Our history: Seizing opportunities for bold Christian leadership
Over its five decades, Methodist Theological School in Ohio has been a portal to lives of service, leadership and lasting significance for more than 3,000 graduates.
In April of 1958, 48 members of the Provisional Organization for the Establishment of a Methodist Theological School in Ohio signed a document laying the groundwork for the construction of a new educational institution on 70 hillside acres in Central Ohio. Its purpose, they wrote, was “to train, educate and prepare students for the preaching and proclaiming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the various ministries of the Church.” Later, on a campus cornerstone, they would state it more succinctly: “TO PREACH THE WORD.”
A year later, $4 million had been raised for the project. A year after that, in the fall of 1960, the first classes met on the scenic new campus. The Rev. John W. Dickhaut, whose efforts were pivotal to the founding of the school, was elected its first president and would serve for 22 years. Van Bogard Dunn was appointed academic dean. The first graduating class, in 1963, was all male and included one African-American graduate. The second class included the first female graduate.
Transition and growth
During its formative years in the turbulent 1960s, MTSO established a legacy of Christian concern for social-justice issues. Uncowed by the prospect of arrest and persecution, faculty and students protested racial discrimination, both in the South and closer to home.
MTSO graduate programs have evolved and expanded over the past five decades. Today the school offers five degrees: Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Counseling Ministries, Master of Arts in Practical Theology, Master of Theological Studies and Doctor of Ministry. Campus facilities also have been expanded and updated. Technological advances enable the Dickhaut Library to offer access to 48 million books through an online system, in addition to the 130,000 volumes on its shelves.
The newest campus facility is Gault Hall, which opened in 2000 with spacious classrooms, faculty office space and a preaching chapel for homiletics classes. Academic facilities are complemented by housing options ranging from a residence hall that can accommodate single-night stays to townhomes suitable for families. The wooded beauty of the campus provides a backdrop for an outdoor chapel, a prayer labyrinth, a mile-long walking path and a hidden gem, the Dee Ann Chiles Garden.
In 1973, MTSO joined with two other Greater Columbus schools – Trinity Lutheran Seminary and the Pontifical College Josephinum – to form the Theological Consortium of Greater Columbus. Collaboration with Trinity expanded in 2010, when the MTSO Doctor of Ministry program begun in 2002 became a joint program. Under this partnership, a D.Min. student seeking a degree from either Trinity or MTSO has the benefit of studying with faculty from both schools.
Stability and generosity
Thanks to the generosity of faithful donors and the prudent fiscal management of its leaders, MTSO has established a solid record of financial stability. Supported in part by an endowment of more than $30 million, the school maintains an operating budget of over $6 million and has no debt. As an institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church, MTSO also receives financial support from the church’s Ministerial Education Fund. Students benefit from a generous financial-aid program; one in five current MTSO students has earned a full-tuition scholarship.
In 1981, John Dickhaut was succeeded as president by the Rev. Buford A. Dickinson. He was followed in 1986 by the Rev. Dr. Norman E. “Ned” Dewire, who served for 20 years. The school’s fourth president, the Rev. Jay A. Rundell, assumed office on July 1, 2006. His tenure has been marked by the implementation of a strategic plan aimed at seizing new opportunities for growth, quality and institutional advancement. The school’s faculty members are led by Dean Lisa Withrow.
Today, Methodist Theological School in Ohio serves 220 graduate students in five degree programs. The diverse student body represents 20 faith traditions, 20 states and two nations. Their engagement in the life of the school, in and out of the classroom, shapes the identity of the campus even as they prepare for lives of consequence beyond its borders.