Church woman’s half-million-dollar gift endows Seminary scholarship
By Toya Richards
Like tiny seeds scattered over rich soil, the faces of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (LPTS) were planted in the heart of the late Nannie A. “Nan” Bellah, and the harvest has resulted in a transformational gift of more than $500,000 for student aid and Seminary support.
Bellah, of Mt. Vernon, Ill., died August 8, 2009. As a part of her estate plans, Louisville Seminary is the recipient of a gift in the amount of $586,000. The gift was announced to members of the Seminary’s Board of Trustees at their fall meeting, October 21-23, 2010, and the Board approved designating $400,000 of the gift to the institution’s flagship Scholarship for Excellence Program, with the remaining $186,000 going to the Seminary’s general unrestricted endowment.
“There is no priority higher at Louisville Seminary than the endowment of scholarships,” said the Rev. Dr. Michael Jinkins, the Seminary’s president. “We want to attract the best students possible for ministry and to send them forth, as nearly as possible, debt free.”
“We want to make sure that our graduates can go wherever God calls them,” he said. “This gift will enable us to welcome the first Bellah Scholar in 2011-12, the first in a long line of future pastoral leaders.”
In fact, it was Louisville Seminary’s development of pastoral leaders that likely influenced Bellah’s gift.
Bellah was a member of First Presbyterian Church in Mt. Vernon, where the parents of Louisville Seminary’s director of alum and church relations, the Rev. Leah Ellison Bradley (MDiv ’97), are members. Bellah got to know Bradley and her family when Bradley visited First Presbyterian and filled the pulpit from time to time. Bellah also saw the face of Louisville Seminary in alumna Cindy Bean (MDiv ’91) who served as interim pastor for First Presbyterian beginning in 2002.
“Cindy was among the many seeds scattered at First Presbyterian in Mt. Vernon,” said Bradley. “Any time we can put a face on Louisville Seminary, it intensifies somebody’s instinct to give. And I know my parents (Tom and Marcia Ellison) put a face on seminary education every time they talk about me and my brother in-law, the Rev. Matthew Glasgow (MDiv ’97), pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Junction City, Kansas.”
First Presbyterian Church also has a long history of giving to the Seminary through its mission committee and its Presbyterian Women organization.
Bellah was a life-long educator, and often said her students were her “children.” Her love for teaching carried over into Sunday school and other ministries of her church, so her support of theological education was a natural response.
The Bellah’s support for students at Louisville Seminary and in the community mirrored a kind of parental nurture, and they understood that by “providing for these students they were providing for their church’s future leadership,” said Dale Melton, Vice President for Seminary Relations at the Seminary.
Louisville Seminary’s Scholarship for Excellence program recognizes both academic merit and the potential for ministry, with the latter demonstrated in an individual’s previous leadership experience. A Promise for Ministry Scholarship recognizes the same gifts the Bellahs saw in Bradley, the potential for excellent pastoral leadership, Melton said.
While all gifts to the general unrestricted endowment makes one’s gift indelible, he said, the Board’s creation of the $400,000 Promise for Ministry Scholarship for Excellence – the Joseph R. and Nannie A. Bellah Scholarship for Excellence Endowment – means that “the Bellah’s will forever be connected to supporting students in a leadership way. And we are eternally grateful.”