Anticipated Acquisition of San Francisco Theological Seminary

An Historic Action by the Board of Trustees and Its Meaning For Our Future

To:  University Community
From:  Ralph Kuncl, President 
Date:  February 25, 2019
Subject:  An historic action by the Board of Trustees and its meaning for our future

Three days ago at the meeting of the University of Redlands Board of Trustees, an historic vote took place.  It is an honor to be associated with the University in this moment, and it is a privilege to be the bearer of this news today.

The announcement is of the formation of a permanent partnership with a like-minded institution that will greatly strengthen and expand the U of R, and in so doing, ensure its bright and vibrant future and its ability to transform even more students’ lives, for generations to come.  The Board voted to adopt an “Agreement in Principle” to move toward the acquisition, anticipated by July, 2019, of San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS) in order to form a new graduate school at the University of Redlands – the Graduate School of Theology (GST) – and a new regional campus in the Bay Area.

This acquisition, assuming it comes to fruition over the next four months as planned, will represent the first major structural change to the University’s academic offerings since 1976, when Whitehead College was created to serve a new generation of non-traditional students.  This action also represents the first expansion of our geographic footprint into Northern California.

“What?  Why?  Who?” you must be saying.  I look forward to telling faculty, staff, and administrators more about this news at the President’s Annual Forum, this Wednesday, February 27th, at 3:30 p.m. in the Orton Center on the Redlands campus.  I have approved release time for those who attend, and for those who cannot, we will send out a live web stream link, as well as a link to a message board for posting questions anonymously, whether or not you attend or tune in.  Faculty will have additional opportunities to discuss this announcement beginning with the next University Academic Assembly on March 15th at 3:30.  For students, we will also be holding a forum sometime in March, on a date to be selected by student leaders and deans.

For now, I’ll give you a few points about the U of R/SFTS relationship that are particularly important and exciting.

The prospect of a permanent partnership between San Francisco Theological Seminary and University of Redlands presented unique and compelling possibilities from the moment SFTS’s leaders approached us, as their institution’s desired partner and potential acquirer, a little over a year ago.  We share a core set of values and interests, which are reflected in each institution’s vision for teaching, scholarship, and community.  We are both committed to exploring and expanding academic and career pathways for students.

We will enhance those pathways by combining key strengths of both institutions into the new Graduate School of Theology, which will join and stand on equal footing with our Schools of Business, Education, and Continuing Studies in creating new degree pathways for all students.  As mentioned, the GST also will significantly expand the reach of both institutions by extending our geographical footprints across California.

The many synergies between SFTS and the U of R have already been demonstrated in our collaborative development of a brand new, joint certificate program with our Schools of Education and Continuing Studies in the mental health counseling arena, which has already attracted enrollees.  At its core, this partnership is squarely aligned with the goals of our strategic plan, North Star 2020, to enhance graduate and professional education, and it is a major opportunity to enhance and expand two institutions of long standing and high quality that also share significant interests.  We are deeply excited about the benefits to be realized.

For the U of R, those benefits extend from student experience- and outcomes-focused advances to bottom-line financial gains.  Many tangible assets and other benefits to the U of R will be realized, both immediately and over time – at practically no cost to the University.  Here are just a few examples:

  • The GST will bring a new set of multi-disciplinary graduate programs that greatly diversifies our educational offerings, and thus our revenue streams.
  • The addition of SFTS’s healthy endowment and eight endowed professorships will increase U of R’s financial and faculty strengths.
  • Our acquisition of SFTS’s valuable, one-of-a-kind campus property located in Marin County, just north of the city of San Francisco, enables us to host new School of Education cohorts, School of Business cohorts and Capstone projects, as well as conferences and events and, eventually, programming for CAS students such as May Terms and First Year Journeys.
  • Establishment of a University presence within the economic force that is the Bay Area offers unique academic and career (networking, internship) pathways for our students and gives us an anchor in a prosperous region that is home to many of our alumni, as well as an entirely new market in which we will attract prospective graduate students.
  • And, specifically for alumni, the new campus will be an asset to benefit Bay Area alumni programming and will also give alumni who wish to return to their alma mater for an advanced degree access to local School of Education and School of Business programs.

I look forward to telling you more about this major event in the evolution of our University on the 27th.  Between now and then, you may begin to see news coverage on the topic, as mergers and acquisitions are fast becoming commonplace in higher education.  You can visit the Bulldog Blog for more details on the news, just published, and we’ll post updates there as they happen.  We welcome the community’s comments and questions about this news.  Please feel free to send an email to