OWU Home

Lilly Endowment Gives OWU $2 Million for Theological, Vocational Exploration

December 4, 2002

[ Spring Break Mission Trip Photo ] DELAWARE, OHIO -- Ohio Wesleyan University is one of 39 colleges and universities in the country to receive a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., that begins or enhances programs that help prepare a new generation of leaders for church and society.

These four-year, church-related liberal arts colleges have devised programs that encourage their students to reflect on how their faith commitments are related to their career choices and what it means to be "called" to lives of service. The programs also provide opportunities fpr students to explore the rewards and demands of Christian ministry and consider a career as a minister.

Ohio Wesleyan received $2 million for the purpose of ensuring the religious and secular exploration of vocation as a defining and differentiating characteristic of the University. As a result of this exploration, the University hopes to increase the number of quality students seeking pre-theology majors or expressing interest in religious vocations; provide a more structured, clearly articulated and accessible program of theological exploration for all students regarding all vocations and in all academic disciplines; and to integrate their faith development with their vocational choices. In addition, the University will pursue a substantial endowment to ensure the continued, long-term operation of this project.

"We thank the Lilly Endowment for the tremendous opportunity this grant affords us in examining our current efforts at Ohio Wesleyan, and building on our strengths in crafting an implementation strategy," says OWU President Tom Courtice. The University's intent to endow the strategy speaks to the institution's long-term commitment to this vital endeavor, he explains.

"Without this significant commitment from the University, this implementation grant would be a valuable short-term project, but without endurance," says OWU Chaplain Jon Powers, project director.

"Theological exploration of vocation is not a short-term need in our culture or in the world." Rev. Powers worked closely with OWU student intern Elizabeth Cademartori in the creation of the project proposal.

"The theological exploration of vocation, the soul searching process of figuring out how your life-giving passion is going to fit into the real world, has been a priority for me," says Cademartori, a senior and double major in astrophysics and pre-theology.

Totaling $76.8 million, the 39 grants represent the third round of the Endowment's initiative called Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation. The first round, in 2000, awarded grants totaling $37.7 million to 20 schools. The second round, in 2002, awarded grants totaling $56.8 million to 29 schools. The third round brings the total implementation grants to $171.3 million to 88 schools across the country. (The Endowment also has invested $5.5 million in helping schools develop planning grants for these awards).

The Endowment invited the colleges to reflect on their particular strengths, history and mission in designing proposals so that the programs would fit each institution well. "Consequently, the result is a wonderful amalgam of creative programs that are clearly well-thought-out and have a real chance for success," said Craig Dystra, Endowment vice president for religion.

"Colleges that received grants in the earlier rounds are reporting very successful implementation of their plans -- their students are eager to engage in theological reflection as they make choices about their future, and many students are seriously considering the ministry as a career.

"Furthermore," he said, "people in these schools are getting together with each other to exchange ideas and tell each other about the most promising aspects of their projects, so the infrastructure of connections keeps building. We think that will greatly enhance both their common purposes and the Endowment's ultimate objectives of a talented new generation of ministers leading healthy and vibrant congregations."

Founded in 1937, the Endowment is an Indianapolis-based private foundation that supports its founders' wishes by supporting the causes of religion, community development and education.