Celebrating Forty Years of Theological Scholarship
Over the past four decades, the GTU has become renowned as the "theological consortium that really works." Along with the doctoral and common M.A. programs, the GTU's nine member schools and ten affiliated centers share faculty, registration, courses, a bookstore, and—the jewel in the crown—the most comprehensive theological library in the U.S.
We are all aware that the nature of religious leadership has changed in light of the events of September 11, 2001. Now more than ever, the core mission of the GTU—to provide theological education for future religious leaders in a world that is increasingly interdependent and inter-religious—is essential for our future. The GTU has always been noted for its commitment to developing creative and progressive leadership for the academy and for ministry.
This timeline is offered in the spirit of celebrating a few of the remarkable events and people who have shaped this daring institution. As we look forward to the next forty years together, we warmly invite each one of you to join us in shaping the collaborative enterprise of the GTU.
Negotiations began in 1958 to form a cooperative graduate program. On September 24, 1962, articles incorporating the GTU were signed by the American Baptist Seminary of the West, then known as the Berkeley Baptist Divinity School; Church Divinity School of the Pacific; Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary; and San Francisco Theological Seminary. Sherman Johnson, dean at CDSP, was instrumental in the founding of the Union, and served as the first GTU dean.
John Dillenberger is one of the most important figures in the history of the GTU. Dean and first president between 1963 and 1971, Dr. Dillenberger led the union through a period of extensive growth. Dillenberger played a crucial role in enlisting the Pacific School of Religion and the Catholic schools—the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, the Franciscan School of Theology, and the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley—in the union. During his presidency in 1971, the GTU degree programs were fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Dr. Dillenberger also served as professor of historical theology, library director, and GTU president again from 1999 to 2000.
The first GTU center was the Center for Jewish Studies, founded in 1968 and named after longtime supporter Richard S. Dinner in 1995. Others include the Center for Women and Religion, founded in 1970; the Center for Ethics and Social Policy, established in 1974; the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, affiliated in 1981; and the Institute of Buddhist Studies, affiliated in 1985. The ten centers now affiliated with the GTU add dimensionto the Union, connecting students, faculty, and the community with new ideasand constituencies.
The schools established the GTU Common Library by integrating their individual collections. This was preceded by informal cooperation in the 1940s among three of the seminaries, and the creation of a shared library catalog in 1964–66. Dr. Stillson Judah, former PSR librarian, served as the first GTU head librarian. The merging of the schools' collections enabled the library to begin building a major graduate-level collection, in coordination with the University of California.
The first joint doctoral degree program with the University of California, Berkeley, was established in 1972, in Near Eastern studies. Together with the completion of the first phase of the library construction, developing the relationship with UCB is one of the major achievements of Claude Welch's presidency (1972–1982), and continues to be a priority. Today, the ties are strong, as testified to by two joint degree programs (the second in Jewish studies); cross-registration and library privileges for students of both institutions; and the involvement of UCB faculty in the work of GTU doctoral students.
Library building completed, based on a schematic design by the renowned Philadelphia architect Louis Kahn, and completed by Peters, Clayberg and Caulfield. The library is the last building designed by Kahn, and exemplifies his commitment to the use of natural light: "To me natural light is the only light, because it has mood—it provides a ground of common agreement for man—it puts us in touch with the eternal. Natural light is the only light that makes architecture architecture."
Named after the wife of computer industry pioneer William R. Hewlett, at his request, the Flora Lamson Hewlett Library is the most comprehensive theological library in the U.S. Recent renovations have increased the collection space and upgraded the technological resources. The library also functions as a gallery of spiritual art, hosting exhibits year round.
Henry Mayo Newhall fellowships established, thanks to the generosity of Jane Newhall, a staunch supporter of the GTU since its founding years. These research or teaching grants are awarded to student-faculty pairs, and often result in significant collaboration and abiding friendship. An average of 17 fellowships are given each year.
Efforts over the years have encouraged a more inclusive culture of racial, ethnic, cultural, and gender diversity throughout the consortium. A two-year project on diversity and community within the GTU, funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and directed by the Center for Ethics and Social Policy, culminated in the 2000 publication of a comprehensive resource guide. 2000 also saw the GTU and PSR hosting a minority recruitment conference in theological education. The work of the Racial Ethnic Faculty Association, as well as that of the Black Seminarians and the Korean Student Association, promotes conversation, curricular innovation, and multicultural resources for the GTU community.
The GTU was awarded a one million dollar grant from the Lilly Endowment, to enable GTU faculty to make creative use of technology in their teaching. The grant runs for five years, and provides for a Center for Teaching and Learning; "smart" classrooms with enhanced technological capabilities, computers for faculty, and a wide area network for the GTU.
A new common agreement is signed by the GTU member schools. The document signals a renewed level of cooperation, clarifies the structures of governance, and gives fresh expression to the purposes of the consortium:
- sharing educational resources in an ecumenical and interfaith environment to prepare women and men for vocations of ministry and scholarship, and
- nourishing ecumenical and interfaith encounter and dialogue within and beyond the consortium.