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L-R Names First Provost for Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary

Provost After a national search for a new leader, Lenoir-Rhyne University has selected the Rev. Dr. Clayton J. Schmit as the founding Provost of the School of Theology that includes the Columbia, SC, based Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. He will assume this position as the chief administrative officer of the School of Theology and its seminary before the fall semester 2012. Dr. Schmit becomes the 18th leader of the Seminary and the first under the newly structured LR School of Theology.

This summer Lenoir-Rhyne University (LRU) and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (LTSS) will merge into a single university with a multi-campus School of Theology. The combination of the seminary with the university becomes the first such arrangement in Lutheran higher education in the United States. The new School of Theology at Lenoir-Rhyne encompasses the advanced degree programs at LTSS in Columbia, SC, as well as the traditional undergraduate programs in religion and theology at the LRU campus in Hickory. Plans are for the School of Theology to also offer graduate programs at the new LRU Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville.

Dr. Wayne Powell, president of LRU, commented, "We are fortunate to have been able to hire someone with the skills and background of the Rev. Dr. Schmit. He is an individual of great vision with a keen sense of the needs of others, and as such is the perfect person to lead LRU and LTSS as we set the course for the future of theological education in the U.S."

Dr. Schmit earned his Master of Divinity from Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary and his Ph.D from Graduate Theological Union. He currently serves as the Arthur DeKruyter/Christ Church Oak Brook Professor of Preaching at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA.

"While I immensely enjoy the work I am currently doing, I still have a strong commitment to the Lutheran Church," explained Dr. Schmit. "I look forward to sharing what I have learned about theological education at the world's largest seminary with one of the schools within my own denomination."

As the founding provost of the School of Theology, Dr. Schmit will be the chief administrative officer of the seminary, which will be vacant with the pending retirement of the seminary President, the Rev. Dr. Marcus J. Miller, later this summer. Under Miller's leadership the seminary has experienced a deepening in mission and is positioned at the leading edge of 21st century theological education in the United States.

With the merger of LRU and LTSS set to go into effect July 1st, Dr. Schmit will take the reins at a pivotal point in the school's history. It will be imperative to employ new, innovative, visionary strategies to lead the institution.

"Dr. Schmit comes to us uniquely prepared to lead us to dream new dreams, to imagine new programs, and to experiment in ways that will both fulfill the mission of the School of Theology and serve the church and world," said the Rev. Dr. Ginger Barfield, Dean of the seminary and chair of the Provost search committee.

The search committee received applications from numerous candidates, narrowing the field to three who were invited to both the Hickory and Columbia campuses. The committee quickly realized that the background and experiences that Dr. Schmit brought to the table made him the lead candidate for the position. Dr. Schmit's experience in teaching, administrating, and leading at various institutions including Duke Divinity School and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, were important to the search committee.

Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, one of eight seminaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, was founded in 1830 and has been located at its current campus in Columbia, SC, since 1911. The seminary offers graduate theology degrees to Lutherans and multiple other Christian denominations, fulfilling its mission to teach, form and nurture servant leaders for public ministry and service to the church.

With the completion of the merger, LRU and LTSS have set a goal of developing the premier Lutheran seminary in the country. This will involve a commitment to maintaining the long history of excellence that LTSS has established in training Lutheran pastors. It will further involve an emphasis on enhancing and supporting scholarship of faculty and students. LTSS has well-established ecumenical programs in support of Methodist and Baptist students and this emphasis on ecumenical programming will be expanded. Programs will also be developed to help undergraduate students at the LRU campus in Hickory, NC matriculate to the LTSS campus after taking the first year of courses in Hickory.

"I am very excited about the merger of LR and LTSS and the new approach to theological education it represents. This is a new day for the seminary, and I look forward to working with both teams to explore the synergies and prospects that the merger represents," Dr. Schmit added.

Lenoir-Rhyne University is a private, coeducational university with its primary campus in Hickory, NC and was founded in 1891. Today, over 1,850 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled on the 100-acre campus. Academic programs include 60 undergraduate majors, 14 graduate programs, the Center for Graduate Students of Asheville, NC (opening fall 2012); and the Seminary in Columbia, SC (effective July 1, 2012). Lenoir-Rhyne is affiliated with the NC Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and welcomes students from all religious backgrounds. The website is


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