HSU president details financial decisions behind closing of Logsdon Seminary

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — Hardin-Simmons University (HSU) President Eric Bruntmyer has issued a letter detailing the financial decisions made behind closing the Logsdon Seminary.

Bruntmyer says the seminary has always lacked the appropriate funding it’s needed, and after $31,000 per year received by donors were used to assist in covering the $600,000 annual cost, the university would use money from the school of theology to cover the remaining costs.

Last week, they decided to give the money that was being used to cover the outstanding costs of operating the seminary back to the school of theology.

Four years ago, the university was able to identify both the Logsdon Seminary and School of Theology as low-performing programs as they began to analyze finances.

To address this, HSU started online programs as enrollment was consistently declining. Bruntmyer says seminary and school of theology have “historically chosen not to” request a required waiver to allow online seminary programs.

Bruntmyer says one year ago, the Logsdon Seminary Committee and Finance and Audit Committee of the Board of Trustees discussed the seriousness of the financial situation of Logsdon Seminary and Logsdon School Theology, and tried to find ways to improve it, but the seriousness of the situation was only fully understood last fall.

The board voted to teach out the current seminary students, give full-time faculty a one-year contract, and close the seminary after those students have graduated.

Read the full letter below:

“Dear HSU Family,

This letter to you will hopefully serve several purposes.

First, this letter is meant to tell a greater story about our work at Hardin-Simmons University.

Additionally, this letter is intended to give more insight into the decision-making process regarding the closing of Logsdon Seminary.

History

In Famous Are Thy Halls, a history of Hardin-Simmons University, Dr. Rupert Richardson shared this about the formation of Hardin-Simmons University:

“As early as 1888, when the town was only seven years old, Henry Sayles, a well-known Abilene lawyer, suggested that Baptists found a school or college in Abilene. “

The seed of this idea was planted in the fertile soil of Abilene, and the merchants, ranchers and pastors of West Texas made plans for this idea to grow. These plans included reaching out to Dr. James B. Simmons, a New York pastor, for his assistance in raising funds to see this work accomplished. By 1891, this idea became a reality and what we now know as Hardin-Simmons University began educating students.

In 1902, Dr. Oscar Henry Cooper, the 5th president of Hardin-Simmons University, joined the administration and began his work. In Famous Are Thy Halls, Dr. Rupert Richardson shares that “Dr. Cooper instituted changes in Simmons truly drastic…The core of the curriculum was still classical, that is ancient and modern languages and literature”. However, under Dr. Cooper’s guidance, courses and programs were updated and added.

Dr. Richardson continues with, “…he linked the college with the pastors of the region in an annual Bible institute…after a few years, Bible was made a requirement for graduation.“ Since that time, Bible courses have been a rich, vibrant, and essential part of the HSU curriculum.

And, because of the state of the nation and in anticipation of things to come, “Dr. Cooper introduced military training for men into the school…”

Dr. Richardson, who was our 8th president, was also a forward thinker.

“… We secured a license from the Civil Aeronautics Authority and begin offering ground training for civil pilots. The university bought an airplane….200 persons were licensed…before Pearl Harbor.“

With World War II looming, he was aware of the time that he was living in and was preparing HSU for changing world events.

Dr. Elwin Skiles, who was our 12th president, was well known for quoting this famous Psalm:

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24

However, in Famous Are Thy Halls, Dr. Skiles is also quoted as declaring, “Institutions of higher learning must always look to the future, there’s not a thing finished.” Dr. Skiles strengthened the curriculum by removing courses and adding new courses that offered vocational opportunities.

Each of these presidents and the presidents that have followed understood that the goal and mission of Hardin-Simmons University is to “bring students to Christ, to teach them of Christ, and to train them for Christ.” And whether this teaching or training occurred in classes or in chapel, in labs or in dorms, on the stage, in the concert hall, on courts or on fields, the end goal for 129 years has been to train our students to be “future Christian leaders.”

Because of this culture and mentality, the students that graduated from Hardin-Simmons University became pastors in the pulpit and missionaries in the field. They became chaplains in the military, in hospitals and in universities. They became educators, administrators and youth leaders working in the church. Hardin-Simmons University alumni have always been on the move to be the Body of Christ and to be the very hands of Jesus wherever they are.

Whether in Abilene, the Permian Basin or the Panhandle, in the Valley or in the Metroplex, along the I-35 Corridor or in Houston, our students have served and continue to serve well. And from such diverse places like New York City, Capitol Hill, Hollywood and Las Vegas, our students have excelled in their fields at the same time they have lived out their faith. They have also spread throughout the globe, over both “land and sea”. Hardin-Simmons students have been carrying out the mission of Jesus to share His love through service to those who are created in His image and carried that message even to the ends of the Earth.

This is who we’ve been since 1891, this is who we are, and this is who we’ll always be.

Logsdon School of Theology (1983)

Because of the success in training our students to be the hands and feet of Christ, we were entrusted with a school of theology. It was created in honor of Charles and Koreen Logsdon of Abilene in 1983. This was a pivotal time when the school boldly stepped into intentional Bible training.

Mrs. Logsdon made the largest gift in the university’s history to that date to establish the Logsdon School of Theology and in 1989 the Logsdon School of Theology complex was completed to provide a beautiful space for theological education here at Hardin-Simmons University.

Since 1983, the lives of students continued to be transformed because of the wonderful gift that the Logsdon family gave to Hardin-Simmons University. Hardin-Simmons University has graduated nearly 30,000 alumni who have impacted and continue to impact the world. Many of those alumni have taken courses in the Logsdon School of Theology.

Logsdon Seminary (2004)

Twenty-one years later, in 2004, the Hardin-Simmons University Board of Trustees created Logsdon Seminary. Hardin-Simmons boldly stepped into the seminary training realm and took a risk when others didn’t. It was as a result of the West Texas “Can Do Spirit” that Logsdon seminary was created. From the very beginning the seminary lacked appropriate funding. In faith, Hardin-Simmons University believed that seminary graduates could affect even more lives and therefore HSU took on the financial burden to fund the work of Logsdon Seminary.

Throughout its 15 years, Logsdon Seminary has graduated over 400 students. The Baptist General Convention of Texas and others have partnered to fund some of this training for our students. Endowment income of $31,000 per year was designated by donors which provided some assistance in covering the $600,000 annual costs of funding the Seminary.

To cover the remaining cost, funds designated for the Logsdon School of Theology were consistently moved over to the Logsdon Seminary in order to cover the deficits that occurred from the initial and continual lack of funding.

Timeline

This became apparent four years ago as the administration began to analyze the finances of the University and created metrics to identify low performing programs.

In this process, the Seminary and School of Theology were identified as financially low performing programs. It was at this time that some areas of HSU began the creation of online courses to help curb declining enrollments. Because of the nature of our ATS Seminary accreditation, fully online programs are not allowed without a waiver. Logsdon Seminary and Logsdon School of Theology can request a waiver of this policy, but have historically chosen not to. Due to a variety of factors, enrollment numbers in both areas have continued to decline.

One year ago, the Logsdon Seminary Committee and the Finance and Audit Committee of the Board of Trustees discussed the seriousness of the financial situation of Logsdon Seminary and Logsdon School Theology. It was after these meetings that administration sat down with faculty and staff of both the Seminary and School of Theology to discuss once again the pathways to improve the financial condition of the Seminary and the School of Theology.

This past fall, the full Board of Trustees for Hardin-Simmons University met in a workshop setting to discuss the Seminary and School of Theology. After much prayer, sharing of information and discussion, the seriousness of the financial situation of the School of Theology and Seminary was fully understood by the board.

Decisions of the Board of Trustees

Last week after additional prayer, deliberation and decisions, it was determined that the funds initially given for the Logsdon School of Theology that had been used to cover the deficits of Logsdon Seminary would be directed back to the Logsdon School of Theology. These funds which had been originally given as endowments for our Bible department and religion department (that became Logsdon School of Theology) would again be used to support the University’s mission of Christian education for all of our undergraduate students.

The board voted to teach out the present seminary students, provide the full-time faculty a one-year contract and close Logsdon Seminary and the Logsdon Seminary-San Antonio branch once all seminary students have graduated.

While theological issues did come up in our discussions, this was solely a financial decision.

Logsdon Seminary was not singled out in addressing the university’s operational challenges. All programs were analyzed as part of a process known as The Way Forward, HSU’s recently approved Strategic Financial Plan. Additional graduate and undergraduate programs outside the seminary will be teaching-out our students and then closing once all have graduated.

Hardin-Simmons University has been entrusted with the stewardship of significant financial and physical assets that position it well for long-term excellence, but each year it can spend only the income produced by the financial assets, not the assets themselves. The university is facing immediate short-term operational challenges that it is having to address now to preserve its assets for future generations of students, offering the programs they want in a cost-effective way.

Logsdon Seminary has been a life-changing experience for many. It has been a 15-year mission of faith. It produced 400+ graduates that have positively impacted the world for Christ. However, it is imperative that HSU continues to prioritize its programs as good stewards of our financial resources.

Those Affected

Many individuals have been affected by this recent decision and the sadness that faculty, staff, students and alumni have felt have been expressed through emails, texts, phone calls, social media and in-person conversations with the administrators and trustees.

I want to assure you that the actions to close Logsdon Seminary do not diminish the great sacrifice that HSU, our donors, faculty and staff have made to provide a quality, seminary education to so many. The lives of our students and alumni around the globe are the living embodiment of seeds planted by our Logsdon Seminary faculty and staff. The impact will carry on for generations to come.

And while some would disagree with the decision and others fully support it, there is no doubt that there is a deep love for Hardin-Simmons University, the Logsdon School of Theology and the Logsdon Seminary amongst our global family.

Seminary Training

There is a need for seminary level education in Texas. A group of individuals have begun to consider the possibility of a freestanding seminary separate and apart from Hardin-Simmons University and located in San Antonio. If there are institutions, churches and individuals that are interested in taking this path or another path, Hardin-Simmons University stands ready to assist with any consultation and assistance.

I hope this letter has helped you understand the spirit of Hardin-Simmons University and how the prayers, sacrifice and work done for our students has contributed to Baptist work worldwide for the cause of Christ.

This is who we’ve been, this is who we are, and this is who we’ll always be.

Eric”

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