Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Seminary Bequeathed $20 Million

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Seminary Bequeathed $20 Million

Article excerpt

Pittsburgh Theological Seminary has received the largest donation in its history, more than $20 million from a lifelong Presbyterian and longtime insurance agent who talked little of himself and much of the generations of students he had supported through scholarships.

The seminary announced Tuesday the bequest of $20.25 million by Robert Thomson, whose Thomson & Sproull Insurance had a perch on the sixth floor of the Frick Building for more than half a century before his death Sept. 22 at age 94.

Mr. Thomson was known for quietly going about his work and serving faithfully at Shadyside Presbyterian Church.

He gave no indication such a bequest was in the works, said William Carl, president of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)- affiliated seminary.

"These are wonderful surprises," Mr. Carl said. "This is the biggest gift that has ever come from anyone, living or deceased, in the over-220-year history of the school. It's pretty amazing."

Mr. Carl said Mr. Thomson was "very quiet, very humble," impeccably dressed and long a resident on Fifth Avenue in the Squirrel Hill-Shadyside area.

Mr. Thomson served as treasurer of Shadyside Presbyterian and in other roles there, listed in church bulletins as an usher right up until September. "Those of us who were blessed to know and work with him will deeply miss his wisdom, wry wit, and unswerving constancy, and will cherish his memory and example," the church newsletter said at the time.

Mr. Carl said some of the bequest will be used to cover the outstanding balance of the seminary's $26 million capital campaign completing this year, of which $20.5 million has already been raised. The administration has begun asking professors and others in the seminary community for ideas on using the balance of it. The gift had no restrictions.

Mr. Carl said Mr. Thomson talked little of himself but enjoyed meeting with students at scholarship dinners. "He constantly was talking to me about, 'How are the students doing?' 'I'm so impressed with your students, impressed with where they're going to serve in churches and mission fields around the country and the world. …

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