Prior Correspondence

Letter from President Eric Bruntmyer
Feb. 14, 2020

At its February 2020 meeting, Hardin-Simmons University’s Board of Trustees took a number of significant steps to better position the institution financially to continue its mission to provide excellence in education enlightened by Christian faith and values. At the meeting, Board members challenged each other to support Hardin-Simmons University financially as well as through their countless hours of hard work. On the day they finalized their decisions, they showed their love of Hardin-Simmons and their commitment to its vision by giving more than $100,000 to the university. As you have occasion to, please join me in thanking them for their sacrificial leadership.

During this week, we have been working hard to communicate the specific actions that must be taken to implement the Board’s decisions, making sure that we are complying with all applicable legal and accreditation standards, and to provide individual notification to those on campus most directly affected.

We are now able to release additional information about the Board’s decisions, information that puts the closing of Logsdon Seminary into the context of The Way Forward, a larger financial plan to close our operating deficit by more than $4 million.

The Board also approved a few carefully vetted new programs, awarded emeritus status in honor of recently retired faculty, approved the promotion in academic rank of the excellent faculty recommended for promotion by their peers, and set up a process to review the requirements of our general education curriculum to make sure that it will continue to train our students as effective Christian leaders in an ever-changing environment.

Hardin-Simmons University will be organized in five colleges and schools:

  • the Cynthia Ann Parker College of Liberal Arts, which will now also include:
    • School of Music
    • Department of Fine Arts
      • Art
      • Theatre
    • Logsdon School of Theology
    • Department of Counseling and Human Development
  • the Holland School of Science and Mathematics
  • a renamed Kelley College of Business and Professional Studies, which will now also include:
    • Irvin School of Education
    • Ed.D. in Leadership Studies
  • the College of Health Professions, which will now also include:
    • School of Kinesiology, Health, and Recreation
  • the Patty Hanks Shelton School of Nursing

The Deans Council will consist of the deans of those five colleges and schools.

There will be changes to the university’s offerings of academic programs:

  • Closing Programs
    • Graduate Programs
      • Doctor of Ministry
      • Master of Arts in Family Ministry
      • Master of Arts in Religion
      • Master of Divinity
      • Master of Education in Gifted and Talented Education
      • Master of Education in Reading Specialist Education
      • Master of Music in Church Music
      • Master of Music in Music Education
      • Master of Music in Music Theory and Composition
      • Master of Music in Performance
      • Minor in Music on the M.Ed. degree
    • Undergraduate Majors
      • Bachelor of Business Administration in Banking & Financial Services
      • Bachelor of Business Administration in Nonprofit Management
      • Bachelor of Business Administration in Public Administration
      • Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition
      • Bachelor of Science in Human Sciences in Physical Education
    • Undergraduate Minors
      • Minor in Biblical Languages
      • Minor in Leadership
      • Minor in Sociology
      • Minor in Spanish
    • Certificate Programs
      • Express Teacher Certification
      • Master Reading Teacher Certificate

There will be seventeen faculty reductions associated with the program closings, as well as some additional reductions in faculty to reduce costs in several remaining programs. Fourteen positions have been eliminated in administration and staff through attrition, and additional reductions will be communicated as soon as we are able.

None of these closures will affect current students. The university is committed to ensure that all its students will be able to finish the programs in which they are currently enrolled.

  • New Programs
    • Logsdon School of Theology in the College of Liberal Arts: Bachelor of Arts & Bachelor of Behavioral Sciences degrees in Christian Studies, to be developed by the faculty of the Logsdon School of Theology, which will replace existing majors in Biblical Studies, Ministry, Theological Studies, and Worship Ministry
    • School of Music in the College of Liberal Arts: Bachelor of Science in Music with a Concentration in Worship Leadership
    • College of Health Professions: Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology
    • Irvin School of Education in College of Business and Professional Studies: Master of Special Education with Emphasis in Applied Behavior

Faculty emeritus status has been granted to:

  • Ms. Linda Fawcett, Art
  • Dr. Richard Garner, Chemistry
  • Mrs. Charlene Strickland, Communications
  • Dr. Robert Fink, English
  • Dr. Mark Puckett, Piano

The following promotions were approved:

  • Promotion to Assistant Professor
    • Ms. Jessica Rieger
  • Promotion to Associate Professor
    • Dr. Sherry Rosenblad
  • Promotion to Professor
    • Dr. Jacob Brewer
    • Dr. Emily Dean
    • Dr. Lindsay Edwards
    • Dr. Andrea Jensen
    • Dr. Steve Rosscoe

The President will be appointing a Task Force composed of members of the Board of Trustees, the faculty, the staff, and the administration of Hardin-Simmons University to propose by the May 2020 meeting of the Board of Trustees student learning outcomes for the Foundational Curriculum and a curriculum to deliver those outcomes.

Pending the work of the Task Force, the requirements of Hardin-Simmons University’s Foundational Curriculum are amended to equalize the treatment of college credit for all incoming students.

__________________

Before its February 2020 meeting, the Board of Trustees held a called meeting to discuss resolutions recently passed by the university faculty. That discussion continued at the February meeting. Though aware of the faculty’s concerns, ultimately the Board’s primary discussion focused on the Way Forward financial plan. The Board’s decisions were difficult, all of them made in continuous awareness of their direct impact on personnel and students. The Board recognizes, as do we in administration, the heavy burden that many are carrying. All of us are dedicated to walk alongside and to assist anyone affected by these campus changes. As we continue to position the university for long-term success, please join me in constant prayer for the entire HSU community.

Eric

Letter from HSU President Eric Bruntmyer

Feb. 12, 2020

Dear HSU Family,

This letter to you will hopefully serve several purposes.

First, this letter is meant to tell a greater story about our work at Hardin-Simmons University.

Additionally, this letter is intended to give more insight into the decision-making process regarding the closing of Logsdon Seminary.

History

In Famous Are Thy Halls, a history of Hardin-Simmons University, Dr. Rupert Richardson shared this about the formation of Hardin-Simmons University:

“As early as 1888, when the town was only seven years old, Henry Sayles, a well-known Abilene lawyer, suggested that Baptists found a school or college in Abilene. “

The seed of this idea was planted in the fertile soil of Abilene, and the merchants, ranchers and pastors of West Texas made plans for this idea to grow. These plans included reaching out to Dr. James B. Simmons, a New York pastor, for his assistance in raising funds to see this work accomplished. By 1891, this idea became a reality and what we now know as Hardin-Simmons University began educating students.

In 1902, Dr. Oscar Henry Cooper, the 5th president of Hardin-Simmons University, joined the administration and began his work. In Famous Are Thy Halls, Dr. Rupert Richardson shares that “Dr. Cooper instituted changes in Simmons truly drastic…The core of the curriculum was still classical, that is ancient and modern languages and literature”. However, under Dr. Cooper’s guidance, courses and programs were updated and added.

Dr. Richardson continues with, “…he linked the college with the pastors of the region in an annual Bible institute…after a few years, Bible was made a requirement for graduation.“ Since that time, Bible courses have been a rich, vibrant, and essential part of the HSU curriculum.

And, because of the state of the nation and in anticipation of things to come, “Dr. Cooper introduced military training for men into the school…”

Dr. Richardson, who was our 8th president, was also a forward thinker.

“… We secured a license from the Civil Aeronautics Authority and begin offering ground training for civil pilots. The university bought an airplane….200 persons were licensed…before Pearl Harbor.”

With World War II looming, he was aware of the time that he was living in and was preparing HSU for changing world events.

Dr. Elwin Skiles, who was our 12th president, was well known for quoting this famous Psalm:

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

However, in Famous Are Thy Halls, Dr. Skiles is also quoted as declaring, “Institutions of higher learning must always look to the future, there’s not a thing finished.” Dr. Skiles strengthened the curriculum by removing courses and adding new courses that offered vocational opportunities.

Each of these presidents and the presidents that have followed understood that the goal and mission of Hardin-Simmons University is to “bring students to Christ, to teach them of Christ, and to train them for Christ.” And whether this teaching or training occurred in classes or in chapel, in labs or in dorms, on the stage, in the concert hall, on courts or on fields, the end goal for 129 years has been to train our students to be “future Christian leaders.”

Because of this culture and mentality, the students that graduated from Hardin-Simmons University became pastors in the pulpit and missionaries in the field. They became chaplains in the military, in hospitals and in universities. They became educators, administrators and youth leaders working in the church. Hardin-Simmons University alumni have always been on the move to be the Body of Christ and to be the very hands of Jesus wherever they are.

Whether in Abilene, the Permian Basin or the Panhandle, in the Valley or in the Metroplex, along the I-35 Corridor or in Houston, our students have served and continue to serve well. And from such diverse places like New York City, Capitol Hill, Hollywood and Las Vegas, our students have excelled in their fields at the same time they have lived out their faith. They have also spread throughout the globe, over both “land and sea”. Hardin-Simmons students have been carrying out the mission of Jesus to share His love through service to those who are created in His image and carried that message even to the ends of the Earth.

This is who we’ve been since 1891, this is who we are, and this is who we’ll always be.

Logsdon School of Theology (1983)

Because of the success in training our students to be the hands and feet of Christ, we were entrusted with a school of theology. It was created in honor of Charles and Koreen Logsdon of Abilene in 1983. This was a pivotal time when the school boldly stepped into intentional Bible training.

Mrs. Logsdon made the largest gift in the university’s history to that date to establish the Logsdon School of Theology and in 1989 the Logsdon School of Theology complex was completed to provide a beautiful space for theological education here at Hardin-Simmons University.

Since 1983, the lives of students continued to be transformed because of the wonderful gift that the Logsdon family gave to Hardin-Simmons University. Hardin-Simmons University has graduated nearly 30,000 alumni who have impacted and continue to impact the world. Many of those alumni have taken courses in the Logsdon School of Theology.

Logsdon Seminary (2004)

Twenty-one years later, in 2004, the Hardin-Simmons University Board of Trustees created Logsdon Seminary. Hardin-Simmons boldly stepped into the seminary training realm and took a risk when others didn’t. It was as a result of the West Texas “Can Do Spirit” that Logsdon seminary was created. From the very beginning the seminary lacked appropriate funding. In faith, Hardin-Simmons University believed that seminary graduates could affect even more lives and therefore HSU took on the financial burden to fund the work of Logsdon Seminary.

Throughout its 15 years, Logsdon Seminary has graduated over 400 students. The Baptist General Convention of Texas and others have partnered to fund some of this training for our students. Endowment income of $31,000 per year was designated by donors which provided some assistance in covering the $600,000 annual costs of funding the Seminary.

To cover the remaining cost, funds designated for the Logsdon School of Theology were consistently moved over to the Logsdon Seminary in order to cover the deficits that occurred from the initial and continual lack of funding.

Timeline

This became apparent four years ago as the administration began to analyze the finances of the University and created metrics to identify low performing programs. In this process, the Seminary and School of Theology were identified as financially low-performing programs. It was at this time that some areas of HSU began the creation of online courses to help curb declining enrollments. Because of the nature of our ATS Seminary accreditation, fully online programs are not allowed without a waiver. Logsdon Seminary and Logsdon School of Theology can request a waiver of this policy but have historically chosen not to. Due to a variety of factors, enrollment numbers in both areas have continued to decline.

One year ago, the Logsdon Seminary Committee and the Finance and Audit Committee of the Board of Trustees discussed the seriousness of the financial situation of Logsdon Seminary and Logsdon School Theology. It was after these meetings that administration sat down with faculty and staff of both the Seminary and School of Theology to discuss once again the pathways to improve the financial condition of the Seminary and the School of Theology.

This past fall, the full Board of Trustees for Hardin-Simmons University met in a workshop setting to discuss the Seminary and School of Theology. After much prayer, sharing of information and discussion, the seriousness of the financial situation of the School of Theology and Seminary was fully understood by the board.

Decisions of the Board of Trustees

Last week after additional prayer, deliberation and decisions, it was determined that the funds initially given for the Logsdon School of Theology that had been used to cover the deficits of Logsdon Seminary would be directed back to the Logsdon School of Theology. These funds which had been originally given as endowments for our Bible department and religion department (that became Logsdon School of Theology) would again be used to support the University’s mission of Christian education for all of our undergraduate students.

The board voted to teach out the present seminary students, provide the full-time faculty a one-year contract, and close Logsdon Seminary and the Logsdon Seminary-San Antonio branch once all seminary students have graduated.

While theological issues did come up in our discussions, this was solely a financial decision.

Logsdon Seminary was not singled out in addressing the university’s operational challenges. All programs were analyzed as part of a process known as The Way Forward, HSU’s recently approved Strategic Financial Plan. Additional graduate and undergraduate programs outside the seminary will be teaching-out our students and then closing once all have graduated.

Hardin-Simmons University has been entrusted with the stewardship of significant financial and physical assets that position it well for long-term excellence, but each year it can spend only the income produced by the financial assets, not the assets themselves. The university is facing immediate short-term operational challenges that it is having to address now to preserve its assets for future generations of students, offering the programs they want in a cost-effective way.

Logsdon Seminary has been a life-changing experience for many. It has been a 15-year mission of faith. It produced 400+ graduates who have positively impacted the world for Christ. However, it is imperative that HSU continues to prioritize its programs as good stewards of our financial resources.

Those Affected

Many individuals have been affected by this recent decision and the sadness that faculty, staff, students and alumni have felt have been expressed through emails, texts, phone calls, social media, and in-person conversations with the administrators and trustees.

I want to assure you that the actions to close Logsdon Seminary do not diminish the great sacrifice that HSU, our donors, faculty, and staff have made to provide a quality seminary education to so many. The lives of our students and alumni around the globe are the living embodiment of seeds planted by our Logsdon Seminary faculty and staff. The impact will carry on for generations to come.

And while some would disagree with the decision and others fully support it, there is no doubt that there is a deep love for Hardin-Simmons University, the Logsdon School of Theology, and the Logsdon Seminary amongst our global family.

Seminary Training

There is a need for seminary level education in Texas. A group of individuals have begun to consider the possibility of a freestanding seminary separate and apart from Hardin-Simmons University and located in San Antonio. If there are institutions, churches, and individuals that are interested in taking this path or another path, Hardin-Simmons University stands ready to assist with any consultation and assistance.

I hope this letter has helped you understand the spirit of Hardin-Simmons University and how the prayers, sacrifice, and work done for our students has contributed to Baptist work worldwide for the cause of Christ.

This is who we’ve been, this is who we are, and this is who we’ll always be.

Eric

Update Statement RE: Closure of Logsdon Seminary

Feb. 8, 2020

Hardin-Simmons University, its Board of Trustees, and other campus leaders are listening closely to all feedback and community concerns. As we sort through the details of this closure, we will continue to work with our students as a major priority.
Some additional details:

  • This closure specifically includes Logsdon Seminary and its graduate programs. The Logsdon School of Theology will continue providing Christian undergraduate education at HSU.
  • Current seminary students will be provided a teach-out program to finish their degrees.
  • Many of the details are still being determined, and we will continue to communicate information as it comes available.
  • HSU’s leaders have already met today and will continue to meet daily to discuss and coordinate these changes.

We are incredibly thankful to the community for all the feedback that has already been received. We know that Logsdon Seminary has been a major part of this community and beyond and this closure has many, many facets to work through. Please continue to join with us in prayer for all those affected by this closure, for our campus leadership, and the rest of the HSU community during this time.

HSU Board of Trustee Meeting Update

Feb. 7, 2020

Our campus has seen a variety of trends and challenges in its 129 years and has a proven legacy of rising boldly to overcome. Our leadership will continue to innovate and adapt our institution, and we look forward to teaching and training students for another 129 years.

As we begin the Spring semester, we celebrate an exceptional 90% fall-to-spring persistence rate for our 2019 freshmen class, our 2nd largest incoming class on record. As we look toward the upcoming academic year, we have more applications, admits, and deposits than we had at this time in 2018 or 2019.

Today, February 7, the Hardin-Simmons University Board of Trustees concluded the first of three regular sessions for the 2020 calendar year. Our trustees continue to lead us in actively positioning HSU to sustain its legacy of providing an education enlightened by Christian faith and values for all current and future HSU students.

The Board of Trustees adopted The Way Forward, a strategic financial plan that calls for an annual evaluation of all academic programs. The plan provides a sustainable framework allowing HSU to proactively pursue outstanding academic opportunities and to position Hardin-Simmons favorably in an increasingly competitive marketplace. The first steps of implementation included organizing programs into five colleges and schools, resulting in a newly ordered Deans Council. The Board approved new programs, and it closed other programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels including Logsdon Seminary and its programs. In the next week, the appropriate deans and vice presidents will be communicating the details of these actions.

The Board increased the emphasis of the university’s historic mission of providing Christian education across the undergraduate curriculum by dedicating endowment earnings to scholarships for religion courses at the undergraduate level. The Board also conducted its regular work in authorizing the award of degrees at the May 2020 commencement, approving faculty promotions, and granting faculty emeritus status to outstanding faculty who have recently retired from the university.

Under The Way Forward, Hardin-Simmons University will always pursue financial excellence, which will allow us to maintain our academic excellence. In the coming weeks, months, and years the HSU campus will change. Structural adjustments like these are important as we strive toward achieving financial excellence not only for ourselves, but for those to come. Last year’s actions began our move toward financial sustainability. The decisions made today continue the process.

Our Trustees made these decisions with prayerful consideration and spiritual discernment, emphasizing that Hardin-Simmons will continue to hold to the Christian values on which it was founded. Our students will continue to participate in chapel services and weekly Bible studies. They will have expanded opportunities to participate in ministry events locally and abroad and to take additional Bible courses.

As an institution, we must move forward in unity, knowing that together we are paving the way for HSU’s long-term success. We have an outstanding history of persistence and innovation – standing strong to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Our entire community has invested, and will continue to invest, in this university in a multitude of ways, allowing HSU to follow its mission of providing an education enlightened by Christian faith and values. HSU will always encourage and foster the Christian environment that is woven deeply and enduringly throughout our university.

This is who we’ve been, this is who we are, and this is who we will always be.