On March 11, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency and encouraged higher education institutions to transition to online learning and to avoid large gatherings. In response, the seminary discontinued in-person classes and moved to all online classes by March 19. Since Western has offered distance learning since 2003, switching everything to online was very doable in short order.
On March 17, all seminary employees began working from home, except for a small number of authorized personnel needed to keep operations running. All non-necessary travel was suspended.
By April 2 it became obvious that all campus events would need to be canceled for the rest of the school year, including Commencement and May on-campus Intensives for distance learning and Doctor of Ministry students. (Commencement is tentatively rescheduled for August 24.)
At the end of April the impact of the pandemic and other concerns had taken a toll on finances for the seminary, with a projected deficit of around $1 million for the 2020-2021 academic year. The Board made the difficult decision to cut staffing and offer early retirements.
As the governor’s Stay Home Stay Safe orders continued to be extended, the seminary correspondingly adjusted its plan to return to work on campus., which is set for August 3.
At this point, the seminary leadership is planning to resume in-residence classes on August 31 with precautions in place for social distancing. We are cautiously optimistic there will be minimal impact on enrollment.
You can also find up-to-date information on our response here.
Henry Bast-Timothy Brown Professor of Preaching and President Emeritus Timothy Brown is retiring at the end of June. When he arrived at the seminary in 1995, Dr. Brown brought 20 years of preaching and pastoral experience to the task of teaching homiletics. After 13 years of inspiring and teaching the next generation of pastors to preach the Word, he accepted the call to lead the seminary as president, starting in July of 2008 and continuing for 11 years. Dr. Brown will continue to teach courses as needed as an adjunct professor.
Associate Director of Formation for Ministry Glenn Swier will conclude 15 years of service to Western on June 30. In addition to assisting distance learning students with teaching church placements and internships, Glenn directed the Dual Track M.Div.-M.S.W. Program as well as the Graduate Certificate in Urban Pastoral Ministry. He also led intercultural immersion trips to the U.S.-Mexico border, served on the Diversity Committee, and trained people in Restorative Justice. He was a great encourager of students in their formation for ministry.
Associate Director of Admissions C.J. Kingdom-Grier arrived at Western in 2011 and will be completing his service on June 30. In addition to recruiting students all over the country, C.J. served for several years as Assistant to the President for Racial Initiatives. He was a strong voice on the Diversity Committee of WTS and strove to increase cultural competency in the staff and faculty through offerings such as the Stoutemire Lecture Series in Multicultural Ministry. As a pastor of worship and fine arts, C.J.’s impressive skills at piano and worship livened up many chapel services and will be greatly missed!
Executive Vice President Jeff Munroe is retiring at the end of June. Jeff was hired in January of 2012 to lead the Advancement department, and two years later he took on an operations role, managing Admissions, Journey (cont. ed.) and Human Resources in addition to Development and Communications. Over the years he has helped Western make great strides in corporate identity and strategic planning, and he has brought considerable administrative skills to the day-to-day operations of the seminary and the Our New Day capital campaign. He taught courses in writing and introduced a Writer-in-Residence program. His impact on the institution will be felt for years to come.
Allison Van Liere, Circulation Supervisor of Cook Library, served the seminary well for six years before leaving her position in May, most notably helping with the massive, complicated move to a new library building. In addition, she regularly shared her musical talents in chapel, playing a variety of instruments including the accordion and banjo.
Kathy Brogan has been a welcoming presence to students and visitors alike at the reception desk of WTS since 2014. Originally on-call, Kathy was part-time this past year, but her position ended in May.
In other news…
The CARES act has brought enhanced benefits for charitable gifts in an effort to help non-profits during these difficult financial times.
For those who do not itemize on their tax returns: You may take an above-the-line deduction of up to $300 for your contribution to Western.
For those who itemize on their tax returns: Deductions for donations are no longer limited to 60% of your adjusted gross income. This limit has been dropped for 2020.
Corporate Givers: The 10% limit on charitable contributions is increased to 25% of your taxable income.
We hope one of these tax benefits will be useful in your passion to continue supporting Western Theological Seminary.