From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Iliff president renews contract; plans new role in 2001

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 23 Oct 1998 14:43:06

Oct. 23, 1998        Contact: Tim Tanton*(615)742-5470*Nashville, Tenn.

By United Methodist News Service

The board of trustees of United Methodist-related Iliff School of
Theology in Denver has announced a new three-year contract with the
seminary's president, Donald E. Messer.

Board Chairman J. Robert Young also indicated that the trustees have
accepted Messer's request not to continue as president beyond Aug. 31,

"I was happy to accept the invitation to continue in another three-year
contract, but I want to do some planning for my own future," Messer told
United Methodist News Service.

The new contract became effective Sept. 1, and the trustees' action was
announced Oct. 21. 

Messer, 57, will be 60 when his tenure as president ends. That seemed a
good point at which to make a change, he said. He became president of
Dakota Wesleyan University in South Dakota at age 30, then took over at
Iliff at age 40.

"I still have time to give my energy and thoughts to other things," he
said, citing writing, teaching, traveling and directing a new center at
the school. "I thought if I planned ahead now, it would be good for the
school to know what the future's bringing and good for me to explore
other possibilities."

The board has invited Messer to remain at Iliff after his presidency as
the Henry White Warren Professor of Practical Theology and to direct a
new Center for Global Pastoral Ministry.

Young said the plans represent the trustees' support for Messer's
leadership during the past 17 years and their confidence in his vision
for the future.

"We are pleased that Don Messer has agreed to take the school into the
21st century," Young said in a news release. "During his tenure, he has
established Iliff as model seminary in a number of areas. We are
confident that under his leadership we can effectively address the tasks
and responsibilities before us."

In accepting the new contract, Messer expressed appreciation and
excitement for "the privilege of guiding Iliff into the new millenium."

Forty-five percent of Iliff's 2,100 living alumni have graduated during
Messer's 17 years at Iliff. He said that amount will probably increase
to 50 percent by the time he leaves office.

During Messer's presidency, Young said, Iliff has progressed in a number
of significant areas, including increasing the diversity of the
full-time teaching faculty. The faculty currently consists of 17
members, of whom 41 percent are scholars of color and 30 percent are
women. There also is diversity in their faith backgrounds, with one
member being of the Jewish faith and another representing the Buddhist

Last May, Iliff drew criticism from a group of students for its lack of
diversity on the faculty. During the summer, the school named three new
faculty members, of whom two were people of color. Messer said at the
time that the appointments reflected Iliff's long-established commitment
to diversity.

Young noted several other ways in which Iliff has progressed during
Messer's tenure, including:
* launching a Ph.D. program and reinstating the doctor of ministry
degree program;

* initiating the school's first-ever comprehensive financial campaign,
which surpassed its $6 million goal by $1.6 million, resulting in funds
for the new Bacon Education Center, a new Urban Ministries Program,
strengthening of the Rural Ministries Program, additional student
scholarships and faculty support;

* maintaining a balanced budget for 17 years;

* revitalizing the Louise Iliff Visiting Professors program, which
annually brings international scholars to the seminary, and initiating
the Louise Iliff Faculty Development program, enabling faculty to
conduct research in developing nations; and

* nearly quadrupling the endowment to about $30 million.

Messer has been a four-time delegate to the United Methodist General
Conference, a director of the United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries, and president of the Association of United Methodist
Theological Schools. He currently serves on the United Methodist
Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns.

United Methodist News Service
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