Claremont, Willamette explore partnership

It’s going to take some time, but Claremont School of Theology may be packing up and moving to Salem, Oregon, to the campus of another United Methodist-related school, Willamette University.

Presidents the Rev. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan of Claremont, and Steve Thorsett of Willamette announced they are starting on a “due diligence process” to make the move.

“We are in the early stages,” Kuan said. “Any full-time student who begins a program in Fall 2017 should be able to finish coursework in Claremont, California.”

Kuan announced in June that the United Methodist theology school was facing financial challenges that would mean relocating its campus.

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“At a time when Claremont School of Theology is experiencing its greatest success, we are facing our greatest challenge,” Kuan wrote in a letter to donors, alumni and friends.

“I believe Claremont School of Theology’s world-class faculty and our approach to theological education – with people of many faiths learning and living side-by-side – is an excellent addition to Willamette’s own dynamic community,” Kuan said.

Thorsett said Willamette and Claremont “are both excellent schools with much in common – a shared Methodist heritage, a focus on quality, and a mission to educate students and prepare them for lives that contribute to and transform their communities. Embedding is an exciting opportunity to strengthen both institutions.”

Kuan said embedding also allows Claremont to reduce overhead, more efficiently address the rising costs of higher education and focus on student scholarship rather than maintaining an aging campus.

Kuan said in June that the theology school will retain its name.

“While there may be changes to our physical being, our mission will remain the same: to educate future leaders for churches, synagogues, mosques, not-for-profit organizations, and the world,” Kuan said. “Our legacy is that of an innovative leader in interreligious studies and in providing professionals and academics who move Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist and other religious communities toward peace, justice, and understanding each other.”

Willamette University was founded in 1842 as the first university established in the western United States. The school enrolls approximately 2,600 students in its undergraduate College of Liberal Arts and in its two graduate schools, the College of Law and the Atkinson Graduate School of Management. 

Claremont is one of the 13 official theological schools of The United Methodist Church. It traces its roots to 1885 with the founding of Maclay College in California’s San Fernando Valley.

Kuan said Claremont’s leadership team looked at many possible scenarios.

“Due to a variety of changing circumstances, we concluded that embedding in a healthy, like-minded university would be the best way to sustain Claremont School of Theology’s mission,” Kuan said.

Gilbert is a multimedia report for United Methodist News Service, contact her at 615-742-5470 ornewsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

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