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Calling the development "good news" for the school, a spokesman for the Salt Lake Theological Seminary confirmed Thursday the sale of its East South Temple building.
David Pascoe would release neither the sale price nor the buyer's name, but he did say the school's future landlord - the seminary will remain on site as a tenant - is a friend and supporter of Utah's only graduate school for Protestant clergy. With the sale, he said the school is now 90 percent debt free and better able to focus on what it does best: teach.
Since its inception in 1984, it's been the little school that could. With a growing number of students, the school purchased the Salt Lake City building on Sept. 10, 2001 - the day before the World Trade Center terrorist attacks rocked the nation and strangled the pocketbooks of most nonprofit organizations.
Financing this new undertaking through donations was tougher than anticipated, and by 2005 growing debt threatened to close the school. An emergency fundraising campaign saved the seminary then.
But financial challenges have been ongoing. Given the state's religious demographics, in which church-going Protestants account for only about 2 percent of the population, securing charitable contributions for the institution is no easy feat. Donations are critical, Pascoe explained, especially because only 20 percent of school expenses are covered by tuition and grant money remains out of reach until the seminary is given full accreditation, a lengthy process that is in motion but may not be finalized for another two to four years.
The seminary, in an effort to get out of the red, announced a restructuring plan Nov. 30 that included several support-position cuts, broad-based voluntary salary reductions, the early retirement of an administrator and the resignation of then-president, the Rev. Donald McCullough. Also under consideration at that time were thoughts of selling the building.
Never has the seminary occupied more than half percent of the three-story building, Pascoe said. All along, the school has relied on business tenants to bring in needed income. Early this year, staff doubled-up in offices, freeing up more room for leasing purposes. Meanwhile, feelers were put out to sell the property.
"What we really know how to do is have a school," said Pascoe. "We decided to turn what was an asset to the school into some liquid funds."
No longer do seminary types have to play landlord, worrying about issues such as maintenance, utilities and tenant needs. And while the necessity to maintain awareness and secure financial support is ongoing, Pascoe said the school is grateful to be free of the "burden of debt."
The theological seminary, which has 50 students enrolled this semester, will graduate seven students May 19. The first students with a master's degree in divinity graduated in 2005. Today, Pascoe said more than a dozen alumni are serving in ministry positions along the Wasatch Front, from Logan to Draper.
* To learn more about the Salt Lake Theological Seminary, visit http://www.slts.edu.