A Welcome from the Dean
“This is a special place!” My predecessor, Dean Maxine Beach, has said that to me about Drew Theological School on more than one occasion. Since beginning my tenure here as Dean, I have begun to see how right my predecessor is.
“This is a special place!” It is a welcoming, hospitable, and caring community. We do not pretend to be a perfect community but we strive hard to welcome all our students and visitors who come through the doors of Seminary Hall. We care for the shalom, the well-being, of each individual and the community as a whole.
“This is a special place!” It has a diverse faculty, staff, and students. Our faculty perhaps is the most diverse in all of theological education. Forty-five percent of our faculty are African/African Americans, Asian/Asian Americans, and Latino/a. We have almost an equal number of women and men on the faculty. Many of our European American faculty have significant cross-cultural experiences. As a faculty, we care deeply about issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class, ecology and the environment. We address these issues intellectually in our teaching and practically in our advocacy for justice. Our students are even more diverse. There is no majority racial/ethnic group among our student population. There is a good balance in terms of gender. One-fifth of our students are international. Our diversity contributes significantly to the richness of the classroom environment.
“This is a special place!” It is an intellectually stimulating environment. Our faculty are internationally renowned in their fields. Our doctoral students come here to study specifically with our faculty in their various fields. More importantly, we emphasize interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in our programs, curriculum, and classroom teaching. Our students, therefore, learn to think beyond the narrow confines of disciplines and areas. We prepare our students to take seriously the cultivation of the mind, whether or not they are preparing themselves as pastors, community leaders, or scholars.
“This is a special place!” It is a place that takes as seriously the formation of spiritual leaders as it takes the preparation of scholars and teachers. We assist our students in the development of their spiritual disciplines through our excellent chapel practicum program and the new Certification in Spiritual Formation. Likewise, we help them to grow spiritually through our cross-cultural immersion courses and internship programs in encountering the “other” and examining the role of faith communities in addressing the social problems of the world beyond the walls of the church.
“This is a special place!” It has a number of innovative initiatives, particularly, the PREP Program (Partnership for Religious Education in Prisons) and the Communities of Shalom Program. Through these programs, we take our students beyond “The Forest” and into other contexts for a sustained period of intensive learning. In PREP, students attend full semester courses together with inmates inside Edna Mahan and Northern State NJ correctional facilities. In the Shalom program, students spend a summer term living and working with community leaders who are struggling to transform their rural, urban, or reservation communities. Through such experiences, the perspectives of our students are broadened and in turn they enriched the life of the community.
I am very excited to be here. I invite you to explore the information in these pages and hope that you will come to visit us and find out more about this special place!
Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan
Dean of Drew Theological School
Read Dean Kuan’s Installation Address on April 8, 2011.
The Distinctiveness of Drew
Drew Theological School represents a unique combination of church ties and university setting, faithfulness in ministry and cultural relevance, classical Christian convictions and creative reinterpretations, regard for diversity and protection of personal integrity, global awareness and local effectiveness, intellectual rigor, and vital community life.
Drew Theological School empowers leadership for a global Christianity of justice, ecumenism, and the integrity of creation. Its pastoral, spiritual, and conceptual disciplines grow within an intimate liturgical and communal context, one that sustains multiple relations of difference. Through its particular historical commitments to African, Asian, African-American, Hispanic, and women’s ministries, the Theological School remains faithfully rooted in its Methodist heritage. Drew nurtures Christian practices through vital partnership with local churches and international networks of education. Trans-disciplinary interpretation of text, tradition, and experience energizes its scholarly rigor. Drew engenders theologies responsible to the complex social realities of an interconnected world. Into that world Drew sends pastors, preachers and prophets, deacons, activists, and teachers.
Our Theological Passion
Drew Theological School is rooted in the Wesleyan heritage and celebrates the centrality of Christ to our faith. The school does not require students to adopt a particular position or creed, but expects that students will remain in touch with and develop their own distinct faith tradition. Students take responsibility for articulating their own convictions, yet remain in dialogue with those of other faiths and with Christians who may think and believe differently. Students find many persons who share their faith experience and learn from persons who challenge them with their differences. In a world where diversity is often an excuse for hatred and a trigger for violence, Drew students learn to use diversity as a key to unlock the mysteries of a God beyond individual understanding, who is revealed more fully through our shared faith and experience.
Drew University was conceived in 1866 when there arose a growing demand for organized theological education in the Methodist Episcopal Church (that year was also the centenary of American Methodism). In response to this need, Daniel Drew, a Wall Street financier and steamboat tycoon, offered $250,000 to found the Drew Theological Seminary. In 1867, the first students arrived at “The Forest,” the former Gibbons estate in Madison, New Jersey. President John McClintock and four professors presided over the first class of Seminarians, even before the school received its New Jersey Charter in 1868.
Through great financial distress and five presidents, Drew remained a training ground for hundreds of Methodist ministers. During the presidency of Ezra Tipple, however, the small seminary evolved into a university. In 1920, the seminary introduced a College of Missions, which offered a regular course of study for women. In 1928, Arthur and Leonard Baldwin offered President Tipple $1.5 million to build and endow an undergraduate college of liberal arts. The first class of all-male Brothers College began study in September 1928. With the addition of the aptly named Brothers College, Drew Theological Seminary became Drew University. In 1929, the College of Missions was reorganized into the short-lived College of Religious Education and Missions. Two years later, the seminary benefited greatly from a large bequest from the Wendel family; the money both allowed and encouraged the two schools (the seminary and Brothers College) to operate as nearly separate entities. In 1942-43, Brothers College became coeducational, during a time when many of the College’s men were overseas and the U.S. Navy operated a V-12 program on campus.
In the 1950s, Brothers College became more widely known as the College of Liberal Arts, and the seminary became known as the Theological School. In 1955, a Graduate School that emphasized theological studies was established; four years later, a humanities program was added. Degree-oriented continuing education programs became part of the curriculum in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1999, the Graduate School was renamed the Caspersen School in honor of Trustee Barbara Morris Caspersen and her husband, Finn, who pledged $5 million to the university for the graduate school.
Excerpted from: John Cunningham, University in the Forest: The Story of Drew University, Third edition, 2002.
Courtesy of the Drew University Archives.