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inSpire Interactive

2012—A Third Century

Princeton Seminary will celebrate its bicentennial in 2012. For this inSpire Interactive, we asked graduates to share their ideas about how the Seminary could celebrate this significant anniversary in ways that would be meaningful to them. We received responses from graduates of all decades, degree programs, and geographies. We also received many more responses than we could print here, and will share all of the responses with the Bicentennial Celebration Committee. Thank you for your suggestions!


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A festal academic procession with board, faculty, staff, students, alumni/ae, banners, and music in the Princeton University Chapel. Also, appropriate words spoken in the University Chapel by President Torrance, and in Miller Chapel by the president of Princeton University.

Joseph M. Shaw (Ph.D., 1958)
Northfield, Minnesota

To celebrate, invite alumni/ae to attend lectures by Princeton Seminary faculty in selected cities around the country on their major field, or about a book they have recently written.

Bruce Buller (D.Min., 1986)
Rochester, Minnesota

Identify the 200 PTS graduates who over the past 200 years have made the most significant contribution to the church, either through theological or biblical studies, mission work, leadership in the denomination, leadership in the ecumenical relations, outstanding pastoral ministry, contributions to society, etc. Attempt to name at least one individual from each of the twenty decades of history at PTS.

Gary Skinner (M.Div., 1962)
Seattle, Washington

Hold a magnificent worship service that celebrates the past, including a confession for the sins of the past (such as the exclusion of women from the mainstream of church leadership). Broadcast it live on the web, so that even if we alumni/ae can’t be there in person, we can “be there” virtually.

Mary Pugh (M.Div., 1990)
Davenport, Iowa

Have the faculty of the Seminary take turns writing articles for inSpire and for a larger audience, on “What is God calling the Seminary to become and be and do in the future?” Given the changing demographics of most communities in which Presbyterian churches are located, the technological changes that are pressing upon us, the cultural changes that mark our time and influence the future, what is the role of the Seminary regarding future leadership and its ability to speak courageously and relevantly to and with the church tomorrow? Perhaps this could be the subject for alumni/ae reunion that year, in the form of lectures or discussions.

Richard B. Martin (M.Div., 1959)
South Kent, Connecticut

Have a reunion with a number of international students, with sharing and worshipping, services/talks, and presentations/discussions that bring us further in our common effort of preaching, teaching, and living the presence of God on earth.

Daniel Fritsch (special student, 1991)
Siegelsbach, Germany

It seems that the most fitting way to celebrate this bicentennial moment would be to encourage us to be faithful to the Seminary education in which we were trained and equipped. Why not request written, audio, and video testimonials of alumni/ae from Pennsylvania to Pakistan, New Jersey to Nepal? Then, create a montage designed to uplift and inspire, to encourage us to play our part with courage, faithfulness, and humility, taking heart from the stories shared. One could be designed for print (perhaps in inSpire) and another for video on the PTS web site.

Justin Sundberg (M.Div., 1996)
Seattle, Washington

I think that a wonderful way to celebrate this bicentennial would be to invest in the future—not buildings or programs, but future pastors. Let’s consider creating a scholarship fund specifically intended to increase the diversity of the student body, so that 200 multicultural students could gather and be a part of proclaiming God’s word for the next 200 years.

Beth DuBois (M.Div., 1989)
Syracuse, New York

In addition to speeches, how about music, art, and drama? Perhaps a hymn contest and/or a judged art competition. Then, if some or all of this would be accessible by teleconference or the PTS web site, those who could not be there could participate.

Ron Roberts (M.Div.,1959)
Camdentown, Missouri

For me, a meaningful 2012 celebration would include a chapel service devoted solely to the singing of our Presbyterian/Reformed faith, using hymn tunes and texts written over the span of 200 years, concluding with a hymn from a collection of submissions to a contest. These could include both text and tune originals.

I would think Speer Library would have an adequate collection of Presby-terian hymnals from the past 200 years. The Reformed faith has made a unique contribution to the larger church in its singing of Psalms, and this would certainly figure in to the selection for the day. Because the Seminary has increasingly become an international school, Presbyterian hymns from countries represented over the years in the student body would also be appropriate.

Robert Bayley (M.Div., 1973)
Londonderry, New Hampshire

An idea that would be meaningful to me, as one who seldom returns to Princeton’s beautiful campus, would be to see a historical booklet with photographs and histories of the buildings.

Judith Muller (M.Div., 1973)
Santa Barbara, California

My idea is to have a reunion of ALL graduating classes. Also, invite descendents/living relatives of former presidents, and even professors and theologians dating back to Hodge, Alexander, etc. If held in nice weather, we could create a human chain, march, or parade!

Sally Wilkinson Gilbert (M.Div., 1980; Th.M., 1989)
Kokomo, Indiana

I think it would be meaningful to hear or read some sermons from the early 1900s, and then hear or read current sermons on some of the same texts and social issues. Perhaps this could be something in print, or better yet, the sermons could be re-preached and there could be role-playing of the theologians who have gone before us. This would be entertaining, and also a testimony to the Holy Spirit’s constant work in our hearts and in our world.

Heather Finck (M.Div., 1996)
Red Hook, New York

I would like to see a DVD with photos of some of the former and present professors’ words of wisdom about life and the ministry. This may seem like a crazy thing, but I’ve seen it at some other schools at the time of such a celebration as this.

Charles R. Leonard (Th.M., 1978)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Commission a musical composition in honor of PTS music and the memory of those serving PTS, such as Erik Routley (PTS: Hymnody, 1978–79). Collaborate with Westminster Choir College of Rider University, in celebration of the historic connection between the two.

Kathleen Turnbole (M.Div., 1979)
Corning, New York

Allow me to suggest a celebration that proceeds directly out of PTS’s core values and cultural DNA:

A gala four-week symposium on the difference between Calvin’s and Melanchthon’s views of the Nestorian/ Monophysite controversies, concluding with discussion of its relevance to the challenges facing the global church in the twenty-first century. We could even party hearty at the close, with a festive marathon reading of each of the participants’ thesis papers, and a nice, slow rendition of “Come Labor On.” Sign me up!

David M. Preisendanz (M.Div., 1986)
Abington, Pennsylvania

Include 125 things we are thankful to PTS for.

Lindsey Carnes (M.Div., 2007)
Mishawaka, Indiana

Making a list of 200 significant contributions by graduates or 200 significant graduates might be one way of celebrating. For example: “John Manning, a graduate who was the first president of what is now Brown University.”

It might also be fun to list the “happenings” at Princeton Seminary, such as “Ratus” or the dorm room that had its residents’ names signed in the closet. Also, I like the way the chapel has been redesigned, but you might want to show its changes over the years.

Bruce Pullen (Th.M., 1974)
Elgin, Illinois

I think one nice thing would be to publish an alumni/ae book. We do get the periodic notices of what’s happening in people’s lives in each issue of inSpire, but unfortunately, I (and I am sure many others) have lost track of class members and friends from the Seminary whose names never appear in it. A publication that has as much information as can be gathered about all the folks who have graduated from PTS would be very nice. 

Jack Norrie (M.Div., 1979)
Flourtown, Pennsylvania

Since we’re dreaming about 2012 and starting now, the most meaningful event for me as a graduate from PTS would be to meet and see my classmates, who are now scattered across the country and around the world!

What if the Seminary made it possible for people/families to stay for free (or even just eat for free)? We could be divided up by class over the years, and knowing in advance of our “week,” we could make plans to be together.

The other suggestion I have is a gathering of local (and even distant) retired faculty to be invited and housed by the Seminary for a special weekend, to honor and thank them for all they gave to their students over the years.

Amy Na (M.Div., 1989)
New Castle, Pennsylvania

Having had the privilege of organizing anniversary events for two churches, the most significant thing to me is to not only celebrate the past, but to find a way to use the event as a means to do something for the future. A special project, perhaps a fundraising goal of underwriting free seminary educations for third world pastors/mission workers/evangelists/educators, would give it added meaning.

William Lee Kinney (M.Div., 1991)
Pine Bluff, Arkansas

I would be very interested in celebrating the groundbreaking events (especially those involving race, age, and gender assignment/orientation), that PTS leadership initiated in terms of policy and/or curriculum changes that continue to challenge historic “mainstream” images of the collective white Anglo-Saxon Protestant churches in America.

Daniel F. Flores (M.Div., 2002)
Fort Worth, Texas

A Communion service in the manner of 200 years ago could be most interesting. Perhaps a seminar on the history of Princeton Seminary with slides would be of interest. The presidents of sister Presbyterian seminaries could do a roundtable or series on issues facing the church in the twenty-first century.

Sam Priestley (Th.M., 1967)
Ontario, Canada

Build a statue, plaque, or new building. We could serve ourselves and future students of the Seminary, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we hearkened back to the beginning of the Seminary and focused outward? What if at our bicentennial we faced the street and faced the world? I imagine alums of all ages meeting at the Seminary only to descend into Princeton and Trenton to work with area churches as they serve their neighborhoods. I can imagine donations in honor of this milestone funding a new seminary in a developing country, supporting a missionary for twenty-five years, or reestablishing the Seminary’s earliest mission connections. A hammer, a paintbrush, a new mission. Let’s face the world.

Becky White Newgren (M.Div., 2007)
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania