GTS Community Update


January 31, 2011



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


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