$2.5 Million Gift to Endow New Practical Theology Chair at Perkins

Perkins squareDALLAS (SMU) – A $2.5 million gift to Southern Methodist University will establish the new Susanna Wesley Centennial Chair in Practical Theology at Perkins School of Theology. The gift has been made through the Texas Methodist Foundation.

The new chair honors Susanna Wesley, frequently referred to as “the mother of Methodism.” Her sons, John and Charles Wesley, led a revival within the 18th century Anglican Church that sparked the emergence of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the American colonies.  Historians point to her “practical theology” as a source of inspiration for her sons.

The gift of $2 million in endowment funds, plus $100,000 a year for the first five years of operations, makes it possible to fill the chair in the next academic year. The chair’s special “Centennial” designation represents the foresight of donors who recognize the need for operational funds to provide immediate impact of their gift while the endowment matures.

“Perkins School of Theology and the University’s Methodist heritage are fundamental to our educational mission,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We are grateful for a gift that uniquely supports the Perkins School in its commitment to preparing men and women for contemporary ministry.”

“The discipline of Practical Theology helps students reflect on and formulate conclusions about the various fields of theological inquiry as they relate to one’s practice of ministry,” said Perkins Dean William B. Lawrence. “Perkins School of Theology graduates are facing an ever–changing world of ministry opportunities.  Helping students think theologically in ministry settings is essential for successful pastors and Christian workers.”

SMU is celebrating the centennial of its founding in 1911 and its opening in 1915, and theology was among SMU’s first academic programs. At the same time, Texas Methodist Foundation (TMF) is celebrating its 75th anniversary, having been founded during the Great Depression to support financially the ministry of what is now known as The United Methodist Church. TMF provides loan, investment, gift planning, endowment, grant and stewardship services that support financial sustainability for the United Methodist community and strengthen the ability of United Methodists to advance Christian ministries.

“The Texas Methodist Foundation is always pleased to connect the passions of donors with causes they believe in,” commented Tom Locke, president. “While this gift is anonymous, the donors clearly believe in the potential for Perkins to strengthen the relevance of the church in today’s challenging environment. Given our work with pastors and congregations through our Leadership Ministry, it is gratifying for us to play a role in facilitating a gift that helps students combine theological reflection with the ever-changing context of real-life ministry.”

“We are very grateful to the donor for recognizing the importance of endowed centennial positions during this important time in the University’s history,” said Brad Cheves, SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs. “This insightful gift through the Texas Methodist Foundation is a tremendous addition to excellent programs in the Perkins School of Theology, and we are proud to receive it.”

Perkins School of Theology at SMU is one of the 13 theological schools of The United Methodist Church and one of only five university-related United Methodist theological schools, located in the heart of Dallas with an extension program in Houston/Galveston. The school offers graduate degrees and certificate programs, and Perkins’ Intern Program has become the model for effective field preparation for practical ministry.

The gift to fund the Susanna Wesley Centennial Chair in Practical Theology counts toward the $1 billion goal of SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, and toward the campaign’s goal to reach 110 endowed faculty positions. To date the campaign has raised more than $902 million in gifts and pledges to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience.

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