Austin Graduate School of Theology, Lipscomb University announce merger
Lipscomb, Austin Grad partnership will have impact on Central Texas educational landscape.
Kim Chaudoin |
Originally published on Sept. 1, 2020
The Austin Graduate School of Theology (AGST) located in Austin, Texas, will merge with Lipscomb University, officials from both institutions announced today. Under the terms of the merger agreement, AGST will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lipscomb.
Both institutions have been in existence for more than a century, share a common faith heritage and are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Austin Graduate School of Theology was established in 1917 as an academic chair for biblical instruction in connection with the University of Texas at Austin under the direction of the elders of University Avenue Church of Christ in Austin. Austin Graduate School of Theology offers theological studies in two degree programs, the Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies and the Master of Arts in Christian Ministry.
Lipscomb University, which just began its 130th academic year, is a nationally recognized research institution that offers a wide range of undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs. In August, Lipscomb set an all-time record enrollment with more than 4,720 students this fall. For the past two years, Lipscomb has been named by the Chronicle of Higher Education one of the top ten fastest-growing private doctoral universities in the nation.
Though the Texas institution is fully accredited and financially solvent, AGST officials found it increasingly difficult in recent years to continue to operate as an independent seminary and approached Lipscomb University administrators in the fall of last year about considering a merger. Its strategy is to maintain the essence of its work long into the future through an affiliation with a more comprehensive and resourced institution. The decision comes after months of discussion and evaluation by the board of directors for both institutions.
“We were very honored that when the Austin Grad leadership reached a point at which they wanted to seek a partner in their work that they looked to Lipscomb University. They defined a way to continue the reach of Austin Grad in Central Texas with programs and resources that Lipscomb can bring to the mission,” said Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry, who begins his 16th academic year as president this fall. “I have a deep appreciation for Austin Graduate School of Theology and the vision of faith-based graduate education. I look forward to the impact that together we will have on the lives of students now and in years to come.”
We were very honored that when the Austin Grad leadership reached a point at which they wanted to seek a partner in their work that they looked to Lipscomb University. They defined a way to continue the reach of Austin Grad in Central Texas with programs and resources that Lipscomb can bring to the mission. — Lipscomb President Randy Lowry
Dr. Stan Reid, president of Austin Graduate School of Theology, also looked forward to the partnership between institutions.
“I am convinced that the mission begun by visionaries in Austin over 100 years ago will continue far into the future,” he said. “The boards and administrations of both Austin Grad and Lipscomb have prayerfully worked together to establish this partnership. We all see the hand of God in this undertaking. I am confident that Austin Grad, in the new arrangement with Lipscomb, can anticipate a brighter future. Although the discussions between Austin Grad and Lipscomb began months prior to the pandemic, it is a sign of visionary leadership that even in a moment that is filled with uncertainty in the world around us to see this as an opportunity rather than a risk.”
Mike Blevins, chair of the AGST board of directors, added, “This is God’s answer to our prayers. The Austin Grad community is looking forward to working with Lipscomb to provide expanded educational programs that at their core equip others to serve in meaningful ways.”
Together the two institutions have developed a new vision for the work in Austin which includes, among others:
- Expanding the current offerings in theology to include Master of Divinity and Doctorate of Ministry programs.
- Broadening the scope of graduate education to include programs that prepare students in areas such as conflict management, marriage and family therapy, counseling and educational leadership. The programs will draw from Lipscomb’s extensive graduate educational programs, which now includes more than 1,700 students.
While the merger is expected to consummate in January, subject to the satisfaction of various closing conditions, Lipscomb University will provide management services to Austin Graduate School of Theology immediately. Beginning in fall 2021, Lipscomb plans to offer a selection of additional graduate programs that are unique to the Austin market and that are complementary to programs currently offered at AGST.
Reid retired Aug. 31 as president of Austin Graduate School of Theology and will transition to the role of president emeritus for the institution. Dr. John York, professor in Lipscomb’s College of Bible & Ministry, will provide management services to Austin Graduate School of Theology pursuant to the agreement between the schools, effective immediately.