Readers, please accept this invitation to communicate with “Soundings,” either to react to articles in this issue of In Trust or to comment on other issues of concern to leaders in theological education. Feel free to be provocative, but do limit your letters to a maximum of 350 words. All letters are subject to editing. Our e-mail address is <email@example.com>.
Christa Klein’s excellent article “Institutional Imaging: Painting a Picture with Power” (Summer 2000) conjured up some images of my own. As I read the stimulating account of her interviews with four seminary presidents concerning the way in which they help their schools shape and portray an accurate, relevant, and unique institutional image, my mind started thinking about how I would have answered Dr. Klein’s questions. I also ruminated on what I could do in the next few months to focus on our own schools “image-making.”
For us at Phillips Theological Seminary, this is exactly the right time to clarify our self-image and the image we present to our constituencies. In May 2000, we completed the consolidation of our former two campuses at Enid and Tulsa, Oklahoma, to a single (but temporary) campus in Tulsa. In June 2000, we received official notification from the QuikTrip Corporation that we will be given, sometime in 2002, a seven-and-one-half-acre property in Tulsa for our permanent campus. This property contains two buildings totaling 57,000 square feet of space. Valued at more than $3 million, this gift is the largest in the seminary’s ninety-three-year history.
In consultation with our architects, we are currently determining exactly how best to reorganize and renovate the QuikTrip property for our purposes. Meaningful symbols from our heritage, a bell tower, and a meditative labyrinth will help us to transform office buildings into a modern theological school. As in the case of Hartford Seminary, PTS’s new campus will make an important statement about the way we “imagine” ourselves.
The new campus will, moreover, enable us to become highly visible in the Tulsa community. The location of the property is near the intersection of major freeways and close to the airport. It is also in north Tulsa—an area in which ethnic communities predominate, which gives us the opportunity to further diversify our student body and faculty. This diversity will be a crucial dimension of our new image.
The challenge before us is how to make our future campus the ideal facility in which to carry out our mission as well as the very best visual articulation of our institutional image. Thanks for your most helpful article on the topic. The ideas that it has provoked will be incorporated into our planning. As a consequence, we will end up not only with an exciting new campus but also with a vibrant new image!
William Tabbernee is president and Stephen J. England Professor of Christian Thought and History at Phillips Theological Seminary, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Read, Reach Out
The publications mentioned in the “Reading List” in the Summer issue are excellent. Whether one is new in development or a seasoned professional, reading other people’s ideas and stories is helpful in almost all situations. Attending seminars to hear how to do this work is also valuable.
Once you have read, studied, and listened, however, it is time to act. One of the common ways of falling short in this work is by simply not doing it. Let me offer a few observations from my own experience for those who may still be in the reading stage.
I believe that to be successful in development is to work at being in touch and staying in touch. Let prospects know early in a conversation your purpose, state it clearly, be a good listener, and above all, ask for the gift. This does not mean you ask without a relationship, but it does mean you build the relationship in a short period of time. People want to know you well enough to trust you and your organization. This takes a little time, not a lot of time.
Your reading and studying of “how to do” this work will give you tools, but only you can implement and use the proper tools correctly, given your style and personality.
Each day we decide what we do. Err on the side of being out of the office too much. Institutions have a way of pulling us in. Resist “in,” be out!
Being with people who care about theological education is most exciting. We have a thrilling challenge. Our work ultimately is about helping to change and to save lives. What a calling! Always represent your institution with integrity. Many times you are the only contact. Paint the picture of the seminary with clarity, stating the institution’s mission and vision.
Think outside the box at times. People will at times say no. This only helps us to limit contact to discover people who will say yes. Sometimes a “no” is only a “maybe” getting ready to be a “yes.” Finally, if you discover your work is one of your top five passions in life, you are probably in the right place. Read, study, attend seminars; but then, as the Nike commercial says, “Just do it.”
Neil B. Blair
Kansas City, Missouri
Neil B. Blair is the vice president of development at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri.