Our history: Seizing opportunities for bold Christian leadership

For six decades, Methodist Theological School in Ohio has been a portal to lives of service, leadership and lasting significance.

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 a hillside rising above the Olentangy River 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. 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 six degrees: Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Counseling Ministries, Master of Arts in Practical Theology, Master of Arts in Social Justice, 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 46 million books through an online system, in addition to the 102,000 volumes on its shelves.

Updated and fully wired 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 and a mile-long walking path.

Generosity and stability

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 through its endowment and gifts to its annual fund, the school has no debt. As an institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church, MTSO receives financial support from the denomination's Ministerial Education Fund. Students benefit from a generous financial-aid program; one in two full-time MTSO master's degree 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, Rev. Jay Rundell, assumed office on July 1, 2006. Under his leadership, MTSO has added Master of Arts in Social Justice degree and developed a strong commitment to environmental sustainability, best exemplified by the founding of Seminary Hill Farm in 2013 and the development of renewable energy sources. The school's faculty members are led by Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs Valerie Bridgeman.

MTSO's diverse student body represents 15 faith traditions. Students' 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.