Mar  2018 01
Seminary Board Approves Leadership Transition

The board of trustees of Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Okla. approved a change of leadership at the seminary during its February meetings. Gary Peluso-Verdend is stepping down from the office of president July 1 for a sabbatical year before returning to Phillips in 2019 in a new role.

Peluso-Verdend, who has served as president since 2009, said the change was a personal and vocational choice. “For myself, I’ve not been granted a full sabbatical in 25 years of leadership in theological education,” he said. “I am particularly grateful to receive a sabbatical as a prelude to a change in focus.”

When he returns from sabbatical, Peluso-Verdend has been authorized and directed by the Board to lead the seminary’s effort to initiate an Institute for Religion and Public Life in Oklahoma. The Board previously approved the Institute as an element of the seminary’s strategic plan.

While the board approved Peluso-Verdend’s change in service, board chair Lynn Moore emphasized, “The board asked Gary to return from sabbatical as president. However, it was his preference to seek the new role.”

Administratively, the time for a leadership change is good because Phillips is in a stable financial position and enrollment is on an upward trend. The seminary is also in the final stages of hiring several new faculty members.

Peluso-Verdend has served in several positions at Phillips between 1993-2000 and from 2005 to now, including faculty, Doctor of Ministry program director, dean, vice president of stewardship, and president.

“I’ve worn many different hats in my time at Phillips,” Peluso-Verdend said. “I’m thankful that the board has granted me the time and support to wear a new one.”

From July 1, 2018 until a new president begins, the vice president of academic affairs and dean, the Rev. Dr. Nancy Claire Pittman, will serve as interim president. Dr. Joe Bessler, who is professor of theology and has served as acting dean previously, will fill the dean’s role.

The board is forming a presidential search committee comprised of key stakeholders, including board members, faculty, staff, students, alumni/ae, and regional leaders from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The board will also engage a consultant to assist in the search process and have a series of listening sessions as the search committee puts together a presidential prospectus and position description.

The seminary will plan a public service and reception at the end of June to mark Peluso-Verdend’s service as president of Phillips Theological Seminary.

Browse more posts by: Seminary Relations Staff, Phillips Admin/Staff
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