Home Faculty meeting San Anselmo seminary celebrates 150 years

San Anselmo seminary celebrates 150 years


  • A labyrinth outside the Geneva Hall receives a new coat of paint at the San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo on Thursday, December 2, 2021. The seminary is celebrating its 150th anniversary. (Alan Dep / Marin Independent Journal)

  • Acting Dean Christopher Ocker descends the stairs under Geneva Hall on the campus of the San Francisco Theological Seminary / University of Redlands Graduate School of Theology in San Anselmo on Thursday, December 2, 2021 (Alan Dep / Marin Independent Journal)

  • Acting Dean Christopher Ocker is pictured outside Montgomery Hall on the campus of the San Francisco Theological Seminary / University of Redlands Graduate School of Theology in San Anselmo on Thursday, December 2, 2021 (Alan Dep / Marin Independent Journal)

After humble beginnings with four students in 1871, San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo celebrates 150 years as an increasingly complex institution with thousands of alumni.

“It’s pretty impressive to think that seminary turns 150 years old,” said Christopher Ocker, acting dean of the graduate school of theology. “We’re really excited to see what the future holds. “

The seminary was founded after the Pacific Synod, a council within the Presbyterian Church, appointed a new council to lead the effort.

“Four professors and four students met for the first time to be taught at Presbyterian City College in what is now Union Square on Nov. 14, 1871,†the seminary website states.

In 1877, the seminary moved to a building at 121 Haight St. The campus was moved to San Anselmo in 1890 when the council accepted an offer of land on the 14-acre hill where the school now resides.

The seminary is a founding member of the Graduate Theological Union, a Berkeley-based consortium that was launched in 1962 to provide an institutional framework for interfaith discussion and education.

In 2019, the seminary merged with the University of Redlands, a non-profit organization established in 1907, to offer students what every school couldn’t do on its own, according to administrators.

Together, the institutions launched the Graduate School of Theology, offering certification programs in mental health and spirituality, trauma and spiritual care, and LGBTQ leadership, among other fields. The university has also started offering master’s programs in business administration and organizational leadership.

The merger created a Marin campus for Redlands, which has seven campuses in Southern California. Students can access classes in person or online for those who study primarily on other campuses.

The campus now accommodates around 100 students with eight full-time professors and many adjunct professors. There are 3,000 seminary graduates working around the world, Ocker said.

“The timing is very optimistic for us,†Ocker said. “We believe we are perfectly positioned to carry on the best of our traditions of the past 150 years, but also to approach our work in a truly new way.

Kathy Ogren, provost at the University of Redlands, said not all seminary students end up in ministry, which is why administrators have expanded educational opportunities.

“A number of our students are in second careers or a little older and are looking for ways to bring in new skills,†Ogren said. “Often, students are looking for career paths in nonprofit or social service-type careers. “

At 31 with an eight-year career in data science, Ryan Knauber came to seminary seeking a master’s degree in divinity, usually a step for those destined to become a pastor or chaplain. Knauber recently became the youth director of Sleepy Hollow Presbyterian Church. He said he was probably on the road to ordination.

“One thing I found interesting about this seminar is that it is not exclusively Christian – you learn about different spiritual practices and belief systems,†he said. “People here are doing a good progressive job. “

Besides education, Ogren said, the seminary campus is a destination for weddings. It has two chapels and a view of Mount Tamalpais.

The campus is also the site of outdoor yoga sessions, facilities, meetings, retreats and speakers, Ogren said. The management is exploring the possibilities of offering concerts.

“Now that we can organize events again, we will continue to do so,†she said.

The 150th anniversary was commemorated during a celebration weekend on campus last month, drawing alumni from around the world. San Anselmo City Council also presented a proclamation to the seminary in honor of his many years.

“Those of us who have been here for a while are familiar with the seminar,” CEO David Donery said at the November 23 board meeting. “We’ve probably all explored it, heard the bells, and really enjoyed what we referred to like the castle on the hill.

“I certainly appreciate the new vitality and new energy that has been on campus,” said Mayor Brian Colbert of the merger with Redlands.

The San Anselmo Historical Museum has an exhibit honoring the 150th anniversary until the end of the year. The museum, which is located on the lower level of the San Anselmo Public Library at 110 Tunstead Avenue, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Most of us who live in San Anselmo only know the seminary by its beauty, but we don’t know the faculty, staff or students,†said Judy Coy, president of the city’s historical commission. . “This display was to show the other side past and present.”