-line conference calls) to explain the plan. With a contract signed, the Seminary will begin a program aimed at increasing public awareness.  The webinars will continue and on Tuesday, December 7 at 7:30 pm in Seabury Auditorium, the Seminary will invite the Chelsea community to join with President Lowery in discussing all aspects of the financial plan.

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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Media Contact:
Bruce Parker
Associate Vice President for External Relations
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Ave.
New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285
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GTS Community Update

October 20, 2010

Friends,

As most should be aware, on Friday, October 15 our Board of Trustees decided to move forward with the Plan to Choose Life. While keeping in mind the very real concerns many of you expressed, I think it is fair to say that student, staff, and faculty response to the Plan reflected a willingness to engage it positively. Thank you all for attending the briefings that were held on the Plan last week. The meeting for students was very well-attended and many staff stayed after hours to attend the session planned for them.  We also want to thank everyone for the thoughtful questions and discussion that accompanied each of these very important gatherings. Lastly, we hope you will accept, on behalf of the Trustees, their gratitude in advance for the fortitude and forbearance it will take to see the plan through to completion. It will take considerable amounts of each before we are out of the desert.

Complexity of the Plan

As you are aware, this plan seeks to eliminate nearly all of the Seminary’s debt and rebuild our endowment so that its future earnings will enable GTS to have a balanced budget. To do this will require a “swing” of approximately $60 million, about $40 million to eliminate the debt and $20 million to rebuild the endowment. This will be accomplished through the sale of real assets (Chelsea 2,3,4; the West Building; 422 West 21st Street) and by finding Episcopal or not-for-profit partners to share in the ownership of the Desmond Tutu Center. To continue our effort to maintain a high degree of transparency in presenting the plan to our community, we want to be candid about how many “moving pieces” there are in this $60 million “turnaround.” These include but are not limited to:  the exigencies of the New York City real estate market, contractors meeting work schedules, movers arriving on time, lawyers clearing their calendars for important meetings, state and local officials signing off on needed permits, neighbors understanding our situation and hopefully supporting the plan, banks making decisions on time. These and many other factors, many of which are beyond our control, will come into play. And, as we have said at many meetings, there will be snags and delays as we move forward. So let us ramp up our determination, commitment…and our patience and forbearance with ourselves and with our partners.

More about Transparency

We want you to know it was not an easy decision on the part of our Trustees’ Executive Committee to hold so much of this meeting in sessions with only “voting members” being invited to attend. The intention was not to keep the details of the plan “under wraps” but simply to allow discussion of financial details and other aspects of the plan that could not be discussed publically. This was one of the reasons why we held the briefings for staff, faculty, and students beforehand. Going forward our trustees have formed a committee to investigate and implement best practices in governance for the future. Student, faculty, and staff representatives will play a role in the discussion on governance. In the interest of an ongoing commitment to openness within our community we will be holding a series of Friday webinars for alumni/ae and friends of the Seminary as well as for members of the church press. Participation is limited to 15 persons at each session but if you know of some key person who should be invited to participate please alert the Seminary’s communications officer, Bruce Parker (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). The presentation will contain much of the same information and slides that were presented to you last week. This presentation will also be made available on our website.

Important Related Documents

So that the community may have a richer understanding of the Plan to Choose Life and so that you are able to catch up on items from a very a busy week that you might not have been able to experience in person, a number of additions have been made to the GTS Next section of the website. For your convenience, links to these are as follows.

  • Text of sermon preached by the Rev. Canon C.K. Robertson at the Eucharist on Friday, October 15.
  • Text of the prayer which closed the Board of Trustees meeting offered by the Rev. Canon Denis O’Pray, Chair of the Board of Trustees

Please check GTS Next on www.gts.edu for upcoming additions including a summary of Bishop Lee’s Presentation to the Board, a copy of The Plan to Choose Life, and a helpful series of Frequently Asked Questions.  Additional documents on the plan (still a work in progress!) will also be posted over time.

Next Steps in Implementing The Plan – Community Forum November 2

In the next few weeks you be hearing about our steps in initiating the planning process needed to fully develop the plan. You will also be informed about the organizational changes being made to address the implementation of the Plan to Choose Life. This will include a series of planning teams that will include students, staff and faculty members. Please join us for a Community Forum on Tuesday evening, November 2, at 8 pm following the Eucharist and dinner when this discussion on planning (including renovations for both offices and student housing, the new library and entrance, planning and time, will all be taken up.

 

Please know how very much we appreciate your help and your prayers in the interesting times that are ahead.

 

God’s peace,

 

The Rev. Lang Lowrey                    The Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee

Interim President                               Interim Dean

 

 

 


Sermon preached at the Eucharist in The Chapel of Good Shepherd, General Seminary
October 15, 2010 on the occasion of the meeting of Seminary Board of Trustees

The Rev. Canon C. K. Robertson, Ph.D.

 

I don’t like spicy foods. It’s strange, really. My mother loved her food fiery hot, the spicier the better. If it didn’t bring tears to her eyes, she said it was too bland. One might think, then, that it is in my blood, but no. A little black pepper is about as exciting as I can handle. So when I see something with curry or tabasco, I face a dilemma. I cannot get rid of it, so my only recourse is to dilute it somehow, add enough of something else—anything else!—to make it manageable. I cannot change the spice into something it is not, but I can find a way to make it less…effective.

Jesus’ words in this reading from Matthew’s Gospel offer an intriguing challenge to us today here at The General Theological Seminary. These words about salt and light come, we know, immediately after the Beatitudes. They form a bridge between the final blessing for those who are reviled and persecuted for Jesus’ sake to the practical challenges found in the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount. As such, these words about salt and light are properly understood as being words not for the masses but for those who claim to be disciples and disciple-makers, those whose actions, not just their words, would reveal whether they were building on solid rock or shifting sand. Indeed, as one of the first parts of the first set of teachings in this Gospel, these words about salt and light ultimately look towards the end of the story, to the risen Jesus’ command to make disciples, to baptize, to teach. Thus, while helpful for any part of the Church to read, these words are especially apropos for a system whose entire purpose is the training and formation of ordained and lay leaders to fulfill that great commission.The words are so familiar, however, that we may lose the essence of what is being said. We all know how the phrase “salt of the earth” is used to describe nice, decent, ordinary folk…but Jesus is talking about a lot more than simply being nice. Salt may be a preservative, but it does not preserve the status quo. No, that which it touches suddenly tastes different. In its own way, it spices things up. Light operates a little differently. It, too, is an additive, in that it is not inherently a part of the thing it touches. But when it touches something, when light makes contact with what was formerly in darkness, then suddenly it all seems different. Salt enhances, light exposes.

Both are change agents.

As some students here have heard me repeat, a former Army Chief of Staff once said, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance a lot less.” We need salt. We need light. No, we need to BE salt and light for the sake of all those who live outside the walls of Chelsea Square. Now, change for change’s sake is not what Jesus was talking about. After all, we know that if you pour a pound of salt onto your friend’s meal, she is not going to be very happy about it. And if you shine a really bright light towards a colleague, he will probably shield his eyes since you are actually preventing him from seeing anything around him. Salt and light are to be added in appropriate amounts to those things you want to enhance or see. But I am not convinced that the danger before our Church is one of being too salty or too bright. No, I think the greater danger we face is the dilution of salt by adding in so many other unnecessary things. With light, we don’t even have to put it under a bushel; our danger is in hiding it behind multiple layers of stained glass so that you can barely make out anything else in the room. The danger for us is not too much change; it is the avoidance of it at all costs.

“You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus says, “but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?” It is, of course, a rhetorical question. Sodium chloride cannot lose its internal properties, but if it is diluted enough where you barely know it’s there, how in the world can you purify it, bring it back? The obvious answer is: you can’t. And once the Church has become irrelevant, how in the world can we hope to be a transforming agent for the world? Having lived and worked in the Church of England when I was doing my doctoral studies in Durham, I saw firsthand how few people went to church other than for special services of “hatching, matching, and dispatching,” as they said. I watched as the same parish church that was full to overflowing on a Saturday for the funeral of a beloved villager had only eight people in its pews the next day for Sunday Eucharist. When I asked one friend in my village why he did not go to church, he looked perplexed and innocently said, “Why would I?” The issue was not that he was against it. Rather, church and Christianity-as-represented-by-the-Church was, quite simply, irrelevant. We are not living in England or Europe, but in this case, sadly, we are catching up to them much faster than we want to admit. Only a few years ago, it was just the mainline churches that were in decline, as we were reminded again and again by other more robust denominations and independent megachurches. Now the most recent research shows that decline is almost universal, as the Southern Baptist Convention even experienced decline. When one Episcopal colleague heard this, he actually cheered. I hardly think any cheering is in order. “Why would I?” is a more pervasive, more perilous challenge before us than the usual inter- and intra-denominational conflicts that consume so much of our attention, our time, our energy. “Why would I?” is a question we must be able to answer.

Both before and since I became Canon to the Presiding Bishop, I have had the privilege of serving as a consultant, an outside voice, to congregational and diocesan leaders. Each time, I have begun by asking them a question: “Why do you exist? Why does you church, your institution exist?” I receive various responses, including looks of surprise, annoyance, or even anger. One vestry person actually shot back a verbal retort, “How dare you,” he said, “We’ve been here for over a hundred and fifty years!” I quietly replied, “I didn’t ask you how long you’ve existed. I asked you why you exist. What difference does it make to the world around you now that you are here?”

Years ago, in the first parish I served after ordination, I worked alongside a remarkable lay staff person named Louisa. Wherever she went, she exuded life. With whomever she met, she left an impression. When the cancer she thought was long gone suddenly reappeared, everyone around her began to mourn and grieve for her. She alone seemed unbowed; disappointed, yes, but unbowed. Not knowing she was walking up from behind, one friend was caught saying to me, “How awful that she is dying of cancer.” “Not so,” Louisa interjected, “I am simply living with cancer!” Until the moment she took her last breath this side of Paradise, Louisa did just that. Is it any wonder that lay leaders, priests, even a couple of bishops came to see her before she died, not so much to bless her as to be blessed by her.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes, “Times change and situations seem to change, but there is still a great need for prophets, for God's ambassadors, to stand up and be counted.” This is true for us as individuals, and perhaps even more for us as institutions. Let us be living institutions, not dying ones. Dying institutions worry and expend their energy on preserving themselves and the status quo; living institutions are committed to doing whatever is needed to help effect the transformation of the world around them. Dying institutions are obsessed with immortality—with making sure they survive in the way they have always known; living institutions are open to the death of some things, knowing that only then can they experience the resurrection that leads to a new life. Every week, we proclaim that we are a people who believe in the “resurrection of the body,” but more often than not our actions say that what we really mean is that we believe in the “ongoing preservation of this body as we know it.” Resurrection people invest their five talents in change and as-yet-unknown possibilities. Preservation people horde and hide their one talent, burying it so that they pretend there is no risk.

Jesus had little problem provoking his listeners, including—no, especially—those who claimed to be God’s ministers. He did this because he desperately wanted to see them be what they could be. He wanted them to be salt, he wanted them to be light. He wanted them to be disciples and disciple-makers, change agents for the transformation of the world. Now, as then, he invests time and energy in such leaders, that we might dare not to cling to what we think can never change, but to open ourselves to new possibilities and resurrection hope. Let us be salt, let us be light, to the glory of God.

Amen.


 


Student, Faculty, and Staff Remarks to the Board of Trustees, October 15, 2010

Student Perspective by Mr. Ian Kinman

Student Representative to the Board of Trustees
M.A. Student

Good Morning. My name is Ian Kinman, and I am here in my role as President of the Community Council to speak briefly to you. The council represents everyone at the seminary, including faculty and staff; however I will let Professor Owens and Billy Webster address the concerns of the faculty and staff directly themselves. Instead I will focus my remarks on behalf of the students and their partners, spouses and families.


Let me first say that regarding the proposal by President Lowrey, Bishop Lee and the administration, the community has strong and broad support for this plan. No one is pleased that the plan is necessary for the seminary’s survival; it is a terrible situation that we are in, and I have to be honest, there is anger in the community about how those entrusted with the stewardship and oversight of this seminary have clearly failed at their responsibility.

But 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.

Now there are many concerns that this community has about this plan. People are concerned about their homes, the homes of their families, and their children. We want to make certain that the plan continues the seminary's commitment to a residential program that is a unique and valuable part of our formation. We have concerns about timing and logistics, space for classes and space for our ministries. All of these concerns are valid, they need to be addressed, and they reflect the daunting nature of the challenges that we face. But this community has confidence in the abilities of the Dean, the President and the administration and staff to manage these changes in an orderly and open way. And we have confidence in these people’s ability to involve the community in the ongoing decision-making and design.

Why do we have this confidence? Our confidence is based on the openness, transparency and honesty that these people have shown the students and their families during this difficult time. And for that we thank them.

As someone who is an architect, it pains me a little to say this, but this community is not the buildings, it is not the real estate, it’s not the chapel. The most moving Eucharist I’ve been part of since coming to this seminary was in the Hobart Room. These buildings are necessary tools for our formation, as much as books and computers. But the substance of this seminary does not lie in those things. We are committed to our mission, and not to buildings. We are not worried about buildings themselves; we are worried about how buildings affect this community.

You need to Make This Happen. We’ve got one shot at this, so you need to Make It Count.

There are those who despair that this is the darkest hour in this seminary’s history, that there is no hope, and that we’re better off closing. We disagree. We think you have a chance to make this the seminary’s finest hour.

Thank you for your time.

 



Faculty Perspective by Dr. Robert Owens
Faculty Representative to the Board of Trustees
Professor of Old Testament


Ladies and Gentlemen,


President Lowrey asked me briefly to share a faculty member’s perspective on the proposed new master plan.  I have not been able to meet with my colleagues since they were presented with the plan last Wednesday, but several responded to my request for comments.  What follows are my own words, shaped so as to convey also what I think I have heard from my colleagues.

Probably like all of you, the teaching faculty experiences three different bundles of thoughts and feelings at the same time.  First, we realize that this is a time of urgent crisis.  The institution at key moments in recent years has left undone what it ought to have done and has done what it should not have done, and we have had some bad luck.  Because of that, most of the freedom now to choose our own course has been lost.  In the face of imminent financial disaster, we have only two choices to consider:  survival or non-survival.  And there is very little time left to make even that simple choice.   Second, we feel immense gratitude, and no little amazement, that Lang Lowrey has been willing to give himself to the task of defining a path to survival.  Five months ago few of us thought that there was hope for anything but a more or less messy final collapse this fall.  The thanks we feel to him (and to those of you who stepped forward within the board to make the bold decision to invite him here)—the thanks we feel is one of the brightest parts of life at GTS just now.  He has literally thrown himself into this mission,   rigorously and also respectfully of us all.  Now we have a plan that offers a realistic possibility of new life for the seminary we all love, to be executed by someone with genuine financial expertise.  Third, while our pain is great at having yet again to cut back the space and buildings that we need for our programs, the prospect of truly reclaiming a solid financial foundation will make it worthwhile.

Most of us think that these changes, as immediately traumatic as they feel, will actually form the basis for new growth.  If this goes as envisioned, we can stop the steady stream of departing discouraged faculty, and begin again to attract and retain talented young teachers.  We can think of having the resources to innovate and adapt, without having to spend every penny and every ounce of energy just coping with yet another crisis.  More than one faculty member has expressed hope that the changed physical plant may even make it easier to think outside the box, to probe afresh how we can best do what the church needs us to do, without having every decision textured by that huge task of the care and feeding of historic Chelsea Square.  We love it; it is beautiful; but historic preservation is not our mission.  We are called to preach and teach Christ, to be fishers of people, not keepers of the aquarium.  Maybe, just maybe, the changed but renovated campus will make it easier for all of us to move forward with freshness.   We wish these changes would not have to be so drastic, and frankly, the loss of space is frightening.  But we know these changes are necessary, and we think that they may catalyze genuine progress in other ways.

As we support this plan, and give it our backing, there are two or three issues that we  teachers probably see as clearly as anyone, although Ian has already alluded to some of them on behalf of the students.

First, the heart of our mission is teaching, and, along with the wonderful new Keller library, the most crucial spaces for us are the classroom spaces.  We now do not have enough classroom spaces of the right kind.  We do not have a single classroom that will seat over about 35 students.  Many of our classes are that small or smaller, but some are not.  For larger classes, we are forced to use the Auditorium, which is a catastrophe as a teaching and learning space.  (These two Tutu rooms are out of bounds for our academic program.)  The first request we feel the need to register as you put this master plan into its final form is, Please, please do not forget how essential is the matter of adequate classrooms.

Second, renovation of student residences predominates in the improvements involved in the plan.  Who can be anything but thrilled at the prospect of all our students being able to live in modern, efficient accommodations?  Residential formation will continue to be a key ideal feature of theological education for the ordained ministry for most Episcopal students, and we are grateful that the plan provides for that.  At the same time, theological education will surely be rapidly changing in form in coming years.  We need to be honest about the fact that this plan is essentially building to the patterns of current seminary life.  No one can predict the future, but as we move forward with this plan, let us constantly ask:  Are we building and renovating in a way that will give our facilities maximum flexibility for the future?  For example, will the changed campus be able to serve students who may come to campus for 2-6 weeks several times a year for shorter, intensive study periods?  Are we including the infrastructure and support space for the electronically-delivered learning formats that surely must be a growing aspect of how we teach?

Last, we faculty are contractually required to live on the seminary premises.  This means that our seminary apartments are our homes.  If we are to renew and strengthen our institution, our faculty once again should include always some younger teachers who are in the child-rearing years.  With the reduction in faculty residences that this plan entails, will there still be apartments that will seem adequate to the prospective young faculty member who will be raising two or three children here?

A related pastoral footnote:  As the seminary apartments are our homes, they are as important to our physical and mental well-being as your homes are to you, wherever you live.  Moving is very, very difficult, even when you choose to do it.  When outside circumstances make you move, it can be even more unsettling.  I say this only by of reminder—perhaps an unneeded reminder—that those who will lose their homes as this plan is enacted deserve all the consideration we can give them.  It seems important for me to add that a faculty member who is now being asked to move for the second time in six years recently said that they feel more respected in their discussions with President Lowrey than ever before at GTS.

The seminary faculty celebrates the many hopeful prospects that this new plan opens.  Far beyond mere survival, which is the first priority, it really does seem to most of us that at last we have a real path toward a future for this educational ministry.   It is always uplifting for those who work here every day to have the trustees gather and to see your commitment to what we are trying to do, to see how much you too give to this ministry, to feel how much you care for our students.  We are in harness together.  This new plan will not be easy, but the faculty is ready to pull with you to make it work.   

Robert J. Owens, Ph.D.
Professor of Old Testament
10/15/2010

 

 


 

Stqaff Perspective by Mr. William Webster
Staff Representative to the Board of Trustees
Director of Admissions


Statement of Feeling – 10.15.10

Saturday would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday. And while most people were understandably singing the song “Imagine” in tribute to his memory, I kept thinking of a song from the same 1971 album, “Gimme Some Truth.” If you are familiar with “Gimme Some Truth”, I highly recommend it to you.

Speaking on behalf of the administration, I can honestly tell you that we’ve been waiting to hear the truth about General Theological Seminary for a long time. And this week President Lang Lowery spoke the truth to us, about us, and for us….and we were relieved.

When it came time for the question and answer portion of yesterday’s presentation to the staff, what struck me most in terms of the reaction of my colleagues was the deep concern expressed for the well-being of the faculty, and especially the students, during this upcoming period of great transition and growth. They didn’t ask about reduced office space, having to share their work areas with two or more people, or about any inconvenience they themselves might face, but rather wanted to know what we would be doing to make the next few years easier for our students. To me, this illustrates the administration’s dedication to and understanding of this institution’s core mission – to educate and form leaders for the church in a changing world. The overall sentiment seemed to be – what can we do to help?

After the meeting I asked one of the staff members…how do you feel? She responded, “full of hope.” I myself sat in the meeting feeling like I was on the verge of tears. And I had to ask myself if they would be tears of sadness or tears of joy. Probably a little bit of both. But what I and the rest of us felt mostly was relief!

The weight of the past few years has taken its toll on all of us, staff included. We were never fully aware of what was going on behind the scenes, what was really at stake, or even what the whole story of our financial situation actually was. There is tremendously relief for many reasons, not the least of which is that this plan finally puts to rest the debate about our identity as a residential community. In fact, this plan to choose life reinvigorates the concept. I can tell you that your admissions director went on record in the press a couple months ago, knowing nothing about any of this, affirming General’s commitment to residential theological education, and he has no regrets about doing so.

The staff does have some practical concerns. We wanted to know what would happen to the preschool (as those children are part of the fabric of this place), what would happen to the commuter lounge, the student lounge, the Deanery, the lockers, the mannequin in Billy’s office.  Some of us with experience in establishing LLC’s wanted to know more about how the Tutu Center would be structured, out of a concern that GTS remain the driving force behind the Desmond Tutu Center. At the same time, we affirm that Melinda Choi and her staff be given more freedom to run the Tutu Center like a business, a very, very successful business. And we believe this can be done with consistency and commitment to Bishop Tutu’s ideals related to Peace and Reconciliation.

In closing, President Lowrey described the next few years as General’s desert experience. For the staff’s part, we go into this willingly and with great optimism, knowing that it will not be easy. One of us asked Lang what he’d recommend we bring to the desert if we could bring only one thing. His answer was “faith.” I can tell you that the staff of General Seminary is faithful, to this institution, to its mission, and to the people of this community. And we stand united in favor of this Plan to Choose Life.
Thank you.

 # # #

 

 


President Lang Lowrey's Report to the Board of Trustees 10/15/2010

Good morning!

I have been asked to take a few minutes to give a state of the union report to all of you after my first 100 days on the job as your Interim President.  Someone said yesterday that they wanted to thank me for the work I have been doing in the past 12 months.  Well, it’s only been a bit over 100 days but if feels like a year!

I regret that my observations of General in this short period of time have been primarily limited to the financial crisis which we are facing.  Yet before I address those challenges, I want to say that I have found General every bit what I imagined it to be.  Many of my friends and associates call me to ask what it is like here.  I tell them that the Close is a bit of a cross between Harry Potter and Jane Eyre with a radical hospitality, most wonderful people with a deep sacred nature…all grounded in the heart of the best of our Episcopal tradition.  It is truly a place that is a privilege to serve and a place of great curiosity.  Thank you for having me here!

It’s my observation that our Mission has been well thought through, thoroughly understood and the “pride” of a church that prizes General as its flagship among its other 10 seminaries.

What I have been struck with more than anything else in the first 100 days is a few facts that I have learned about theological education in The Episcopal Church.  First, I have learned that historically we have sent more than 80% of our priests to seminary.  Our church has been blessed by creative, talented and educated priests whom at a minimum have a master’s degree and often doctoral degrees.  Highly educated priests have resulted in a church built in the Anglican tradition that offers a wide berth of theological opinion under a deep and rich liturgical tradition.  Theological education has been our hallmark and our church has attracted million of so called “Thinking Christians” who don’t go around claiming “we are saved” but say rather…”We are saved now what?”

What is concerning, given that our church was built on theological education in seminaries is that last year only 50% of our priests that were ordained went to seminary.  What’s worse, I am told that we have as few as 250 in the MDiv program in all our 10 seminaries.  Now I am sure those ordained without seminary are very fine priests but this change in theological education will have a profound effect in our church over the next 10 years.  It will invite into our churches a new world view.  It will also threaten to change the very fabric of who we are as a church because seminary education is what has built our tradition.

Now, one might say…it’s no matter!  We don’t need 10 seminaries, perhaps we only need 3 or 4 of them (well distributed throughout the US).  In effect the seminaries will just consolidate to meet the needs of those who will attend.

It will also be said that students can’t afford a seminary education in these times.  Times are changing, we need to adapt to online or near-line education.  Students can go to local universities and continue working and be educated locally without Episcopal formation.  “Right sizing” is certainly the buzz word of the past few years…perhaps we too as a church should do the same.

This most certainly makes business sense.  Most corporations would agree…you must “right size” to meet demand.  The problem with this equation is that I have come into two Fortune 500 companies that thought that right sizing would solve the problem.  The one thing I have learned in both experiences is that you can’t “downsize your way to success!”

No, the only way to address the problem of declining demand is not to treat the “symptoms” but treat the “disease”.  Simply, even though we will likely have excellent priests whom go to local universities or are trained in online or near-line environments we will still need “theological marines” (if you will) whom although a smaller group can make more than a significant contribution to the church.   These are the same ones who will be receiving honorary doctorates with accomplishments a mile long like the ones we conferred last night.  These “marines” will be our bishops, our canons and our cardinal rectors.  We need seminaries if we are to survive as a church because I have seen first hand what right sizing does…it accelerates the decline rate because without well trained leaders (especially in a changing world) we will not have the leadership to change the trend of what is causing the decline in the first place.  

This will mean, of course, that we as seminaries (even if we consolidate to 3 or 4) will have to change.  Not only in our approach on how we teach a new generation but what we teach them.  For instance evangelism, pastoral care, practical theology and how to manage and grow a church will all be important additions to arm our “theological marines” to be ready to change the tide of our decline.  

Unfortunately, General does not have faculty in any of these areas.  We do not have any online capability and we are not serious about our “near line” commuter students.  (For instance, we do not have a class that starts at 8 am nor many after 6 pm and virtually none on Saturday.)  We don’t even have a handle on our commuter or part-time students in terms of enrollment.  We have much work to do if we are not going to be one of those consolidated or right sized seminaries.  Theological education times are a changing and we need to accelerate adapting our clear but “tired” mission rapidly if we want to be the “flagship” instead of the “sinking ship.”

Underpinning our need to make quick theological education changes, of course, is our longstanding financial woes.  It is hard to address “mission” when all you do is bale water every day with a $60 – 70 million hole in your boat!  Yet thanks to the valiant efforts of our previous dean and our chair (not to mention a very dedicated staff and faculty), they have found creative ways to keep the boat afloat.  

The problem is that despite their heroic efforts they were only able to treat the symptom and not the disease.  In doing so they could not “save General” per se but thanks to their hard work and good efforts they did make General worth saving.  The Chelsea Enclave project was genius and financially sound.  Tutu was genius, as well! Yet unfortunately it was based on a business model that changed in the middle of the project as a result of the economy, cost overruns and regulatory problems.  Deferred maintenance decreased, we had a generous donation of the library and geothermal (albeit very expensive with a long payback) was brought to the seminary.  All these initiatives resulted in improving our asset base over the past 5 – 10 years.  We can be thankful that the past 10 years under Dean Ewing resulted in so much progress for General in terms of our assets.

Unfortunately building up assets usually increases debt.  We are no exception.  Now we have $41 million of debt which is technically in default (yet which is temporarily cured).  Ordinarily this would not be problematic because we would have a means to service the debt.  Unfortunately in our case we do not.  We are losing $5 million per year and have no means to service either the $2.5 million which is debt service or the $2.5 million of operating loss which our students do not pay and which most higher learning institutions offset using earnings from their endowment.

The “dis-ease” in a financial sense is similar to our “dis-ease” in Mission.  We treat the symptoms and not the problem.  Heroically band-aiding it by reducing or borrowing from our endowment; increasing debt or convincing benefactors to fund operating losses and deferred maintenance.

Once again let me say that it is not only heroic how Dean Ewing held the ship together but amazing.  I am sure that he would have found yet another way to fund General for yet another year if the economy had not failed him.

Later today, you all will be discussing a new plan for General.  This is not a plan that treats the “symptoms” or denies the “dis-ease”.  It is a comprehensive plan which embraces the reality of our situation and treats the disease both in terms of our mission and in terms of our financial condition.  I pray that the reality of our situation will be embraced without looking back to find blame because in just a few years those whom have brought us this far might see their efforts turn fruitful as we attempt to eliminate debt, increase endowment so that we can have a balanced budget and re-envision our mission in changing theological times.

Finally, let me say that I believe just a few important changes can make a big difference in our future.  First, thanks to the hard work of our Director of Admissions we have brought in a large, new, energetic junior class this year.  They came here knowing the reality of the situation.  They have brought a new energy to fuel our mission.  Second, we have brought in two of our church’s finest statesmen, Archbishop Carnley and Bishop Lee.  Both bring a sense of stability and the promise of good things to come.  If we embrace the reality of our situation and continue to make important changes, perhaps this time next year we could be pleased.

# # #



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 was 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.

###

Media Contact:
Bruce Parker
Associate Vice President for External Relations
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Ave.
New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285
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GTS Community Update from President Lowrey

September 15, 2010

Friends,

With the school year now in full swing these have been days filled with new beginnings for many members of the GTS community. It was my first Orientation Week as your Interim President. I enjoyed the week tremendously and felt privileged to be able to welcome the 55-60 new students who are joining us this term—an impressive number and an increase over last year’s incoming class. Thanks to all who worked to make Orientation Week the informative and enjoyable time it was, particularly the Admissions Team of Billy Webster and Emily Beekman. Thanks also to our new students who have energized the entire community with their enthusiasm for the upcoming school year. It’s in part thanks to them that this semester attendance in Chapel has been so gratifying, as has been the very positive response to the new Tuesday evening meal following the Eucharist. This past Tuesday night 125 were in attendance at Chapel.

During Orientation Week it was a special pleasure to welcome to the campus Bishop Peter James Lee, our new Dean, and to have him celebrate the opening Eucharist. Thanks also to the preacher at the service, Chaplain Stuart Hoke, and to the Director of the Chapel, Prof. Patrick Malloy. I am also pleased to welcome the Most Rev. Peter Carnley AC to our campus as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Anglican Studies.  The former Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia and a noted author and theologian, Archbishop Carnley will be teaching two courses at GTS. We are indeed fortunate to have him with us. This update will alert you to several important upcoming meetings and events and will also explain some administrative changes here at GTS.


Trustee Meetings

In my last Community Update on 8/27, I referred to a four-point plan aimed at achieving financial and institutional health for the Seminary. The points can be encapsulated as follows:

  • Eliminate all significant debt.
  • Restore our endowment.
  • Balance our budget.
  • Refresh and renew our institutional health and mission.

As I also mentioned in this update, the first two of these goals represent a “swing” of over $60 million. With the help of Maureen Burnley and members of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, I have been working on the specific ways in which our current assets can be best utilized to achieve this very challenging plan. On Thursday, September 16 the Executive Committee will meet to review the work that has been done so far. Once refined and approved by them, the details of the plan will be presented to the full Board of Trustees at their meeting on October 15-16. If approved, the plan will be presented to the entire community shortly thereafter. Please keep the deliberations of both the Executive Committee and the October Trustee Meeting in your prayers as we seek to insure the continuance of the Seminary as a vibrant institution of theological learning.


GTS Departments and Staff

In the interest of making the Seminary’s administration more effective, the decision has been made to merge the Seminary’s Communications Office with the Department of Institutional Advancement. The new department will be called the Office of External Relations. This was the title the Seminary used in the 1980s for an office encompassing similar responsibilities, before the establishment of the present Communications Office. The Office of External Relations will have responsibility for development, communications, alumni/ae affairs, and marketing as well as the Chelsea Square Conservancy and the GTS Media Workshop. Because fundraising is so critical to the mission of our school and will require my constant involvement as President, I will myself be providing primary oversight of this new department. Charles Knapp, Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Alumni/ae Relations, will be departing GTS with our deep appreciation for the work he has done here. In the face of troubling news about the finances of GTS last year, Charles and his team none-the-less raised an impressive amount for the Seminary’s Annual Fund—a figure that has set a high water mark in General’s history. I am very grateful to Charles for agreeing to remain with us for a time to assist in the transition over to the new structure.


The day-to-day operations of the new Office of External Relations will be headed up by Bruce Parker, currently Executive Director of Communications. A 1984 graduate of GTS, Bruce has served the Seminary for the past 17 years and is the Seminary’s most senior staff member. I am pleased to announce that under the new structure Bruce will become Associate Vice President for External Relations and Alumni/ae Affairs. While his primary area of expertise will serve the communications and marketing responsibilities of the new office, Bruce will draw upon his many years of working in close collaboration with previous development officers of the Seminary. He has been intimately involved in planning and creating support materials for many of our fundraising efforts including the last capital campaign. Before joining the GTS staff, Bruce served as a communications consultant to Washington National Cathedral, to Trinity Wall Street, and to the national offices of the Episcopal Church, and in this capacity provided support to many fundraising efforts.

 

In addition to Bruce, the new External Relations team will consist of Donna Ashley who has done excellent work for GTS as Senior Advancement Officer; Don Temples, who has served with distinction as Director of Development and who will continue in that role, and Chad Rancourt, Media Coordinator in the Communications Office. I take pleasure in reporting that Chad, a valued member of the GTS staff for the last seven years, will advance to the position of Director of Communications in the new Office of External Relations.


Although fundraising will become the central focus of the new department, the office will also coordinate the effort to market Seminary program offerings, a responsibility previously lodged with the Seminary’s Marketing Team. The new office will also continue to provide a limited number of specialized production services, such as graphic production and photography. However, given reduction in force in each of these departments prior to the merger and the need to concentrate on fundraising, some internal support services previously provided by the Communication Office may need to be curtailed or appropriated to other GTS units. Similarly, the new office will maximize its efforts by accelerating the move to electronic communications and away from those venues that require paper. The move to electronic communications is both a cost consideration as well as a statement about stewardship of the environment.

 

I have met several times with the new External Relations staff and am excited by the synergy that I feel will be generated by this very talented group of people. Two members are alums of GTS and all four have made significant contributions to the Seminary over the years. I am looking forward to directing the efforts of this promising new department at GTS

In other staff changes, as many of you know, the Rev. Berto Gandara-Perea, our Director of Field Education, has also served as part-time priest-in-charge at the Church of the Intercession here in Manhattan. Berto has recently been called to a full-time position at Intercession and so will be leaving GTS sometime in October. He has done an excellent job in administering field education at the Seminary and in assisting our students with placements for Clinical Pastoral Education as well. Our prayers go with him in this exciting new ministry.

 

Given Berto’s departure and that of our Chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Stuart Hoke (whose term expires in November), we are looking at ways to better integrate spiritual formation, academics, chaplaincy, and field work. After our Tuesday evening meal on September 28th we will have a special forum on this topic and the community will be invited to listen and provide feedback on a plan currently under discussion.

Matriculation 2010

On Thursday evening, September 30, students matriculating at GTS this year sign their names in the Seminary’s historic Matriculation Book—as GTS students have each done for the past 188 years.  What an amazing book, containing the signatures of all who have gone forth from this place to minister in Christ’s name for nearly two centuries! It will be my first Matriculation Service as your President. I am told this is one of the most moving services we have at GTS and I’m looking forward to it. Officiating for his first time will be our new Dean, Bishop Peter James Lee. Whether you are matriculating or not, please attend this wonderful service. I also congratulate those who are matriculating as they are formally incorporated into this special community within the Church.

 

Until my next Update, please know that I welcome any questions or concerns you may have. Simply email me or see Chris McFadden to schedule an appointment.

 

God’s peace,

 

The Rev. Lang Lowrey

Interim President



8/27/10

GTS Community Update from President Lowrey

Friends,

These are busy days for our faculty, students, and staff members as we are all gearing up for Orientation Week and the start of classes. Many of us have the added anxieties of moving into a new home and beginning life as students after many years away from school. It’s a time of new beginnings for everyone. Throughout the turbulent times in our lives worship and prayer are always powerfully centering elements, and so in the days ahead I would invite us all to be present in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd for as many of the services as we are able and, of course, to be faithful in our daily prayers. You have received several updates from me over the summer (also available at www.gts.edu in the Newsroom section). This update will fill you in on important new developments in several areas.

Seminary Finances
As explained in my last update, GTS and M&T Bank finalized a $5.3 million short-term loan on August 9. We are drawing upon these funds for current operating expenses. The loan will be repaid from the sale of residential units in the building known as Chelsea 2,3,4. Revenue realized from this sale is also expected to reduce the Seminary’s overall bank debt by up to $3.9 million. While the loan achieves the critical goal of sustaining us through the upcoming school year, it is a small component of the following four-point plan that the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees and I are working on to achieve financial and institutional health:

•    Eliminate all significant debt. The Seminary cannot afford to service its $33 million of current bank debt (which, with the sum the Seminary has borrowed from its endowment, totals $36 million). Moreover, GTS is an institution that should really carry no debt whatsoever.

•    Restore our endowment.  The Seminary’s current $13 million endowment must be restored to a level of at least $50 million to yield sufficient revenues to sustain operations.

•    Balance our budget. With a negative cash flow of over $5 million annually, we must find ways to reduce operating expenses and increase revenues.

•    Refresh and renew our institutional health and mission. Financial instability has had an understandably negative effect on our programs and mission.  We need to refresh GTS to full institutional health and vibrancy. This will be a major focus of Bishop Peter James Lee, our new Dean.

Together the first two points of the plan, eliminating debt and restoring our endowment, represent a “swing” of over $60 million. We are actively investigating how the Seminary’s current assets can be leveraged to generate this sizable level of cash. The specific actions that we must take to effectively eliminate our debt and restore our endowment are currently being formulated. Even while they are in the formative stages it is clear they hold much promise but involve risks and pitfalls as well.  I hope to continue this process and, with the Executive Committee’s approval, to be able to submit a detailed plan to the full Board of Trustees at their meeting in October.

New Operational Structure
The elements of our four-point plan cannot be undertaken sequentially but must be achieved in tandem with each other. Toward the goal of balancing our budget some very difficult staff reductions have been recently implemented. I regret to report we have had to do a reduction in force this past week that included staff members in a number of GTS departments. I would like to thank all of those leaving GTS for their dedication to the Seminary and for the contributions they have made to our mission. We were as generous as possible with the terms and conditions of the notice and severance and, it should be noted, Tutu Center Coordinator and M.Div. student Chris Ballard resigned in order to undertake full-time study. These staff reductions, along with other related changes, will generate over $500,000 in savings. Although we anticipate no further significant reductions in our work force, we are working on some additional departmental reorganizations. The outcome of this I hope to report to you in my next community update.

New Working Group

Our life together last year and over the summer has been significantly impacted by increasing use of the Close for outside events and weddings. This is a sizable revenue stream for the Seminary. Another change to which we must adjust is the presence of our neighbors in the Chelsea Enclave. While these changes can involve understandable tensions, I do hope we will not succumb to having a fortress mentality about our Seminary. The church commissioned by Christ after all exists for the world and not the world for the church.  To address the very real issues of privacy and security however, I have asked Billy Webster, our Director of Admissions, to convene a working group composed of staff, faculty, and students to consider ways in which the tensions arising out of our new openness can be effectively addressed.

Conduct Compliance Officers
This is a new title for the position held by Prof. Deirdre Good until her sabbatical term began. It assures that the Seminary has designated officers to whom any member of our community can bring concerns about sexual harassment, the safety of our children, or instances of discrimination of any kind. I am pleased to report that Debra Bush Ford, Financial Aid Administrator and Drew Kadel, Director of the St. Mark’s Library, are now our Conduct Compliance Officers. You may turn to either of them in complete confidence with any of these concerns knowing they will take immediate and proper action.

IT Survey
A survey of the Seminary’s information technology will be underway shortly, aimed at increasing end-users’ abilities as well as the capabilities of our network. More on this in future updates.

Calendar
As mentioned in a recent email concerning Orientation Week, we are working to consolidate several Seminary calendars to create a single, all inclusive source for all Seminary programs and events. In the meantime, please note that the designated purpose of the calendar on the Seminary’s website is to inform external audiences of public events happening at the Seminary.
The calendar on iGoogle is the seminary’s academic calendar. I plan to have news for you soon about a new comprehensive calendar for all events.

Tuesday Nights
Seminary alumni/ae from not too long ago will remember the wonderful sense of community enabled by having an evening meal together following the Holy Eucharist on Tuesday nights. I am pleased to report we have reinstated this supper and that it will be free to members of the community. It will be a simple meal consisting of a hearty soup, salad, bread, and, I’m told, a scrumptious desert. Please plan to make this a part of your week.

Our Faculty
I  would also like to recognize our esteemed faculty for all the work they have done over the summer to prepare for the upcoming school year, not only to prepare the full slate of offerings for the Michaelmas term, but also for the work of Dr. Ted Gerbracht in arranging courses featuring our splendid adjuncts and visiting professors.

Bishop Peter James Lee
As reported earlier, Bishop Peter James Lee, will be joining us for several events during Orientation Week and, after completing his ministry at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, will arrive as our Dean on September 30, in time to officiate at our Matriculation Service.  Those of you present for Orientation will want to extend to him a warm GTS welcome.

I realize that nearly all the news in this update involves change, something all of us have difficulty with from time to time. But I would challenge us that our stated mission is to educate and form leaders for the church in a changing world. We, as the church, are in the “change business” and have been agents of change from our earliest days.  So, as we begin this school year perhaps the challenge before us is to actually embrace change, knowing its proven potential to reify our mission in the world!

As always, I’m pleased to meet with you to discuss questions or concerns you may have about items in this update or other matters related to our life together. Simply contact Chris McFadden to schedule a time with me. Best wishes for the exciting days ahead!

God’s peace,

The Rev. Lang Lowrey
Interim President  

 


 

8/18/10

A Letter from President Lowrey to the GTS Community


Friends,

The beginning of the Seminary’s Michaelmas term will soon be upon us, with Orientation Week slated to begin on August 29. I would like to summarize a number of important developments at GTS since my last letter to you in mid-July. You should all have received notice of the press releases on the loan with M&T Bank and on the appointment of Bishop Peter Lee as Interim Dean.

GTS and M&T Bank completed signing all the documents finalizing our $5.3 million short term loan on August 9. These funds are now available for the Seminary to draw upon for operating expenses. The agreement stipulates that the loan will be repaid from the proceeds from the sale of the four residential units in Chelsea 2,3,4. Depending on the revenue realized from the units, this sale is also expected to reduce the Seminary’s overall debt by up to $3.9 million. Among other prerequisites, the sale of the units will also enable us to build out the space for our beautiful new library. The Seminary is indebted to GTS trustee Sandra Johnson and to both Maureen Burnley and Frank DiMaiuta for their hard work in securing this loan. While this loan provides temporary stabilization, the real work is still before us: reducing our debt and building our endowment. Minimally, our endowment should be in the range of $50 million, about $30 million above where it stands now. So, in eliminating $33 million of debt and in increasing our endowment by $30 million, we are looking at a total “swing” of over $60 million needed to achieve an acceptable level of financial well-being. Clearly, this is a daunting goal but is one which I believe is achievable. Moreover, restructuring our balance sheet will not be enough in the long run, given the Seminary’s negative cash flow of $5 million each year. We will have to restructure our business model as well.

We cannot, however, confine our concern to improving the financial well-being of GTS without taking a serious look at our institutional health. For this reason I feel we should all be gratified to know Bishop Peter Lee will be serving as our Interim Dean. He brings to GTS administrative and pastoral abilities gained over a lifetime of distinguished service. As I work to help put the Seminary’s financial house in order, I am deeply thankful to know a person of Bishop Lee’s background and experience will be working here each day on campus to nurture and revitalize the academic and spiritual life of the Seminary. Bishop Lee and I have agreed on a number of areas where he will begin to focus his attention. These include addressing the concerns voiced by our residential faculty, finding new ways to ensure our adjunct members share in the full richness of Seminary life, and working to restore the Chapel as an active and relevant center of our life together.

Since Bishop Lee will not join GTS until our Matriculation service on September 30, I have begun to address needed changes in our worship, a hallmark of our life together about which many have voiced concerns. Oversight of the Chapel has always been a shared responsibility and we want to continue this collaborative effort between faculty, students, and staff, including the Rev. Dr. Mitties De Champlain as Professor of Preaching, the Rev. Dr. Stuart Hoke as Chaplain, Dr. David Hurd as Professor of Church Music, and Mr. Jeffrey Roy as Chief Sacristan. However, to better utilize these talents and to gain the invaluable expertise of a liturgical scholar with significant parish experience, I have appointed the Rev. Dr. Patrick Malloy, Associate Professor of Liturgics, to serve as Director of the Chapel with full responsibility for chapel life and worship. Recent discussions have affirmed our commitment to the daily recitation of Morning and Evening Prayer in accordance with longstanding tradition and our constitution. However we need to revisit our worship schedule and to introduce more contemporary elements of worship current in the life of the wider church. Accordingly, beginning with the upcoming term, the Eucharist will follow immediately upon Morning Prayer each day except for Tuesday. With the aim of restoring the centrality of the Tuesday night service as the “community Eucharist” we are planning to add an evening meal to follow. The schedule of morning classes has been revised to accommodate these changes. We are also taking a serious look at ways to be more intentional in our expectations about Chapel attendance for all members of the community.

In addition to our new Interim Dean and Dr. Malloy’s new role, I would like to update you on other recent personnel changes. The Rev. Dr. Robert J. Owens, Professor of Old Testament, has accepted my invitation to serve as Academic Advisor to the Dean. With Bishop Lee assuming responsibility for the academic life of the Seminary and Dr. Owens assisting, Dr. Ted Gerbracht will be departing his role as Senior Vice President of Academic Administration with the Seminary’s deep appreciation for his service. Ted has agreed to stay on board pro bono as Director of Special Programs.  This position will be focused on incubating both the Center for Christian Spirituality and the Tutu Peace and Reconciliation Center.  Both Centers have much promise, but have yet to realize the full potential of their visions.  Ted has graciously accepted to use his talents for at least 90 days to not only help progress these visions, but also to focus on making them financially viable going forward.  With Ted Gerbracht in a special projects role we will appoint the Rev. Jeanne Person as the new fulltime Director of the Center for Christian Spirituality including the Spiritual Guidance of Children program. Jeanne has done an admirable job in developing new initiatives at the Center for Christian Spirituality and in promoting them with great success.

In other personnel changes, the Rev. Dr. David Lowry who has been the Director of the Center for Peace and Reconciliation will be leaving us to become the new Director of the George Mercer School of Theology in the Diocese of Long Island. Dr. Lowry has been of great assistance in charting a future for the Center and we are grateful to him for his good work and we wish him well on his new assignment.

Lastly, at their August 5 meeting the members of the Executive Committee received the resignation of the Rev. Canon Denis M. O’Pray, effective with the October, 2010 Board meeting. This will mark the fifth anniversary of Canon O’Pray’s very distinguished tenure as Chair of our Board during which the Desmond Tutu Center and numerous preservation projects were completed. We are also grateful to him for his work in making a smooth change of leadership at GTS. I will provide timely updates as the trustees’ Executive Committee begins the work of nominating a new Chair according to the policy and procedures of GTS.

A number of other important changes have taken place over the summer. Most of our faculty offices have been moved to new accommodations on the fourth floor of the West Building where they have both a large conference room and a kitchen. As a result, the former faculty offices in Seabury Hall have been returned to student housing and the Faculty Common Room has become the Student Common Room. The space is modest but we have gone too long without a place for students to gather. In other improvements a study room for students has been created in Pintard Hall, the Seminary’s reception area has gotten a much needed face-lift, and a common kitchen has been installed in Edson Hall.  The Rookery (accessible from www.gts.edu) has become an online hub for GTS community news and information and now incorporates Faces, TWAG, and a host of other resources; the GTS website also provides access to a new electronic version of the GTS Catalog 2011 that was launched earlier this summer.

One other change that will be taking place later this fall is with our Chaplain, the Rev. Stuart Hoke.  Stuart’s agreement with GTS was to serve as Chaplain for one year which ends this Thanksgiving.  From all accounts Stuart has done a wonderful job in this capacity and we will miss him when he completes his assignment this fall.  Bishop Lee will start a search for a new Chaplain when he arrives in September (if not before) as the role of Chaplain is a very important position at GTS.

I very much realize we are living into a new reality on the Close with Enclave residents moving in, the Tutu Center operating at 70% capacity, and the increasing use for weddings and other events. I will be forming a new working group to deal with issues of security and appropriate usage so that the safety and beauty of the Close is preserved.

I look forward to seeing those of you who will be present for Orientation Week and everyone else shortly thereafter. Bishop Lee joins us on September 30 for Matriculation. If you have questions or concerns, my door is always open. Simply contact Chris McFadden to schedule an appointment or you may contact me by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I hope this update finds each of you well, refreshed and renewed by the summer months.

God’s peace,

The Rev. Lang Lowrey
Interim President

 


 

8/9/10

Bishop Peter Lee Named Interim Dean at General Seminary


New York City -- The Rev. Lang Lowrey, Interim President of the General Theological Seminary (GTS) announced today the appointment of the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, as Interim Dean of GTS, the Episcopal Church’s oldest theological seminary.  The former Bishop of Virginia and one of the Church’s longest-serving bishops, Bishop Lee currently serves San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral as Interim Dean.


After the Seminary’s 12th Dean and President, the Very Rev. Ward B. Ewing, announced in December of 2009 his intention to retire, Trustees of the Seminary formed a search committee under the leadership of trustee Dr. Michael Gilligan. Upon recommendation from the committee and in light of serious financial challenges faced by the school, Trustees decided in June 2010 to divide the post of Dean and President into separate positions. On June 9, 2010 the Rev. Lang Lowrey was selected as Interim President and charged with financial and administrative oversight of the school and was vested with all the constitutional powers previously lodged with the Dean and President. Meanwhile the search continued for a new Interim Dean to be responsible for day-to-day operations of the Seminary including oversight of its academic programs.


Bishop Peter Lee led the Diocese of Virginia for a quarter of a century, beginning his tenure as diocesan bishop in May of 1985. With 81,000 members and 181 congregations the diocese is the Episcopal Church’s largest in the continental US and also one of its oldest, having been founded in 1785. Retiring from the Diocese of Virginia in October of 2009 after 25 years as Bishop, he subsequently became Interim Dean at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, the Episcopal Church’s third largest cathedral.  “We are extremely fortunate to have Bishop Lee’s notable gifts and proven abilities. He has a unique ability to shepherd others during these challenging times of change,” said President Lowrey following the appointment. “Bishop Lee has an in-depth knowledge of the Episcopal Church, its ministry, and its current needs and trends in theological education, which he has gained over a lifetime of distinguished leadership.”


Raised in Florida, Peter Lee was awarded his undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Washington and Lee University in 1960. He served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army and was decorated for his service in Seoul, Korea. He also had a brief career as a newspaper reporter and editor and studied law at Duke University before entering the Virginia Theological Seminary where he received his Master of Divinity cum laude in 1967. Ordained to the diaconate in 1967 and the priesthood in 1968, Bishop Lee served parishes in Florida and in Washington, D.C.  For the thirteen years prior to his consecration as a Bishop in 1984, he was Rector of the Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a ministry which served both the local community and the University of North Carolina.


Bishop Lee’s leadership abilities rose to national prominence when he was Bishop of Virginia. He is currently chair of the Board of Trustees of the Church Pension Fund and was co-chair of the Joint Nominating for the current Presiding Bishop.  He previously served as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief and was chairman of its grants committee. He also served as a member of the Cathedral Chapter of the Washington National Cathedral.  As diocesan bishop he served as chair of the governing body which owns Roslyn, the diocesan conference and retreat center, and as chair of the Trustees of the Funds of the Diocese of Virginia, an investment vehicle used by several diocesan institutions.  He has served on the Advisory Committee to the Anglican Observer at the United Nations and the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Bishop Lee has received numerous honors including the 1997 Jessie Ball duPont Fund Award for "courageous and bold commitment to community leadership and social ministry.ot; He is the recipient of three honorary doctorates, from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1984, from the University of the South in 1993, and from Washington and Lee University in 1998.


A central aspect of Bishop Lee’s lifelong ministry has been his service to a variety of educational institutions. He has served on the Board of Trustees of two Episcopal seminaries, as chairman of the Virginia Theological Seminary’s board of trustees and also as a member of the board of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. As Bishop of Virginia he also presided at the annual meetings of the Church Schools of the Diocese and served as Rector of the Board of the Episcopal High School, a nationally-known institution set on 130 acres in Alexandria with a faculty of 83 and students from 30 states and 20 countries. Bishop Lee and his wife, Kristy, who have been married for 45 years, have two grown children and five grandchildren.


In recent meetings with GTS faculty members and staff, Bishop Lee spoke enthusiastically of the chance to work collaboratively with President Lowrey and the Seminary’s leadership to realize fully the many opportunities currently before General. He emphasized his commitment to the Seminary’s strong sense of community and to the centrality of daily worship, both longstanding hallmarks of life at General, and also to utilizing more fully the seminary’s urban location in training the church’s future leaders. “I believe the Episcopal Church needs to have a seminary in this most international of cities,” he told staff members. “General has always been a grand flagship in theological education and my plan is to do everything possible to see that this important ministry to the Church continues and flourishes.” Bishop Lee will end his Interim Dean responsibilities at Grace Cathedral on September 26, 2010 and will join General immediately thereafter. He will also be on the campus during Orientation Week to meet and greet students.

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Media Contact:
Bruce Parker
Executive Director of Communications 
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Avenue - New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.gts.edu

 


 

8/9/10

 

General Seminary Closes On $5.3 Million Loan with M&T Bank

Short Term Loan Provides Working Capital for Upcoming School Year

New York City –  Today, August 9, representatives from the General Theological Seminary (GTS) and those from its chief lending institution, Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company (M&T Bank) signed documents finalizing a $5.3 million short term loan which will provide working capital for the upcoming school year, GTS Interim President Lang Lowrey announced. The Seminary will be able to draw on the funds immediately. The agreement stipulates that the loan will be repaid from the proceeds from the sale of four residential units in the building known as Chelsea 2,3,4 which was authorized by the Seminary’s Board of Trustees in May, 2010. The sale of the units is also expected to reduce the overall GTS debt by up to $3.9 million.


The loan agreement also includes several covenants with which the Seminary must comply in order to avoid default. These covenants include a revenue covenant tied to Fall 2010 tuition expectations, a minimum debt service coverage ratio covenant and various other financial and operating covenants.


“Clearly the greatest challenge in meeting the terms of the loan will be selling the four residential units within the one year window stipulated by the loan,” Lowrey said. “In addition to the time and regulatory complexities of converting the units to condominiums, some construction work will be required and numerous approvals must be received from both city and state governments,” Lowrey added.


President Lowrey explained the loan will give up to a year breathing room for GTS to address its larger financial difficulties. Chief among these is the need to reduce the Seminary’s significant amount of debt and to develop a business model that is sustainable. The Seminary’s President also thanked GTS trustee Sandra Johnson, Executive Vice President Maureen Burnley, Associate Vice President Frank DiMaiuta and several GTS donors for making the loan a reality.  “Much remains to be done in the area of General’s finances,” he said. “But today’s loan closing is a critical first step in the task of addressing the more long term concerns.”


# # #


Media Contact:
Bruce Parker
Executive Director of Communications 
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Avenue - New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.gts.edu

 


14 July 2010

General Seminary Reaches Agreement with M&T Bank

$5.3 Million Short Term Loan Will Ease Immediate Financial Concerns

New York City – On July 1 The General Theological Seminary (GTS) reached agreement in principle with its chief lending institution, Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company (M&T Bank) on terms for a $5.3 million short term loan that will provide working capital for the upcoming school year, the Rev. Lang Lowrey, GTS Interim President, announced in a recent letter to trustees. While subject to definitive agreements and final approval by both institutions, the plan provides General with a $5.3 million line of credit on which it can draw for operating expenses until the Seminary proceeds as planned with the sale of four residential units in the building known as Chelsea 2,3,4. The loan will be repaid from the proceeds of the sale which could take up to a year. At a special meeting in March, 2010 Trustees were made aware of an impending cash shortfall that could affect Seminary operations as early as the fall of this year. At their meeting in May, 2010 the Board approved the sale of up to four apartments in Chelsea 2,3,4. Since the building was renovated six years ago, three of the four apartments to be sold have been leased to outside tenants.


“With the closing of this short-term loan the imminent financial crisis that GTS faced has been temporarily eased, thanks to the good work of Board member Sandra Johnson, Executive Vice President Maureen Burnley, and Associate Vice President Frank DiMaiuta, we have bought some breathing room,” wrote President Lowrey to trustees. “Moreover, after we complete the very complex sale of the Chelsea units we will be required to retire the $5.3 million short term loan. The remaining proceeds will be used to further reduce the Seminary’s debt,” added Lowrey. The Seminary’s Interim President praised M&T Bank officials for their cooperation and willingness to work with GTS. “Now we need to develop a plan for further financial restructuring, including reducing the Seminary’s significant debt.”

 

###

 

Media Contact:

Bruce Parker

Executive Director of Communications
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Ave. New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 


 

7/1/10

A Letter from Interim President Lang Lowrey to All GTS Students

Dear Students of General Seminary,

As you may have read by now, on June 9 at a special meeting of the Board of Trustees I was elected to serve as your Interim President. I am honored to have been selected for this position. The trustees have asked if I could begin my work immediately and so I will be on campus three days a week for the foreseeable future. I have recently had an excellent conversation with Community Council President Elisabeth Tunney, during which she agreed that, because so many of you are off campus at this time of year, email is the most straightforward way for me to introduce myself to you. 

The press release now on the GTS website will give you the details of my professional background. A cradle Episcopalian, I was ordained to the priesthood in 2004 and have spent most of my ministry at a parish in Georgia where I am the founding vicar. My last Sunday there is July 11 when I will be saying goodbye to my parish. I also serve as senior partner in two Atlanta firms offering financial services to banks and to small- and mid-sized companies. A number of the clients we have successfully helped in the past have faced financial situations not unlike those now being faced by GTS. I feel privileged to bring all of my skills, both priestly and those from the world of business, to my new job here at General. My first priority will be to address the serious financial situation of the Seminary.

I will not minimize the challenges that face us. The actions we must take need to be dramatic and immediate. Our single most important challenge is securing an influx of working capital to cover operating expenses for the upcoming school year. To meet this need we are exploring a number of options including sale of several apartments (which we now lease to outsiders), as authorized by the trustees. Of lesser urgency but certainly equal importance is the need to restructure the Seminary’s debt. General simply cannot afford to service its present level of indebtedness. The day following my election as interim president, I met with top executives of the Seminary’s primary lending institutions. I am pleased to report that we are close to reaching an agreement in principle that will allow us breathing room to envision our future.

The visionary undertakings of the last decade have brought the Seminary’s buildings, an important part of our historic legacy, into better repair than they have ever been. Without the critical expenditures  that were made, many buildings would now be in a seriously deteriorated condition.  Among the other initiatives, the Desmond Tutu Center is now a contributing resource to our educational mission, and the Seminary’s innovative geothermal system has become a model of environmental responsibility. Yet owing to unforeseen developments, the completion of these initiatives has left the Seminary severely overextended. This is a very serious but not insurmountable problem. Clearly, we must embrace the reality of our situation but, at the same time, we must seize the opportunity set before us to find a transforming solution.

In what I consider a very wise decision, the trustees, at their June meeting, have elected to separate the positions of Interim Dean and Interim President. Although the constitutional powers of the Dean and President have been lodged with the President, I will be continuing the search for a Dean to oversee the spiritual, academic and day-to-day operations of the Seminary. This position is expected to be filled before September. I am so very grateful for the friendship and guidance of Ward B. Ewing during this period of transition. Dean Ewing has graciously agreed to assist the Seminary and me during the months of June and July as Dean in Residence. I understand in August he and Jenny intend to begin the task of moving to their beautiful home in Tennessee.

I want you to know that I am acutely aware of the heightened level of anxiety felt in our community about our finances and about our future. I have no silver bullet for the challenges we face but I remain optimistic about the variety of options I see before us. Business negotiations being what they are, I may not always be able to share all the details of where we are at a given moment but I promise you timely, accurate, and honest updates.  My new office is on the second floor of West Building (the one formerly occupied by Prof. Good). I welcome your visit to discuss any concerns or suggestions. Simply contact Chris McFadden (ext. 282,This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) to schedule an appointment with me. I also invite your emails at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . I try to answer all emails within 24 hours. 

I look forward to getting to know you all in the months ahead as we work together in the wonderful enterprise of theological education. I very much welcome your thoughts, suggestions, support, and prayers.

In Christ,

The Rev. Lang Lowrey
Interim President

 


10 June 2010 - Press Release

General Seminary Appoints Interim President

New York City – In accordance with an action plan made at their meeting last month, the Board of Trustees of The General Theological Seminary on June 9 unanimously approved the Rev. Lang Lowrey III, 56, to be the Seminary’s Interim President. Lowrey is currently founding vicar at St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Georgia and also serves as a senior partner in two Atlanta based firms, Renova, a bank restructuring and consulting company, and Genesis Business Advisory, which provides management and investment services to small- and mid-sized businesses.

Seminary trustees decided that the serious financial challenges currently faced by the Seminary would be most effectively addressed by dividing the position of Dean and President into two separate positions, a practice common in most academic institutions. As President, Lowrey will have all constitutional powers previously lodged with the Dean and President; however the Seminary will also begin an immediate search for a Dean to have oversight of the academic and day-to-day operations of General. “We believe Fr. Lowrey is uniquely qualified to lead the Seminary in addressing its immediate challenges and to prepare the way for longer-term leadership beyond the interim period,” said Chair of the Board’s search committee Dr. Michael Gilligan.

After college at Georgia Tech and Georgia State, Lowrey owned and ran several successful ventures before selling them to create Buckhead Technology Angels to incubate emerging technology companies. He twice was selected to run Fortune 500 firms facing difficult challenges, implementing complex turnaround plans and securing robust equity events. Following a period of discernment, he responded to a call to ordained ministry. As a postulant from the Diocese of Atlanta, he attended Candler School of Theology and was ordained to priesthood in 2004. Following parish ministry in Florida, Fr. Lowrey was asked by Bishop Neil Alexander to plant a church and day school in the Diocese of Atlanta.  This new start involved locating, financing and purchasing land, designing the facility, building the church and most importantly, finding parishioners.  St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church and Day School is now fully established, and is in the process of calling a rector to replace Lowrey, the founding vicar.

“Fr. Lowrey brings to GTS a unique combination of skills that match perfectly the Seminary’s immediate institutional needs,” said Board chair the Rev. Canon Denis O’Pray at a gathering of students, faculty, and staff following the Board meeting. “He has high-level and proven abilities in the areas of management, finance, and administration while also possessing an in-depth knowledge of the Episcopal Church and its ordained ministry.” Following the remarks by Canon O’Pray, Lowrey addressed the community. “God is offering us a great opportunity,” he told those assembled in Seabury Auditorium. “Dramatic actions are needed within the next sixty days but the opportunity to take this task and to succeed is truly awesome. We need to embrace the reality of the situation but I have confidence in our collective abilities.” O’Pray said that Fr. Lowrey would begin work immediately, before the departure of the Seminary’s current Dean and President, the Very Rev. Ward B. Ewing, so that there is ample time for the two to work together to ensure a smooth transition. Dean Ewing had announced in December of 2009 his intention to retire and, with his wife Jenny Ewing, to return to their family homestead in Ten Mile, Tennessee. On the evening of May 17 over 300 well wishers attended a Festive Farewell to the Ewings held in the space that will become the Seminary’s new library.

The General Theological Seminary in the heart of Manhattan is a vibrant community dedicated to the critically important enterprise of theological education.  Founded in 1817 as the first seminary of the Episcopal Church, General cherishes its heritage while enthusiastically embracing the challenges of preparing leaders for the church in a changing world. Over the past decade, the Seminary has made a $70 million investment in preserving its landmarked campus; has opened a major conference facility, the Desmond Tutu Center; and has undertaken one of the largest geothermal initiatives in the northeast. General’s new state-of-the-art library is slated to open in 2011. The Seminary extends a warm invitation for all constituencies to share in its mission and in the excitement of its ongoing life.

# # #

 

Media Contact:
Bruce Parker
Executive Director of Communications
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Ave. New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285
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19 May 2010 -- Press Release

General Seminary Adopts Plan of Action to Address Financial Concerns

New York City – Meeting on May 18, 2010  in faith and with firm commitment, the Board of Trustees of the General Theological Seminary unanimously approved a plan for the Seminary to continue to carry out its mission to educate and form leaders for the church in a changing world [please scroll down for the Resolution which details the plan].  Following the meeting the Rev. Canon Denis O’Pray, chair of the Board of Trustees, said, “The church should know that with the realization of this plan, the continuance of Seminary operations is assured for the next several years, during which time longer range financial planning can be put in place.”

With the presence, support and blessing of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Trustees approved a resolution which:

  1. Created a $10 million operating reserve fund to provide a period of needed financial stability. This fund is established through special philanthropic efforts, which have already resulted in $1.5 million in firm commitments and, if necessary through the sale of up to four residential apartments in the Seminary building known as Chelsea 2, 3, and 4.  The Trustees approved the steps needed to turn this property into condominiums for possible sale. They have an estimated value of $8-10 million. The apartments under discussion have been rented to outside tenants for the last six years and have never been used for Seminary purposes. The Seminary will have right of “first refusal” when the apartments are offered for sale by the future purchasers.
  2. Called for the renegotiation of part of the Seminary’s loan package to reduce interest payments and permit more manageable cash flow.
  3. Announced that the Seminary will proceed to call a new interim Dean and President to take office later this summer (the Seminary’s current Dean having announced in December 2009 his intention to retire). A Special Meeting of the Board is scheduled for June 9th for further deliberation on this important appointment.
  4. Committed the Board to pursue all productive avenues for conversations with other seminaries and institutions of The Episcopal Church to consider creative collaborations and common programs. Such conversations have already begun.

“I am most gratified by the Board’s decisive action as well as the participation of our Presiding Bishop in the discussion,” said the Very Rev. Ward B. Ewing, Dean and President of GTS.  “The plan represents a very positive way forward.  I am delighted that it was received with unanimous approval.”

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Media Contact:
Bruce Parker
Executive Director of Communications
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Ave. New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285
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19 May 2010 -- Resolution from the Seminary's Board of Trustees


RESOLUTION
Approved Unanimously by the Board of Trustees of The General Theological Seminary
May 19, 2010

PREAMBLE In faith and with firm commitment, the Board of Trustees of the General Theological Seminary will continue to carry out our mission to educate and form leaders for the church in a changing world.  In answer to this call we pledge all our best efforts and will recruit and call an interim Dean and President in the coming weeks in order help lead and guide us forward.

Further, To this end we have endorsed the specific plans outlined below.  This plan will provide needed resources for immediate needs; meanwhile we are deeply committed to pursuing all productive avenues for conversations with other seminaries and institutions of the Episcopal Church to consider collaborations and common programs.

Whereas, The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in the United States (the “Seminary”) wishes to subject a portion of the Seminary’s property (land and improvements) located at Block 718, Lot 1 in the Borough of Manhattan (“Block 718, Lot 1”) and commonly referred to as “Chelsea 2, 3, 4” (such property, ”Chelsea 2, 3, 4”) to a condominium regime for the purposes of establishing distinct residential condominium units (the “Residential Units”); and

Whereas, The Seminary wishes to sell not more than four of the resulting Residential Units upon such terms as may be approved by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Seminary but in no event for an amount less than the fair market value of such residential Units;

Now, therefore,

1)     Be it resolved that the Seminary be and is hereby authorized, empowered and directed to a) establish a condominium regime for Chelsea 2,3,and 4, b) sell not more than four of the resulting Residential Units upon such terms as may be approved by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Seminary but in no event for an amount less than the fair market value of such residential Units, and c) obtain the release of Chelsea 2,3 and 4 (or, alternatively, the release of the Residential units to be sold) the lien of the mortgages currently encumbering Block 718 Lot 1and held, respectively, by Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company and the Trustees of the Estate Belonging to the Diocese of Long Island (collectively, the mortgages) and if necessary subject the Residential Units not sold to the lien of the Mortgages (the transaction described in this resolution being hereinafter  referred to as the “Condominium Conversion and Sale”);

2)    Be it further resolved that the Seminary be and is hereby authorized empowered and directed to furnish all materials, execute and deliver any instruments and documents and take such further actions, as may be necessary to consummate and effect the Condominium Conversion and Sale, including procuring of any necessary approvals from the New York State Attorney General; and the New Your State Supreme Court; and

3)    Be it further resolved that the Dean and President of the Seminary or the Executive Vice president of the Seminary or any other officer or employee of the Seminary designated by the Board of Trustees or the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, be and is hereby authorized, empowered and directed to furnish all materials, execute and deliver and instruments and documents, and take such further actions as may be necessary to consummate and effect the Condominium Conversion and Sale, including procuring any necessary approvals from the New York State Attorney General and the New York State Supreme Court; and

4)    Be it further resolved that all actions heretofore taken by any officer or employees of the Seminary in respect of the Condominium Conversion and Sale are hereby ratified and confirmed.

5)    Be it further resolved that the Board of Trustees of the Seminary authorize an ad hoc committee composed of Denis O’Pray, Board Chair, and Sandra Johnson and David Pitts, Board Members, to negotiate terms of investment with interested institutions and parties and report the result of such negotiations to the Executive Committee so that the Executive Committee may determine if the requirements of the plan for  the infusion of cash for the operation reserved from the Condominium Conversion and Sale and special philanthropic gifts have been met and the financial restructuring can continue.

6)    Be it further resolved that the Executive Committee will seek and secure “letters of comfort” as to the efficacy and validity of the transactions proposed in this resolution from the interested institutions and parties including the Manufacturers and traders Trust Company.

7)    Be it further resolved that the Executive Committee will seek and secure a letter of advice resulting from an independent financial assessment conducted by a bona fide and recognized independent financial consultant or institution of high standing and integrity.

 

 


10 May 2010 -- Statement from the Dean and the Chair of the Board of Trustees

We are pleased to report that the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees at its meeting on Friday, May 7, 2010 approved sending to the Board of Trustees for consideration at its meeting on May 17 and 18 a financial plan that if realized will assure the future financial viability of this Seminary.  We will seek to keep you informed as this moves forward.

The Rev. Canon Denis M. O’Pray, Chair, Board of Trustees
The Very Rev. Ward B. Ewing, Dean and President

 



19 April 2010 -- Press Release

Executive Committee of Seminary Board Recommends New Actions
 

New York City – On Friday, April 16, 2010 the eleven-member Executive Committee of the General Seminary Board of Trustees met to assess developments at the Seminary since a March 29 meeting of the full Board.  The special March meeting had been called in response to trustees’ deep concerns over a financial analysis of the Seminary released earlier that month in connection with the search for a new dean and president. The present dean, the Very Rev. Ward B. Ewing, announced in December, 2009 his plans to retire.  Recommendations coming out of the April 16 meeting include leveraging the Seminary’s property assets to insure General will be able to sustain operating expenses for the foreseeable future and resuming the search for a dean and president who would serve on an interim basis.

The Rev. Canon Denis O’Pray, Board chair, in reporting on the 4/16 meeting, said that although a preliminary budget for the upcoming fiscal year reduces operating expenses by 16%, it still projects a cash shortage by mid-November, 2010. “The Executive Committee believes the first priority is to develop a source of immediate cash relief so that Seminary operations can continue and debt be serviced until a long-term strategic financial plan can be designed and implemented,” said O’Pray. “After reviewing prospects of merger or collaboration with other entities, as well as the likelihood of immediate philanthropy, the Executive Committee believes that the sale of assets may be the most reasonable source of (nearly) immediate cash. Therefore, the Committee has resolved to analyze all aspects of a potential sale of property,” O’Pray said.  The Committee also assigned members to engage representatives from other seminaries and church entities in conversations that might include consideration of financial cooperation, program collaboration, merger, or other mutually beneficial relationships.

Should the sale of assets or significant philanthropy ease the Seminary’s immediate cash shortage, O’Pray added, the longer term need to reduce the cost of debt service remains a significant challenge and must still be addressed.  

During their deliberations the Committee affirmed its gratitude to Dean Ewing for his tireless efforts to lead the Seminary through its current financial crisis, and commended his continuing pursuit of philanthropy for the Seminary.  He said the Committee would suggest that the full Board revise earlier plans to retain an interim executive and instead begin a search for an interim dean and president who, with all the constitutional authority of that office, would lead the Seminary for a period likely to be one to three years. The Committee recognized the need for flexibility in the anticipated length of the interim dean and president’s service. The expectation is that the Dean’s successor can be found in the next several months, O’Pray said.

Lastly, the Executive Committee commended a communication strategy to include the creation of a page on the GTS website called GTS Next, where all official statements will be posted

“The Executive Committee is aware of the Board’s intention to meet monthly in person or by phone until the current crisis at the Seminary is resolved,” said O’Pray. The Executive Committee will meet again on May 7, 2010.
# # #

 

Media Contact:
Bruce Parker
Executive Director of Communications
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Ave. New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


 


16 April 2010 -- Board of Trustees Executive Committee -- Statement 

                               
The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the General Theological Seminary approved the following statement concerning the 3/29 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

  • On March 29, 2010 the Board of Trustees received a special analysis of the Seminary’s financial situation and has responded with deep concern. The analysis suggests that we have both an immediate and a persistent long-term financial dilemma that requires fresh and dynamic action.
  • In response, the Board has suspended the search for a new Dean and President and is diligently seeking instead a highly skilled professional Interim Executive to develop immediate actions to preserve and protect the Seminary.
  • The Board calls on all friends of the Seminary to step forward in prayer and action to support this institution, and welcomes the PB convening a roundtable of people outside the seminary system to help consider possible long-term strategies to present for the Board of Trustees’ consideration.
  • The Administration and the Dean will do everything in their power to continue to respond to this crisis, until such time as the Interim is named and the Dean retires. We are pursuing multiple channels, including seeking to reduce the interest rate on our loans and developing the financial resources to bridge the Seminary into the future.
  • The Board is mindful of the understandable anxiety and confusion of students, faculty and staff, but is confident that with these steps we can move forward with the continuation of the Seminary’s rich program.
  • The Executive Committee also approved a communications plan that includes creating a new web page on the Seminary website to provide up-to-date news about institutional developments at GTS, issuing press releases at important milestones, and issuing a summary following each meeting of the Executive Committee.


The Rev. Canon Denis M. O’Pray, Chair


Executive Committee Contact:

The Rev. Canon Denis M. O’Pray
Chair of the Board of Trustees
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Ave.
New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x282
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Media Contact:
Bruce Parker
Executive Director of Communications
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Ave.
New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 


29 March 2010 -- Press Release

General Seminary  Board of Trustees Addresses Financial Concerns

 

New York City – The Board of Trustees of the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church resolved to move forward in finding the financial resources necessary to meet fiscal challenges that have recently surfaced in connection with its search for a new Dean and President.   The current Dean, the Very Rev. Ward B. Ewing announced in December his intention to retire once his replacement has been hired.  At the conclusion of the Board’s meeting on March 29, Board Chair,  the Rev. Canon Denis O’Pray,  said trustees determined to ask the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, in response to her willingness to help, to convene a special think tank. Composed of board members and other Episcopal Church leaders, the group will address the Seminary’s pressing financial concerns in the context of the Church’s overall needs for theological education. In addition, the Board asked the Search Committee for a New Dean to consider instead the creation of an interim position so that the Seminary might fully appraise its financial situation and finalize specific ways of moving forward.  

Earlier in March members of the trustees’ Executive Committee had received projections of a shortfall in operating funds from a consultant retained in the connection with the search process. The projections were presented to the full board at the March 29 meeting and resulted in the decision to take immediate action. Following the Board meeting, Chairman O’Pray and the Dean, along with many other trustees, met with the Seminary’s faculty, students, and administrative staff to share the outcome and to answer questions.

# # #

 

Media Contact:
Bruce Parker
Executive Director of Communications
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Ave. New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




THE GENERAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
440 West 21st Street, New York City, NY 10011   |   tel (212) 243-5150  fax (212) 727-3907

The General Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church is a tax exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

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