Union Seminary, Columbia Sign Deal. (News)

The Christian Century, April 5, 2003 | Go to article overview

Union Seminary, Columbia Sign Deal. (News)


Financially struggling Union Theological Seminary in New York his signed a pact with neighboring Columbia University transferring the ownership of its huge library collections and leasing two buildings for 49 years to the university. The seminary, founded in 1836, has been dipping deeply into endowment funds for operating costs in recent years.

But with the Columbia contract, signed March 12, and a $39 million fund-raising campaign announced days later, Union President Joseph C. Hough Jr. said the school will staunch most-of its financial bleeding and strengthen its academic programs.

"I am personally optimistic that we will balance the budget by the end of this decade," said Hough, who previously was dean of theology at Vanderbilt and Claremont. "When I came here in 1999 the endowment was at $79 million and it's at $58 million now, even though we've added $8 million." The slumping stock market gets much of the blame. The Union board of directors has set a goal of drawing no more than 5.5 percent a year from the reserve funds by the decade's end, he said.

The theologically progressive seminary in Manhattan has had a 100-year relationship with Columbia that included joint degrees in graduate religion and social work programs, but graduate students will be allowed more cross-registration in the future. …

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