GTS Community UpdateMarch 31, 2011
We hope this Update finds each of you well as we move through this period of self-examination and spiritual growth to which the Church calls us during the season of Lent. With slightly less than two months between now our Commencement in May, it seemed a good time to update you on a number of important developments at GTS.
The Plan to Choose Life
On March 30 the Seminary closed on the first sale of assets, Chelsea 2,3,4 and the Enclave property, proceeds from the sale of which totaled $18 million. Our next closings (taking place this summer) will be on the 422 West 20th Street apartment building and on the property where our tennis court now stands. Later in the year, following the renovation of Seabury Hall, will be the closing on the West Building. Please note that although the Chelsea 2,3,4 closing was a gateway transaction (having cleared many legal and bureaucratic hurdles), we must still maintain a sharp focus on these remaining closings to make sure that Phase I of the Plan to Choose Life goes smoothly.
The proceeds from the first sale of assets have enabled us to pay off our existing $5.3 million bridge loan, which had been previously secured by the library gift made by the Keller family (with their gracious permission). Although the Seminary has operating funds to complete this 2010-2011 fiscal year, a second bridge loan is required to take us through the 2011-2012 fiscal year which begins in July. Although we have a commitment letter from M&T Bank to provide for next year, a mortgage will be needed to secure the new loan, and we must once again have the NYS Attorney General’s and the NYS Supreme Court’s permission, an often lengthy process. Because this second loan may take some time, we must watch our cash flow very carefully until the new loan is secured because we have no way to access funds other than those we already have on hand. We must also still find a resolution to our property tax situation which was a major factor in delaying the closing on the first sale of assets.
One advantage of having the first sale of assets behind us is that we can commence our efforts on Phase II of the Plan to Choose Life in leveraging the Tutu Center toward rebuilding our endowment. With the help of an experienced consultant we are working on creating a new business plan and we remain optimistic about our ability to utilize the Center to rebuild our endowment.
As you may know, one potential partner in the Tutu Center is the Virginia Theological Seminary. As part of our ongoing conversation with them, the leadership at VTS has asked one of their consultants, Professor Simon Lee, to spend March 30 to April 4 at General learning more about GTS, the Tutu Center, and meeting with faculty and staff members. Dr. Lee is Professor Emeritus of Jurisprudence and Dean of the Law School at Queen’s University Belfast. A noted scholar, he is the author of several books and has served as a commentator for the BBC. Please provide him with a warm GTS welcome to the Close. I want to make it clear that VTS is not doing diligence at GTS prior to merger or purchase but is here as an interested party in making an investment in the Tutu Center.
Renovation and Housing Issues
We are pleased to report that renovations on the Dehon and Pintard dormitories are well underway. Because of the delay in the 2,3,4 closing we are required to telescope a 16-week project into 9 weeks. The Seminary’s 11-member Housing Committee lead by the Dean has completed the housing assignments for next year. Unfortunately the exigencies of the Plan to Choose Life may require relocations for our students, faculty members, and others. Members of the GTS community have been flexible and wonderfully patient about these relocations, making it all the more critical that we stay on schedule so that no more is asked than is absolutely required. On Tuesday, April 5, the Housing Committee meets to review assignments, consider appeals, and review policies. On Thursday, April 7, 1:15 – 2:00 p.m. in Seabury Auditorium a meeting of the whole GTS community will take place during which the Housing Committee will provide a full report on their activities.
The build-out of the new Keller Library continues on schedule. A great evening was had last week as students, faculty, and staff gathered in the new space for a pizza party and to have a tour of the new facility. Bishop Lee and Drew Kadel are finalizing plans for the relocation of books stored offsite back into the new library, as well as disposition of those that will be relocated.
Our Annual Fund, the Seminary’s primary fundraising effort, continues to track as equal to or slightly better than the Fund at the same time last year. We are currently approaching the $600,000 mark and need to equal or exceed the Fund’s total of $1 million last year. The banks are watching our Annual Fund and it is a very critical part of the Seminary’s annual cash flow. We are very appreciative of the help of our trustees in this effort. All our trustees are making calls to donors this year. We are also pleased to report a bequest gift of $500,000 was received from the estate of the Rev. Davis Given (GTS ’49), who died in October 2007. His estate gifts to General have totaled over $780,000. Fr. Given was head of the Navajo Good Shepherd Mission in Arizona and assistant priest at Trinity Church, Wall Street in New York. In retirement, he served at St. Luke in the Fields, New York.
As most of you know, Executive Vice President Maureen Burnley spent her last day with us on March 15. We had a lunchtime gathering where community members thanked her for her contributions to the Seminary. To address the areas of need created by Maureen’s departure and with the Executive Committee’s approval, I have appointed Sandra Johnson as Executive Vice President in addition to her duties as CFO (announced in my 2/16 Update). Sandra is chartered with making additional changes in the Business Office. Lodged high on the list of priorities will be the need to address our accounting and administrative systems.
In the Office of External Relations, Donna Ashley, who has worked for us as a consultant for the past year, has been added to the staff as Vice President for Institutional Advancement. Having served several years ago at GTS as Director of Admissions, Donna has an in-depth knowledge of the Seminary and of the Episcopal Church and will be a great asset to our fundraising efforts. Bruce Parker, a 17-year veteran of GTS, will continue to oversee the entire department, moving into the position of Senior Vice President for External Relations. Both Bruce and Donna are GTS graduates. It is my plan to broaden the scope of this department and to create new ways to increase our Annual Fund giving. Donna will be a great help in this initiative. Sadly, we must bid farewell to Director of Development Don Temples, who has served GTS for the past four years. Don will be moving on to a new position with the United Methodist Church Board of Global Ministries. We wish Don all the best in this new chapter of his professional life.
Please mark your calendars for a special farewell event honoring Professors Elisabeth and John Koenig. This event will take place on Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 3:00 p.m. If it's a nice day, we will use the Chapel lawn. If it rains, it will be in the Hobart and Fosbroke Rooms of the West Building. We hope as many of you as possible will be able to attend this tribute to two of the Seminary’s most beloved professors. Bishop Lee reports the search for a New Testament professor has yielded four excellent candidates. Searches are also underway for positions in Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology.
Upcoming Address Change for GTS
The U.S. Postal Service has informed the Seminary we must change our mailing address to conform with our 21st Street entrance since we no longer have an actual entrance at 175 Ninth Avenue. Accordingly, will be phasing in the new 440 West 21st Street address sometime in the near future. Please do NOT begin using this address, however, until you receive official notification from the Seminary.
Chelsea Music Festival
Our External Relations Office has been in conversation with the Chelsea Music Festival about their use of our campus facilities as rehearsal space and as a central location for their volunteers. There would also be one or more public concerts in our Chapel. Taking place at venues throughout Chelsea from June 13-18, the festival has been known as a world-class gathering of chamber music performers, but they are branching out into other areas of classical music. It is an international festival with artists of the highest caliber participating. The director is Ken Masur, associate conductor of the San Antonio Symphony and son of Kurt Masur, former artistic director of the NY Philharmonic. This is a great opportunity to raise our institutional profile in Manhattan as well as be of service to the Chelsea community.
Format for May Board of Trustees Meeting
The Executive Committee has been working to streamline and improve the efficiency of the three meetings we have each year. For our upcoming May meeting they have decided to hold Commission meetings telephonically and on several days (5/13, 5/16, 5/17) prior to our one plenary meeting which will take place on Tuesday, May 17, from noon to 5:00 p.m.
Jeff Small Lecture Reminder
As mentioned in our last update, GTS trustee, noted speaker and theologian Jeffrey Small will be speaking here on Monday, April 4 at 7 p.m. in the Tutu Center. All are invited to attend. His presentation, Rethinking Christianity in the 21st Century, will address a number of provocative questions including: What is the future of Christian thought in this modern, secular age? How do we conceive of God today? How do we reconcile science and religion without watering down either one? Click Here for more information about Jeff Small. We are glad to be able to attend and hope you can make it as well.
The Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee The Rev. Lang Lowrey
Interim Dean Interim President