A $1 million Baugh Foundation gift to Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond is the largest since an anonymous $1 million gift in 2007.

By Robert Dilday

Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond has received a gift of $1 million to be distributed over five years from the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation of San Antonio, Texas, the seminary announced in an Aug. 7 press release.

The funds will be used for operating expenses as the 20-year-old seminary transitions from its campus on Richmond’s Northside to a yet-to-be-determined location in a different section of the city.

“We believe that the work and mission of BTSR is of utmost importance in the Mid-Atlantic region, the United States and the world,” said Jackie Baugh Moore, vice president of the Baugh Foundation, which has contributed to the seminary since 2008. “We are grateful for the work BTSR does, the mission and covenant principles by which they operate and the message of Christ’s love they deliver in our world.”

The Baugh family and its Foundation have been generous supporters of Baptist causes for many years. This most recent gift — the largest BTSR has received since an anonymous $1 million gift in 2007 — is a pledge of $200,000 in each of the next five years. Moore said that the Foundation does not typically commit to long-term pledges but decided to make an exception with this grant.

“We believe BTSR has a very bright future and want to signal that in our support for the seminary over a longer period of time,” she said.

Tim Heilman, BTSR’s vice president for institutional advancement said, “This indicates [the Foundation’s] faith in our future.”

In honor of the gift, the seminary will establish the Eula Mae and John Baugh Professor of Theology and Ethics chair, to be held by Elizabeth Newman, a member of the faculty since 2002. She also directs the school’s master of theological studies degree program.

“We are grateful for the ongoing support of the Baugh Foundation,” said BTSR president Ron Crawford. “This gift strengthens the seminary’s continuing work of training women and men for ministry. Tim Heilman is providing timely and significant leadership in our development efforts, and we anticipate that this gift is the first of several that will come our way as we move beyond surviving and toward thriving. It’s encouraging to know that the Baugh Foundation directors believe so deeply in our mission.”

“Everyone we talked to had such positive things to say about BTSR,” said Moore. Among the reasons she cited for the Foundation’s gift is BTSR’s intentional diversity and its Mission Immersion Experience program, which reflects a global perspective.

“In addition, the seminary is at the heart of one of the nation’s most influential regions in culture and public policy, with its proximity to Washington and to some of the country’s most highly-regarded academic institutions,” she said. “We need to maintain a strong commitment in the Mid-Atlantic region to preparing Baptists for ministry.”

She added: “We want to encourage our fellow Baptists to join us and others in support of this outstanding institution.”

A little over a year ago, BTSR’s trustees approved the “orderly selling” of campus buildings and eventual relocation in order to broaden the seminary’s academic mission and to strengthen its financial position.

“While our physical facilities have served us well in the past, they now limit the institution’s freedom, vision and ability to respond to the future needs of theological education,” trustees said in a March 2011 statement.

The business plan also called for raising $2 million in pledges to be paid over the next several years and raising $10 million in endowment funds in the next decade, nearly tripling the school’s endowment of $5.5 million at the time.

Currently, BTSR is adjacent to Presbyterian-affiliated Union Theological Seminary in buildings that once housed Union’s Presbyterian School of Christian Education. BTSR is one of 15 theology schools in partnership with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.