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Reunion Questions & Answers
As Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary make plans to reunite, below are some details to help answer questions concerning the institutions' commitment to a renewed connection and shared mission.
A reuniting of Trinity and Capital into one entity holds great promise. The sum total of the transformative power of the two institutions united together is greater than the sum of the two apart. The union will strengthen identity and create distinction. Together we can excel at:
Mission, belief in the potential of a brighter future together, and shared history and vision are driving our commitment to pursue this reunion. It is responsive to and formalizes the collaboration and hope that have existed for decades. It captures the history and spirit of the two institutions. We were one, then two, now one again.
There are various legal mechanisms for effecting this legal reunion and reintegration. We are studying the options and will choose the mechanism that most strongly supports the success of the reunion.
Trinity has minimal liabilities and virtually no debt, according to its most recently completed audit. With its strategic plan and financial appeal for long-term viability in place, Trinity enters this commitment with positive momentum and a strong reputation for excellence. It’s true that seminaries and tuition-dependent institutions like Capital are operating in embattled sectors. Greater competition, enrollment constraints, students’ price sensitivity, and growing overhead costs from operations and compliance make financial challenges very real. But there is synergy created by this reunion, which is being studied and planned collaboratively, with full transparency and due diligence, and with the shared commitment to creating a sustainable financial model for the seminary within the University. The reunion is reliant on the enactment of four key strategies for defining a sustainable financial model — creating infrastructure efficiencies through collaboration, diversifying tuition revenue streams, strengthening gift and grant contributions, and optimizing physical and endowed assets. Now is the time to face our challenges with strong leaders, clear vision and determination. Given our proximity, literally across the street from each other and down the street from Ohio’s capital city, this commitment makes sense. But the real driver of this reunion is strong alignment in mission.
Capital is no exception to the challenged financial model of tuition-dependent private universities. This is not a new challenge, and Capital has employed a model of fiscal conservatism in budgeting, which has yielded modest operating budget surpluses that have enabled investment in human, capital and educational assets. The value of its well-diversified endowment performs with the market expectations. Capital also has been conservative in leveraging its balance sheet with debt, and has grown its investments to over $90 million as of September 30, 2016. The challenges facing higher education, especially institutions like Capital and Trinity, are real. This reunion is being studied and planned collaboratively, with full transparency and due diligence, and with the shared commitment to creating a sustainable financial model for the seminary within the University, employing four key strategies — creating infrastructure efficiencies through collaboration, diversifying tuition revenue streams, strengthening gift and grant contributions, and optimizing physical and endowed assets. The sustainable business model requires enactment of all four strategies. The projected success of this reunion is strong because all four strategies can be enacted, and there is joint commitment to enact them. Given our proximity, literally across the street from each other and down the street from Ohio’s capital city, this commitment makes sense. But the real driver of this reunion is strong alignment in mission.
No. This is a move to strengthen the shared mission of Trinity and Capital for the sake of our students and the world. Pursuing reunion is an expression of commitment to the continuing imperative of the mission and contributions of Trinity Lutheran Seminary, which through reunion with Capital University, can continue and thrive, developing new leaders for the church and the world. As such, a reunion strengthens Capital University’s Lutheran identity as its orientation for educating and forming the next generation of leaders.
However, given that Trinity and Capital are located literally across the street from each other, the property of both schools could potentially be redesigned to be used differently than it is today. Nationally, seminaries that are thriving and solid are generally not freestanding – they are part of a university. The physical proximity of seminaries and the universities of which they are part is predictive of success. The fact that our campuses are literally across the street from each other offers distinct advantages that facilitate success, and differentiate this reunion from the other seminary-university connections made in the last few years. Creating infrastructure efficiencies will give students access to more resources and enhance faculty and staff collaboration.
The conversation about the potential of a reunion of Capital and Trinity is not new, but it has been renewed and accelerated in recent months. A significant amount of careful work, extensive research, collaborative conversation and discovery have convinced university and seminary leaders, and their respective boards, that now is the time to take an important step forward. Now that we have an approved resolution of intent, we will undertake a thorough process of due diligence and careful evaluation. Due diligence is the process of reviewing the ins and outs of an organization to assess potential risks and anticipated benefits of a planned event/transaction. It may cover a wide range of areas such as legal, operational, financial, marketing and organizational structure. Due diligence allows the parties to plan how to address areas of concern and maximize benefits, and informs the development of the final plans for integration, building a foundation for a sound, solid, dynamic reunion of our institutions.
Capital, Trinity, the Higher Learning Commission, and the Department of Higher Education have standards and processes in place to regularly evaluate the viability of any degree program. As we innovate to meet the demand for interdisciplinary programs and degrees at undergraduate and graduate levels, we fully expect we’ll draw even more people into our community by enhancing existing programs and developing a new and distinctive style of higher education, theological and other.
The mission and vision that inspired this appeal also inspired this reunion. This reunion strengthens Trinity’s appeal; as a result of shared operational resources, a higher percentage of each gift will be directed toward new and expanded education programs, for the good of students, the organization and the world.
Trinity Lutheran Seminary will retain its name and identity. Structurally, it will be the seminary of Capital University. Culturally, we expect Trinity and Capital to bolster each other. Trinity’s mission of forming leaders for Christ’s church at work in the world is an expression of Capital University’s core mission and therefore is emboldened by Capital’s Lutheran heritage, identity and mission. Likewise, Capital’s Lutheran heritage, identity and mission are emboldened by Trinity’s vision and mission. The president of Capital University is committed deeply to the University’s mission, vision and Lutheran values, and supports and expects the excellence of all programs. Each program has a strong identity grounded in the University mission and is celebrated for distinctive emphases and contributions. Trinity Lutheran Seminary will be similarly guided, celebrated and communicated.
Capital and Trinity will assemble a transition team to closely study and guide key operational changes. Whenever two organizations formally integrate operations, certain redundant positions must be eliminated. Personnel challenges are very difficult. Decisions about employment will be made carefully to ensure the long-term health and vitality of the organization, and in accordance with our shared values. Treating everyone with dignity is a high priority. We will be frequent and transparent in our communications and use forums, surveys and conversations to inform these important and difficult decisions.
The transition team, which will include representatives from faculty, will review the seminary programs and determine what is needed to ensure all academic programs are delivered at the highest level of excellence. We will clearly communicate decisions, and we will act with integrity, respect and transparency, acknowledging the vital role and contributions of faculty to the mission and continuity of the institution.
Your restricted gift to either institution will be respected and will remain with the designated institution just as it does today. Trinity’s For the Sake of the World appeal is well in progress and will continue, likely strengthened by this reunion. Both Capital and Trinity have endowments that will continue to support each respective institution.
The Board of Directors will transition to an advisory board for Trinity, the chair of which will sit on Capital’s Board of Trustees, per the bylaws of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Trinity’s presidential search has been suspended. The committee will be reconfigured and will launch a national search for a seminary dean immediately. There will be Capital representation on the search committee. The ideal candidate will be a strong leader who can advance the vision for strong theological education and ensure the success of this plan.
The Trinity Lutheran Seminary name and identity will be retained under the new structure. Trinity Lutheran Seminary will be on a seminary student’s diploma. Trinity will remain an accredited institution of The Association of Theological Schools and the premier seminary of the ELCA. As new academic programming and modes of delivery emerge, the value of the degree will be strengthened by institutional reputation and interdisciplinary programs accessible through multiple modes of learning unlike those any other seminary or private university can offer.
The same values that inform these positions and strategic initiatives are reflected in Capital’s values of diversity and inclusion, interfaith dialogue, sustainability and stewardship, vocation and service. Capital is committed to being a model diverse community for learning and living inclusively. This is in strong parallel with Trinity’s commitment to being “ecumenically, ethnically, and gender diverse” and our shared commitments to domestic and global community engagement. Reflective of our shared values, these strategic initiatives will continue as part of Trinity’s strategic plan, and the new dean will be expected to continue to lead the seminary toward its strategic goals.
From 1830 to 1959, Capital University and the Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary (ELTS) were one institution with a shared mission. Due to a directive of the then newly formed American Lutheran Church, ELTS separated from Capital. For a number of years, the two entities enjoyed shared services as if they were still one, but in 1978 that relationship would change. A merger of ELTS with Hamma Divinity School, in Springfield, Ohio, created Trinity Lutheran Seminary. For 38 years these two institutions have lived side-by-side with some shared initiatives but with clear institutional autonomy.
Trinity Lutheran Seminary and Capital University are now called together with the expectation and commitment that, reunited, we can have greater positive impact on our world than we can achieve separately.
We believe constructive and critical dialogue strengthens outcomes. Capital and Trinity leadership have committed to frequent communication and transparency and an open exchange of ideas. When you receive communications and invitations to participate in face-to-face conversations, electronic surveys and other tools for soliciting input, please respond. We also welcome your prayers, goodwill and encouragement as we build the right plan for a stronger, reunited Capital and Trinity.
Integrating separate institutions is a complex process reliant on strong leadership and uncompromising commitment to students at both organizations. There are dozens of voices and many tables. Trinity and Capital convene regularly to identify key issues, reimagine processes and define the best structures to sustain an integrated Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary well into the future. Among the guiding principles for our work are:
Among Trinity’s many strengths are academic excellence, interdisciplinary and contextual education, leadership in the Reconciled in Christ Program and Green Faith Initiative, and the caliber of leaders it forms for the church and the world. These strengths, and others, intersect powerfully with Capital’s strengths creating an extraordinary opportunity. That opportunity is predicated on a sustainable business model, which requires us to integrate operations, minimize redundancies and imagine new ways to put our mission and students first. Our senior leaders have developed combined operations and staffing plans for each functional area of the institutions. Our boards have rigorously and continually reviewed our work and findings, reaffirming their support at each step. Our accrediting bodies, both the Higher Learning Commission and Association of Theological Schools, have endorsed our work and offered important guidance on next steps. Likewise, we are heartened by the continuing support of Bishop Elizabeth Eaton who shares the vision for rejuvenation of the seminary, church, and the world.
Capital has a deep sense of commitment to extending the legacy of the seminary to future generations. There are institutional and accreditation standards and processes in place, which we use to regularly evaluate the viability of any degree program. As we innovate to meet the demand for interdisciplinary programs and degrees, and as we implement a sustainable business model, we fully expect we’ll draw even more people into our community. We will do this by enhancing existing programs, developing a new and distinctive style of higher education, theological and other, and strengthening recruitment operations.
President Barger announced in May 2016 he would retire August 31, 2017. A search for a seminary dean is ongoing, and the Rev. Dr. Stanley N. Olson will begin his term as interim president of Trinity August 1. President (Emeritus?) Barger will continue to be a valued and honored friend of Trinity and Capital.
Those whose employment has been impacted have been notified at least three months in advance to give them ample time to find new employment opportunities. Out of an abundance of respect for the talented and dedicated individuals who are affected, we underscore that these decisions in no way reflect their significant contributions to Trinity, nor should the elimination of their position be seen as an indication of performance. We deeply value these individuals, and we honor their years of service. Likewise, we have pledged to help them in this transition with counseling, résumé guidance and job placement services to help them find new employment opportunities, especially as new roles at Capital emerge. We have also been deliberately timing searches for some positions at Capital so Trinity staff can seek these opportunities, as interested and qualified.