Report of the Chair of the Board of Trustees to the
United Lutheran Seminary Community
Coming out of our January 2020 Board of Trustees meeting,there are a number of positive developments to be shared with the ULS Community.
Reconciling In Christ Designation
Thanks to the perseverance of our President, Dr. Angela Zimmann, and the work of many people in the ULS community, ULS has been reinstated as a Reconciling in Christ Seminary. Our thanks to all who helped draft our Welcome and Equity Statement and worked to shepherd us through the reinstatement process. We ask for your support and prayers as we live into the vision of being a community that is welcoming and supportive of all God’s children.
Financial Task Force
In November of 2018, the Board of Trustees appointed a Financial Task Force (FTF) to delve into all aspects of ULS’ finances and develop a plan that would put the seminary on solid financial footing. After many months of meticulous work, the FTF developed a clear picture of the seminary’s fiscal position and recommended a series of measures that brings income and spending into line. In addition, working with the ELCA Mission Investment Fund, the FTF secured financing to consolidate the seminary’s debt under better terms, lowering debt service and freeing money for operations. The result of the work of the FTF is that moving forward the seminary will continue to have both a complete picture of its finances and a financial plan that creates stability. I believe our supporters can now partner with the ULS with confidence in the seminary’s future.
The Presidential Search Committee has shared that the preliminary work for the presidential search has been completed, and the committee is in the process of developing the document that contains the requirements, characteristics, and attributes we are seeking in the next president, and formulating the formal presidential search ad which will be distributed nationally to solicit candidates. While the timeline is flexible, the hope is that a new president of ULS will be named in late spring or early summer.
The Governance and Infrastructure Committee of the ULS Board of Trustees continues to work on developing the documents and policies that will guide us for years to come. Currently the committee is rewriting all of the board committee descriptions to bring them into alignment with the actual work being done. ULS’ strategic plan continues to serve as the foundation upon which our decision-making process is built.
The Academic and Leadership Development Committee continues to develop the Faculty Handbook and is working collaboratively with our faculty to develop a handbook that serves the faculty and seminary, meets the established criteria set forth by our accrediting bodies, and gives the Board of Trustees the flexibility it needs for sound fiscal and fiduciary management.
I am grateful to The Committee on Enrollment Services and Student life for the manner in which it works with our student government to foster lines of open communication with ULS’ students. The committee continues to host a breakfast conversation with students when the trustee’s meetings take place. The conversations serve to deepen the board’s understanding of student concerns and needs and provides a good forum to promote mutual understanding.
The ULS Board of Trustees through its Resource Development and Financial Management Committee (RDFMC) and the administration is also evaluating how best to use surplus land and buildings on both campuses.Development plans are in process for the Philadelphia campus, and at some point,in the near future, we will be looking to determine the return on investment of the various possible plans and deciding a future course of action. As possible plans are developed, the board of trustees, through the RDFMC, will be getting input from all of our varied seminary communities as well as the Mt. Airy neighborhood. On the Gettysburg campus work is underway to determine which land and buildings will be needed in the future. A study is also being done to estimate what the values of any land or building sales might be.
The goal is not to merely reap the greatest financial gain but develop our campuses in such a way that our students needs our best met,the seminary remains vibrant, and that our continuing presence in Philadelphia and Gettysburg has a positive impact upon both communities.
The Board of Trustees also set the tuition rate for the 2020-21 school year at $21,500. We are grateful that due to the generosity ofULS’ donors, 100% of student tuition is funded. Our policy of full tuition funding has had a very positive impact on enrollment and has become the model across the ELCA.
The board of trustees also created a task force at it January meeting to study the Seminary Ridge Historical Preservation Foundation Museum. The task force will study the history that brought the museum into being, its place in the life of the seminary, its role in seminary education including whether and how it fits into the core mission of the seminary, and how it environs offers ground from which to do public theology. The breadth of its work has yet to be fully determined. However, it is fair to say that ULS is the steward of two historic campuses, and we have a sacred obligation to understand their place in our community’s life as well that of the nation.
After a turbulent start up, with the help of our last President, Dr. Richard Green, and the energy of our current President, Dr.Angela Zimmann, as well as the work of the Board of Trustees, a faculty committed to excellence, the United Lutheran Seminary Endowment Fund, and the LTSP Reconstituted Board which serves to undergird ULS’ mission, we are beginning what promises to be a period of increased commitment and strength for United Lutheran Seminary. We are blessed with many people who care deeply about ULS, and who continue to support the seminary’s work in many ways. Thanks be to God that we are also blessed with students who bring intelligence and passion to the exploration of the call to public ministry.
As we come to the end of our third year, we are now at a place where the vision with which we began this seminary has begun to take root. I am looking forward to its continued growth in the coming years. I wish to thank the entire ULS’ community fo rthe support you give to ULS. Your prayers for our students, staff, faculty,administration, board, and associated organizations are especially welcome as we strive to live out the seminary’s mission of Unifying, Learning, and Serving.
Yours in Christ,
Peter Boehringer, Chair
Board of Trustees
United Lutheran Seminary