iain and cassiopea

Iain Torrance with Cassiopea

A photo by Robyn Torrance, August 2011

Dr Robert Bohl, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Princeton Theological Seminary, announced today that Dr Iain R Torrance has expressed his intention to retire as President of Princeton Theological Seminary at the end of December 2012. 

In 2003, Dr Torrance was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Divinity at the University of Aberdeen. He held a personal chair in Patristics and Christian Ethics. The Trustees of PTS invited him to allow himself to be considered as a successor to President Thomas W Gillespie. After considerable thought, he agreed. It was unexpected, as he had been scheduled to return to Aberdeen as a Vice-Principal after his term as Moderator. He agreed only because he really believed he could help PTS through certain transitions and he never saw his tenure as lasting more than a decade. 

Torrance said, “By the end of 2012 I believe I will have largely done what I came here to do.” He has always affirmed that he does not believe in long presidential tenure because institutions benefit from fresh blood. Torrance said, “We are now compliant with our accreditors, and by the end of 2012 the new library will be built, and the new Charlotte Rachel Wilson apartments will be occupied and thronged with students. We have adjusted our budgets to reflect a different economic landscape and we will have celebrated our bicentenary. We have reflected on our identity and are constructing new strategies to address these changing times. A new president should have the opportunity to usher the school into its third century.” Torrance added, “I have been blessed by having the support of wise board chairs, three great deans (Jim Armstrong, Darrell Guder and Jim Kay), the best administrative colleague I have ever had in John Gilmore, and two assistants (Donna Kline and Donna Potts) whose patience and kindness have been boundless.” 


Board Chair Robert Bohl said, “It is difficult for us to express properly our gratitude to Dr Torrance or to estimate the changes for the good that he has brought about. We much regret his decision to step down at the end of 2012, but we respect it and are grateful that he will have another 15 months in Princeton during which time he will lead our bicentennial celebration. Dr Torrance arrived at the beginning of July 2004 and immediately set to work and he has never stopped working. His decisive realization that we should rein in our spending patterns between 2004 and 2008 probably saved the Seminary from disaster when the financial downturn took place. He has committed himself to academic change in outcome-based assessment; to governance change in implementing strong cross-faculty committees, and in welcoming faculty as a presence on board committees; to the envisioning and fundraising for the new library and the new student accommodation. He has done all this while maintaining a high profile as an international scholar; an ecumenical representative for the Reformed churches, representing the WARC at the installation of Pope Benedict XVI; and as a bridge-builder between Christianity and Islam. He has remained a chaplain to Queen Elizabeth. He is now committing himself to a further stage in our development of our mission through fresh strategic thinking, in which he may be sure of our support.” 


“The By-Laws of the Corporation place the responsibility for selecting a Presidential Search Committee in the hands of the Trustees upon recommendation of the Board’s Committee on Trustees. Article IV, Section 1a states: ‘The search committee shall consist of the Chair of the Board and such other members of the Board, not fewer than nine in number, as the Board shall elect upon nomination of the Committee on Trustees.’ It will be my recommendation, as Chair of the Board, to encourage the Committee on Trustees to select two faculty members and at least one student to be on the Presidential Search Committee. The members of this search committee will be elected by the Board at its meeting on October 18.”


Robert W. Bohl
Chair of the Board of Trustees,

Princeton Theological Seminary