Louisville, Ky. –
Dr. John M. Mulder has submitted to the Board of Trustees of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary his resignation as President and tenured Professor. Meeting in Louisville today, the Board determined his resignation is in the best interest of the Seminary and is effective immediately.
Dorothy Ridings, Chair of the Board, announced the Board’s decision and said, “John's leadership of the Seminary and indeed of theological education generally, has been remarkable. He will be remembered for his years of outstanding leadership.”
She added that the Seminary’s Administrative Cabinet, under the leadership of Dean Dianne Reistroffer, will continue to oversee the day-to-day activities of the Seminary until an Interim President is named.
A Presidential Search Committee will be chaired by Dr. Robert Reed, a Cincinnati physician and immediate past Chair of the Board of Trustees. The committee will be representative of the Seminary community. The search will be denomination-wide, and it could take at least a year before a new president is in place.
In his resignation letter, Dr. Mulder wrote, “As you know, I have had a number of health problems in recent years and recently learned that I have suffered some mild strokes. I have so much more I want to accomplish in service to God, and I want to devote more time to my dear family.”
Dr. Mulder told Board members he came here because of a profound sense of call, and added, “I leave with an equally profound sense of God’s call to do something which does not involve the daily demands of the presidency.”
The following is a summary of Dr. Mulder's tenure and a list of major accomplishments:
Dr. John M. Mulder’s Tenure
When Dr. John M. Mulder arrived on the Louisville Seminary campus as its seventh president; he was only 35 years old. Though he claimed to have little experience in administration, he quickly demonstrated an innate gift for leadership and a vision for directing the mission of a nationally recognized institution.
In more than 21 years, Mulder has significantly contributed to the growth and advancement of the Seminary. He focused on strengthening Louisville Seminary’s faculty, programs, and infrastructure. Since 1981, he added 13 merit scholarships, managed the overall growth of the Seminary’s endowment from $11.5 million in 1981 to $73.8 million in 2000 and increased the number of faculty endowed chairs from one to ten.
“I was asked how I wanted to be remembered as president,” Mulder stated once. “I replied, ‘that I helped to build a faculty.’ That is the most important contribution I think I have made to Louisville Seminary and to the church of Jesus Christ.”
Milton J Coalter, Vice President for Library and Information Technology and Mulder’s colleague and friend, recalled that nearly all the faculty were due to retire in the president’s first decade in office. “He set in motion the collaborative effort of faculty, students and alumni/ae to attract a group of men and women who shared his love of teaching, his commitment to rigorous scholarship, and his devotion to Jesus Christ and the church. Working with that faculty, John has brought national attention to the Seminary by fostering fruitful research and reflection on the challenges facing Christian communions today,” Coalter said.
His comprehensive vision has embodied the basic objective of equipping people – for ministry, for leadership, for faith development, for the future. This is evident in initiatives such as the Lilly Endowment funded Louisville Institute, the Lay Institute of Theology, the Grawemeyer Award in Religion, a degree program in Marriage and Family Therapy that is rated one of the top in the nation, and the innovative Center for Congregations and Family Ministries.
“John has done all this,” remarked Coalter, “while remaining vitally active as a respected scholar of American religion and Presbyterianism.” Ten years ago, with Coalter and Louis B. Weeks, Mulder published the groundbreaking, award-winning Presbyterian Presence series funded by the Lilly Endowment, published by Westminster John Knox Press, a comprehensive study of the Presbyterian Church in the 20th century. No other American denomination attempted such a task. Their Vital Signs has been revised and will be released by Faith Walk Publishing in November 2002.
In the Presbyterian denomination, Mulder is perhaps best known for his tireless efforts to provide a central location for the national headquarters and the creation of a new logo for the newly re-united Presbyterian Church. He has continued to serve the denomination in behalf of the education of ministers and other church leaders.
In the midst of two decades of successful leadership, Dr. Mulder has continued a personal involvement in teaching Louisville Seminary students in the classroom. He has not only served as President, leader and visionary, he has also been teacher, pastor and friend.
“I have experienced John as a teacher who encouraged me to accept teaching challenges that I might otherwise have declined,” said Dr. F. Morgan Roberts, a retired minister who has served on the Seminary Board and is now the interim director of the field education program. “He has been a companion who supported me in bereavement at the time of my mother’s death, and colleague who was always patient with me in my failures.” Countless others would share similar experiences of Mulder’s compassion and care.
In his letter to the Board of Trustees, Mulder said, “In my inaugural sermon in September 1981, I said I felt called to be president of this Seminary. It’s been a wonderful experience – these 21 years – and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to lead this exceptional Seminary during that time I came here because of a profound sense of call, and I leave with an equally profound sense of God’s call to continue to serve the church through preaching, writing, and teaching.”
Louisville Seminary has a reputation for an exceptionally high number of graduates who fulfill their calling as pastors of congregations. “John Mulder has not only been a faithful steward of that legacy. He has ensured that legacy will continue to enliven the body of Christ long after his or our time in this community has passed,” said Coalter.
John M. Mulder
A Legacy of Service in Leadership
(not in chronological order)
“God’s call is not a blueprint for our lives, but a call to a pilgrimage in the wilderness, sustained by God’s love and grace. I do feel called to be the president of this seminary, but I pray for the humility to know how God will lead this institution.”– John M. Mulder, inaugural sermon, September 1981.
- Completed a major study of American Presbyterianism as a case study of mainstream Protestantism in the 20th century.
- Established sister relationships with seminaries in Montpelier, France; Seoul, Korea; Hungary; Myanmar; Morija, Lesotho; and the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India.
- Established covenants with the Christian Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal and African Methodist Episcopal Churches, in addition to the partnership with the United Methodist Church, approving Louisville Seminary as a recognized institution to train their respective ministers.
- Initiated the Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy Degree in 1993 and restored the Master of Theology degree.
- Fostered integrated course work across academic areas and encouraged team teaching, allowing for deeper relationships between one discipline and another—classroom education with field education; theology with the practice of ministry.
- Reformed the Master of Divinity Degree Program through an integrated curricula and leading students toward articulating their faith through the process of writing a Statement of Faith.
- Increased the number of full-time faculty positions from 11 in 1981 to its current number of 22 and worked toward greater diversity among the faculty. In 2001, one third of the faculty is women, and three African American professors have been hired since 1997.
- Endowed nine faculty chairs in Christian education, doctrinal theology, church history, ethics, pastoral counseling, preaching and worship, Bible and pastoral ministry, bringing the number of fully-endowed faculty positions to ten.
- Since 1981, the faculty has contributed 79 publications.
- Established a formula to reduce the amount of draw on the budget and placed financial aid to students as a top priority and added 13 renewable merit scholarships and increased international student scholarships.
- Reorganized management of the endowment, contributing to its significant growth from $11.5 million in 1981 to $73.8 million in 2000.
- In 1996, launched the 150th Anniversary Project to Fund Louisville Seminary 2003, which has nearly reached its goal of $55 million.
- Established Distinguished Alumni/ae Awards in 1986.
- Computerized the Ernest White Library collection and linked the library at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
- Creation of the Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion.
- Established the Center for Congregations and Family Ministry and became the publisher for the journal Family Ministry: Empowering Through Faith.
- The purchase of Gardencourt historical mansion and 14 additional acres for the campus.
- Construction of the Roger Wood Puckett Organ for Caldwell Chapel.
- The renovation of Albert C. and Grace Winn Center, the addition of new porches and low-maintenance roofs on the buildings of the main quadrangle.
- Construction of the William R. and Ellen Laws Lodge Retreat and Conference Center.
- Published Woodrow Wilson: A Bibliography, co-edited with Ernest M. White and Ethel S. White (Greenwood Press, 1997).
- Published Sealed in Christ: The Symbolism of the Seal of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), (Presbyterian Publishing House, l99l).
- Published Conversions: The Christian Experience, co-edited with Hugh T. Kerr. (Eerdmans, l983).