Library professor and director accepts call to Union-PSCE Seminary
After nearly two decades serving on the faculty and directing library services at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Dr. Milton “Joe” Coalter will join Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education as librarian and professor of bibliography beginning in Fall 2004.
Coalter came to Louisville Seminary in 1985 to direct the library and to teach American religion and research skills for academic and pastoral work. During his tenure at Louisville, Coalter not only became a leading theological librarian, but a first-rate teacher, historian, pastor, and administrator.
“Joe has served the multiple instructional demands and research needs of this campus with skill, innovation, and grace,” said Seminary Dean Dianne Reistroffer. “His colleagues in the library praise him for fostering a team atmosphere and respecting the opinions and insights of all of the members of the library. Faculty members share similar respect and admiration for Joe’s leadership, Christian character, and friendship. Students in every degree program hail Joe as a brilliant lecturer and seminar leader, a compassionate, analytical, and intense listener, and a demanding, yet highly respected professor and advisor.”
As library director, Coalter and his staff ushered the Ernest Miller White Library into the world of automation. In 1994, the library moved to its own automated system and is currently executing a migration to a new Ex Libris system. Today, the library collection offers more than 140,000 volumes, as well as thousands of microfilms, audio-visual resources, and subscriptions and access to state of the art electronic resources. As the physical space of the White Library became limited, Coalter initiated the purchase of compact shelving, which now provides Louisville Seminary with an impressive capacity for 117,000 additional volumes.
In 2000, responsibility for the Seminary’s information technology advancement was added to Coalter’s position. As Vice President for Library and Information Technology Services, he consolidated the technological needs of the Seminary, both professional and academic, into one area of support and leadership. His guidance in this area has extended the use of technological resources in the classroom and in research and incorporated more fully information technology with library sciences at the Seminary.
His excellence in leadership and administration was further evidenced as he shepherded the Seminary through a major reaccredidation process in 1997, which resulted in high marks for the Seminary and commendations for Coalter’s self-study process, now emulated by other schools. Most recently, he served as acting president in the midst of institutional transition and challenges following the resignation of former president John M. Mulder and during the celebration of the Seminary’s 150th anniversary.
“Joe Coalter’s caring presence on the Louisville Seminary campus has established a very special legacy. Not only did he give years to the accomplishment of tasks for which he came here with unparalleled competency and grace, he also did the job of the presidency here in a time of particular need as though it had always been his chosen calling,” said Interim President John Kuykendall, who followed Coalter’s leadership in August 2003. “The stability and hopefulness which he evoked from this community over recent months may well be his very finest service here. His absence will leave a great void in the seminary and in the lives of the people who love it, but the positive changes he has made in so many areas of its life will persist for many years to come.”
Coalter is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and has made significant contributions to theological scholarship and the work of the Church. With Mulder and Louis Weeks, president of Union-PSCE Theological Seminary, he co-directed an extensive study of Presbyterians in the 20th century, which was published in a seven-volume series, entitled The Presbyterian Presence: The Twentieth Century Experience. He is co-editor, with Virgil Cruz, of How Shall We Witness? (1995) and, with Mulder and Weeks, Vital Signs: The Promise of Mainstream Protestantism, which was reissued by FaithWalk Publishing in 2002. He has served as president of the American Theological Library Association and also serves as editor and administrator for “Resources for American Christianity”