The Board of Trustees of Erskine College and Seminary held meetings May 25-26, their last of the academic and fiscal year 2016-17. As was reported earlier, the trustees named Dr. Robert E. Gustafson president after his seven months as interim president.
This was the first meeting at which Dr. John Basie, who became provost of the college in March, was able to speak to trustees as a group. Basie served on the board from 2007 to 2013. In his remarks, Basie shared his enthusiasm for and commitment to the mission and work of Erskine College. “What we’re about at Erskine College is Christ-centered liberal arts,” Basie said.
“Our aim is threefold. First, we educate our students in all the academic disciplines in a rigorous way that is undergirded by a robust biblical world and life view. Second, we want our students to grow in their relationship with Christ. Some of them will become Christians during their time here. Finally, we aim to assist them in understanding how to discern God’s call on their lives.”
Basie told trustees that he was pleased to announce that the Department of Bible, Religion, and Philosophy would be returning to the college this year. Under a previous administration, the college department was merged with the seminary, which has been providing instruction for undergraduate students since 2014.
The provost also informed the board that 2017-18 will be the final year of the Winter Term, also known as J-Term, following a faculty vote this past spring to discontinue the three-week session between the fall and spring terms. This move allows the spring term to begin and end earlier on a schedule similar that of other area colleges, which should benefit graduates seeking employment. The schedule change also allows for two summer sessions to accommodate travel and other types of courses.
In their respective remarks, both Gustafson and Basie discussed their desire to focus on sustainable enrollment that addresses both qualitative and quantitative needs.
The board heard a presentation about South Carolina charter schools and encouraged the administration to take steps to engage these institutions. “There are some charter schools that will resonate with us academically,” Gustafson said.
Gordon Query, chair of an ad hoc committee, reported on possible revisions to the Statement of Philosophy of Higher Education (SPCHE), a document originally written in 1977 that serves as the denomination’s guide for the institutional mission of Erskine as an arm of the ARP Church. In response to a request from the president, Board of Trustees Chairman Sam James convened the ad hoc committee earlier this year to explore ways in which portions of the document might be clarified and updated. The trustees approved a set of requested revisions to be submitted for review at the ARP General Synod in June.
Dr. Leslie Holmes, provost of the seminary, reported that admissions in the seminary are up more than 60 students for upcoming terms, with 40 of those representing new students in the Master of Divinity program. Holmes also reported that an effort is under way to establish a more significant seminary presence in Greenville. The Rev. Matthew Miller, currently senior pastor of Greenville ARP Church, has agreed to serve as coordinator for the seminary’s Greenville location beginning in September while he is also pursuing a Doctor of Ministry Degree at the seminary.
In other business, the trustees approved the operating budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year and signed off on a 10-year contract with Aramark Facilities for the management of campus grounds and buildings.
Trustees completing their service as of this meeting were the Rev. Stacey Cox, the Rev. Jim Loughner, Ann Marie Tribble, the Rev. Peter Waid, and Phil Williams.
“It is clear to see that God is at work at Erskine College and Seminary,” Chairman Sam James said. “I am thankful for the progress that we have seen over the last several years and look forward to see what God will continue to do at this very special place.”