Report of the Chair of the Board of Trustees to the
United Lutheran Seminary Community - May 22, 2020
Prior to reporting on the activities of the Board of Trustees, on behalf of the Board, I want to thank our students, faculty, staff and administration for adjusting so readily to the changes that have been necessary due to the Covid19 pandemic. Led by our President, Rev. Dr. Angela Zimmann, the transition to having all of our classes move completely online was done flawlessly, and plans are now in place for the many reopening contingencies that await the Seminary community when the autumn semester arrives. I also want to congratulate the class of 2020. Not having the usual graduation activities, you go forth from the Seminary, nevertheless, to bring your gifts to bear on the life of the church. Thank you for your grace and commitment.
In the autumn of 2018, the Board of Trustees established a Financial Task Force (FTF) to advise and lead ULS toward a healthier financial future. After more than a year and a half of effort, the work of the FTF has been largely completed. ULS now has a clear picture of its finances, and with a loan from the ELCA Mission Investment Fund, all of the Seminary’s debt has been consolidated and refinanced on better terms and a lower interest rate. The end result is that the debt is now manageable, and cash has been freed up for operational expenses. The work of the FTF and the Board’s Research Development and Financial Management Committee (RDFM), along with the Seminary’s Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Buff Carlson,will enable ULS to plan for the future with confidence in its financial stability. It is the hope of the Board that with our financial challenges largely resolved, we can move forward with the vision that brought ULS together.
The search for ULS’ next president continues to move forward.With the Academic Search team guiding their efforts, the Committee is in the process of interviewing candidates. While no timeline has been established for the conclusion of their work, it is hoped that the process will reach a joyful conclusion by the end of this summer.
Relationship with the Seminary Ridge Museum and Education Center
At its January 2020 meeting, the Board of Trustees created as special committee, the Seminary Ridge Liaisons Committee, to look into the relationship between ULS and the Seminary Ridge Historical Preservation Foundation Museum. It was apparent that during the startup period of ULS, the relationship and place of the Museum in the life of the Seminary, and its role in seminary education was not clear. Under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Maria Erling, the Committee created a report that clarifies the relationship, creates an apology for the role of the museum in seminary education, the life of the church, and in our society. The report also made recommendations to the Board for keeping the relationship vital in the future. ULS is blessed with two historically important campuses. Our Philadelphia campus is located in the heart of the city in which the “Birth of Freedom” took place, and our Gettysburg campus presides over the place where a “New Birth of Freedom” began.The geography of our campuses gives ULS a unique opportunity to speak theologically on issues of freedom, equality, and racism in our society.
The RDFM Committee is continuing its work to determine which properties the seminary needs in order to thrive in the future, which properties can be developed for the benefit of the seminary and the communities we serve,and which properties may be sold for the seminary’s benefit. On the Philadelphia Campus this is done in cooperation with the LTSP reconstituted board, which is the management entity for the Philadelphia campus. While preliminary plans are in place for development of the surplus land on the Philadelphia campus, we want to be certain that development will best meet the needs of our students in the future, especially in the area of student housing. We also want to be cognizant of the needs and wishes of the greater community in which we live and serve.Currently, we are awaiting input from the East Mount Airy Neighborhood Association. Because of the Covid19 pandemic, everything is moving slowly, as gathering the various constituencies for conversation and input has been delayed.
Board Committee Highlights
The Board approved the list of candidates for degrees,certificates, honors and awards for our annual commencement. It is always an honor and privilege to approve the candidates. It is, after all, the reason for ULS’ existence. The Seminary prepares leaders for the church, and it is always a delight to see how God continues to raise up competent and committed people to walk with the church and lead it into the future.
The Board promoted Dr. Vincent Evener to the rank of Associate Professor with tenure and voted a three-year extension to the contract of Dr. Crystal Hall, who is on the tenure track. The Board also appointed Ms. Yvonne Lembo to the LTSP Board of Trustees.
The Committee on Governance,Infrastructure, and Planning is continuing its work on developing new bylaws for ULS, as well as defining the scope of our Board committees.
The RDFM Committee is continuing, in addition to its financial work, a conversation with the Seminary Ridge Historical Preservation Foundation regarding the best way to define the relationship between the two institutions, so that the Museum can better solicit funding.
At the end of June, we say goodbye to one of our long serving board members. Mr. Paul Wanger in has served the ULS and LTSG communities for nearly two decades. Paul’s dedication, insight, work ethic, and humility set a worthy example for all of us. Paul will be missed and we wish him a long, happy and healthy retirement.
During this time of unprecedented upheaval in the life of our nation and our institutions, I want to thank all of the supporters of ULS for your unwavering support. I am grateful that students,alumni, congregations, and synods continue to support ULS’ vital work. Our administration, faculty, and staff have done an outstanding job making certain that our students receive the education and services they need. I also wish to thank our interim President, Rev. Dr. Angela Zimmann, for her outstanding leadership during this period. Her vision and grace under pressure has truly been a gift. Finally, I want to thank the members of our Board of Trustees. Your perseverance and commitment to ULS has created an opportunity for this institution to be a leader in theological education. For that, I am very grateful to each of you. To our entire ULS community, please continue to hold our seminary in your prayers during these challenging days.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Peter Boehringer, Chair
Board of Trustees
United Lutheran Seminary