About Asbury Seminary
In 1923, Henry Clay Morrison began Asbury Theological Seminary with a class of three students and fashioned a seal for the Seminary which audaciously reads “The Whole Bible for the Whole World.” Nearly 100 years later, those three students number in the tens of thousands with a second full campus in Orlando, Florida. Asbury Seminary graduates flourish in every state, on every continent, in every time zone, reaching the world through evangelism, missions, church planting, preaching, teaching, and counseling. Today, the sun never sets on Asbury Seminary graduates. Asbury Theological Seminary was founded more than 80 years ago “to prepare and send forth a well-trained, sanctified, Spirit-filled, evangelistic ministry” in order to spread scriptural holiness around the world. Asbury Seminary continues to hold to this mission, providing holistic ministerial preparation as an interdenominational institution.
The seminary’s history is rich with stories of God’s provision and guidance as the institution has continued to grow and prosper. Asbury Seminary has been led by eight presidents: Henry Clay Morrison, Julian C. McPheeters, Frank B. Stanger, David L. McKenna, Maxie D. Dunnam, Jeffrey E. Greenway, J. Ellsworth Kalas and the current president, Timothy C. Tennent. All have proved to be strong, godly leaders, well suited for the time and life of the seminary during which they were appointed.
Henry Clay Morrison
President Morrison, who led Asbury Seminary’s founding in Wilmore, Ky., had felt God’s call to start a seminary. Friends had counseled against the idea because it wasn’t known where money would come from or how many students would respond. Yet Morrison declared in the spring of 1923, “We will start the first class in September.” The seminary had its beginning with the enrollment of three students in the fall of that year. Morrison was an orphaned farm boy who turned aside opportunities to pursue a career as a military officer or statesmen in order to respond to a call to preach, a profession that in his first year paid him 25 cents a day. After traveling across America and overseas as a Methodist evangelist for three decades and serving as editor of the “Pentecostal Herald” for 20 years, Morrison responded to an invitation in 1910 to become president of Asbury College, where he continued the emphasis on theological education and in 1923 established the seminary as a graduate school. Morrison led the seminary in its initial stages of growth and in becoming a separate graduate institution with its own campus and trustees. The seminary’s president until his death in 1942, Morrison wrote, “We are believing and undertaking to build up a Seminary for the training of a ministry that will bring millions of lost souls through Christ to salvation.”
Julian C. McPheeters
President McPheeters, a successful evangelist and pastor, led Asbury Seminary from 1942 to 1962, guiding new successes in areas such as construction and development of new departments. McPheeters’ friendship to the Beeson family contributed to the donation of many millions of dollars that positioned the seminary to become one of the most technologically advanced and best-endowed graduate schools in the United States. McPheeters’ leadership was characterized by prayer, exuberance and faith, and visions he had for Asbury Seminary became realities in the years to come.
Frank B. Stanger
President Stanger, a Methodist pastor before coming to Asbury Seminary as executive vice president in 1959, was president from 1962 to 1982, overseeing an unprecedented period of increase in construction, enrollment, administrative restructuring, innovative curricular offerings and a strong spirit of campus community. Faculty positions were created, endowed lectures were formed, the curriculum was reorganized and degree programs were added. Stanger’s focus on spiritual formation and model of servant leadership helped shape the seminary to become the world-renowned school that it is today. He also labored to fulfill McPheeter’s vision for establishment of a world mission and evangelism school.
David L. McKenna
President McKenna’s era was distinguished by big dreams and achievements from 1982 to 1994. McKenna, who came to Asbury Seminary as a leader in the Free Methodist Church, visualized the seminary as the leading world center for Wesleyan theological education. During his tenure, the seminary underwent vast technological change and other innovative structures. He oversaw the opening of the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism in 1983. His work as a writer, editor and administrator complemented his pastoral gifts of Christian leadership. McKenna shepherded the Beeson gift and presided over construction of a number of new buildings and establishment of the Beeson Program’s Doctor of Ministry tracks for pastors and international leaders.
Maxie D. Dunnam
President Dunnam, previously a United Methodist pastor and world editor of “The Upper Room” devotional guide, led the seminary as president from 1994 to 2004, fostering emphases on prayer, spiritual formation in community, and global vision. He oversaw establishment of the online campus for extended learning as well as dedication of the Beeson International Center for Biblical Preaching and Church Leadership. The Florida Dunnam campus in Orlando, which bears Dunnam’s name in honor of his leadership, was launched and founded in the late 1990s.
Jeffrey E. Greenway
President Greenway, during his service from 2004 to 2006, brought to Asbury Seminary leadership skills developed through ministry as a pastor and district superintendent of the Pittsburgh East District of the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church. Initiatives to develop the Ph.D. program in Biblical Studies began during his tenure through a gift from Dan Amos.
J. Ellsworth Kalas
J. Ellsworth Kalas, who had served as a United Methodist pastor for 38 years and joined Asbury Seminary with the opening of the Beeson Program in 1993, served as interim president in fall 2006 and was named president in spring 2008. Kalas transferred the presidency to Timothy Tennent in July 2009 and continued to serve with the seminary as Senior Professor of Homiletics for many years. Kalas led the seminary forward through a time of building and transition with his wisdom and enthusiasm for enriching the life of Christ in himself and others. He passed away in November of 2015.
Timothy C. Tennent
President Tennent began his leadership of Asbury Seminary in July 2009, having served 11 years as professor of world missions and Indian studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Prior to that time he taught missions at Toccoa Falls College and was a United Methodist pastor. His extensive worldwide teaching experiences and authorship of several books, along with his personal devotion, bring excitement and anticipation to the Asbury Seminary community as the seminary fulfills its mission in the 21st century and continues its long tradition of training Christian leaders for ministry worldwide. Today, Asbury Theological Seminary enrolls more than 1,600 students, representing more than 90 denominations and 40 countries. The Seminary has more than 10,000 graduates serving in every time zone around the world through social justice initiatives, government, art, mission organizations, education and the church.