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Around the GTU: News from GTU Schools and Centers

New President at SFTS

The SFTS Board of Trustees recently announced the appointment of the Rev. Dr. Philip Butin as the 10th president of the seminary. Dr. Butin, a scholar on the doctrine of the trinity, has served since 1993 as pastor at a Presbyterian church in New Mexico, where he co-founded an statewide ecumenical theological education program. He takes office at SFTS on July 1, 2002.

 

Renovation Recharges Seminary

The buildings of academia sometimes signify what institutions value most: their history. In the halls of columned campuses and ivy-covered edifices, preservation of the past is priority. Yet, sometimes a historic building also stands for the future. From these halls comes a passion for tradition and innovation.

Such is the case with American Baptist Seminary of the West. This GTU member school is celebrating the reopening of its main building, Hobart Hall, after a three-year, $3 million renovation.

"This building blesses a rich past and it houses a powerful vision for the future-to be a place of learning for leaders who are passionate about transformation," says President Keith Russell.

Designed by renowned architect Julia Morgan, the four-story Hobart Hall rises above Berkeley's historic People's Park and looks north toward the University of California. Its red brick, dormers, and generous windows were a template for other buildings on the seminary's campus. Dedicated in 1921, Hobart Hall was described by former President Sandford Fleming as a "first-class modern building of reinforced concrete frame and red brick exterior, which received much favorable comment."

The renovations preserved Hobart Hall's historic character while adding state-of-the-art functionality. The building was gutted on the inside in order to retrofit the walls against earthquakes. An elevator was added and new offices and meeting spaces created. Crouch Memorial Library was transformed into a "smart classroom," with built-in audio/visual equipment.

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Students are enjoying Drexler Student Commons, a spacious new lounge with fireplace, comfortable seating, and a bank of computers. The renovation of the commons was made possible through a generous gift from Fred Drexler in memory of his father, Frederick I. Drexler, D.D., founder of California Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the forerunners of ABSW.

"It's just nice to walk into a beautiful place like this," says second-year M.Div. student Manuel Magana.

The building's fourth floor has been transformed. A large commons area opens to skylights 20 feet above. A mezzanine with study carousels rims the room. Also on the fourth floor is a new kitchen and guest apartment for visiting scholars, pastors, and missionaries.

Middler Larry Fewell is proud of the improvements. "Facilities help to set the atmosphere and how the seminary feels about itself," he says. "It's about the seminary's self-esteem."

He adds, "This work conveys to students that the seminary wants the best for its students-the best in facilities and education."

This fall, ABSW has been welcoming alumni, friends, and GTU members back to Hobart Hall. "We're proud of the work that's been done here," Vice President of Seminary Relations Michelle Holmes says, "and we're eager to share it."

A longer version of this article originally appeared in ABSW's quarterly newsletter, Perspectives.

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Rabbinics, History Faculty Join CJS

After a nationwide search, the GTU welcomed two new faculty to the Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies this fall.

Dina Stein

Dina Stein, who has been teaching at the Center as a visiting assistant professor since 1998, is now an assistant professor of rabbinics and folklore. Joshua David Holo is the new assistant professor of Jewish history.

Stein initially came for two years, to replace Daniel Matt, and was then asked to stay on for another year. On the verge of returning to Hebrew University, where a position was waiting for her, Stein realized she just didn't want to leave. "There's something about the intellectual environment and the academic community at GTU that I found too rewarding to give up, so at the last possible minute I applied for the position. I'm very glad to be staying."

Stein is a folkloristic who studies rabbinic midrash. Her dissertation is on folkloristic elements in the Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, an eighth century midrashic work in the genre of biblical retellings. It essentially retells the Bible from the Creation to Miriam's leprosy, where it abruptly ends.

Her encounter with this field occurred during her studies of Hebrew literature as an undergraduate. Stein met Galit Hasan-Rokem, a folklorist at Hebrew University, and "was fascinated by this field, which was totally new to me, and particularly by the way Galit approached rabbinic texts. I suppose a lot of my decision to change fields had to do with her unequivocal encouragement. Sometimes the right teacher, the right field, and the right approach come together, and that was what happened. I've never looked back."

 

Josh Holo

Josh Holo comes to CJS from the University of Chicago, where he completed his dissertation this year. The aspect of the GTU he was the most taken with was, he says, "the genuine intellectual freedom in Jewish Studies, combined with a profound commitment to Jewish learning."

Holo studies the Jews of Byzantium, drawn to the topic by the awareness that the work he was doing would break new ground. "The most interesting aspect of the dissertation research was when I started analyzing Ketubot, marriage contracts. Byzantine Jewish women kept control of their economic assets in marriage and this had all sorts of social ramifications, for instance in the way parents-in-law treated their sons-in-law."

This fall Holo is teaching a class on the Medieval disputations between the friars and the Jews in Spain and France, and a class on the Karaites, a Jewish sect which played an important role in the cultural and religious development of the medieval Jewish community throughout the world.

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PLTS Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary

Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, a GTU member school, celebrates its 50th year anniversary in fall 2002. On September 19, 2001, the year-long festivities began with Founders' Day, at which past presidents William Lesher, Walter Stuhr and Jerry Schmalenberger were honored for their place in the seminary's history.

PLTS Fountain

PLTS overlooks the San Francisco Bay at the top of the hill in Berkeley, California. One of the eight seminaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), it is a place to prepare for pastoral and diaconal ministry, teaching, spiritual renewal, and doctoral studies.

When founded in 1952, the school's mandate was to train pastors for the booming mission field of the West Coast. The training of pastors-and other church works-still stands at the heart of what PLTS does. After fifty years the question of the mission is once again at the heart of the church's life.

By 1962, PLTS was one of the four founding schools of the Graduate Theological Union. This added a second explicit commitment to their mission-the training of teachers and scholars for the future in an ecumenical context. It "stretched" PLTS in wonderful ways, contributed a fine common library, and helped to attract the high quality faculty that the school boasts today.

In 1989 the newly-formed ELCA asked the seminary to develop a non-degree program to train pastors who were needed for the special missional challenges of today, including leaders for communities of color and language other than English, and persons willing to serve in remote and challenging locations. The Alternate Route program-now called TEEM (Theological Education for Emerging Ministries)-has been one of PLTS' great achievements of the last dozen years. It has already served over 100 students who could not participate in traditional residential education.

These commitments define PLTS: the training of pastors and other church workers, the commitment to scholarship and teaching for the church, and the support for emerging ministries. A church in mission needs pastors, but cannot thrive with pastors alone. It also needs teachers, diaconal ministers, scholars, and theologically-trained lay people who will serve God articulately in the challenges and structures of the world. PLTS provides an environment for addressing both the questions of the church and the questions Christians encounter in their daily ministries.

-Christine Sinnott, editor

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