Dr. John Phelan Honored for Service with Seminary
CHICAGO, IL (May 3, 2010) – Dr. John (Jay) Phelan was honored for his 14 years of service as president and dean of North Park Theological Seminary during a reception at Nyvall Hall last Wednesday afternoon. Last fall, Dr. Phelan (pictured left, with wife Dawn) announced his decision to step down from office and join the faculty as Senior Professor of Theological Studies beginning in summer 2010.
The well-attended reception brought together members of the denomination; University faculty, staff, and students; and former Seminary students and staff who returned to campus for the event. Speakers included Evangelical Covenant Church President Gary Walter, University President Dr. Parkyn, Administrative Assistant to Dr. Phelan, Guylla Brown, Professor of Church History Phil Anderson, and students Pam Carlson, Kelsey Holloway, and Alice Hague.
Dr. Anderson characterized Dr. Phelan as “a person without guile,” and other speakers recognized his integrity and respect for all people. Guylla Brown commented, “Dr. Phelan treats staff, students, and everyone around him with respect.” This fact was evidenced by the strong attendance and warm appreciation shown. Brown continued, “It’s nice to respect someone even more after working with him for 10 years than you did in the beginning.”
Dr. Phelan expressed his thanks, and emphasized that it is the group working together that accomplishes grand goals, not the individual. He specifically thanked former NPTS Dean of Faculty Stephen Graham, Dean of Academic Life Linda Cannell, Dean of Students and Community Life Deb Auger, Lecturer and former Dean of Students and Community Life Jo Ann Deasy, and Administrative Assistant Guylla Brown for their collaboration in bringing his expansive plans to fruition.
Dr. Phelan’s achievements as Seminary president and dean include:
- Appointing 10 new full-time faculty members, an academic dean, and a dean of students
- Enrollment increase from 128 students in 1996 to 300 last fall
- Award of two Lilly Endowment grants to fund Seminary programs: Making Connections Initiative, a five-year $2,000,000 grant to connect the Seminary and Church; and Sustaining Pastoral Excellence, a grant shared with the ECC and used to fund the Center for Spiritual Direction
- Increase in development effort from virtually no funding to an annual fund that at its height yielded nearly $800,000 a year, as well as considerable growth in the Seminary portion of the endowment
- Establishment of two new scholarship programs: Presidential Scholarship, for students from the ECC intending to serve in Covenant Ministry; and Kern Scholarships, full scholarships for students intending to serve in parish ministry, funded by the Kern Family Foundation
Dr. Phelan led the creation of a wide range of new programs and initiatives, including:
- The Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, a popular new degree
- The SemConnect distance learning program, the first distance learning program at the University, making NPTS one of just a few forward-looking online seminaries, which enables students to earn any of the Seminary degrees through distance learning, and in which approximately 50 students are currently enrolled
- SemConnect certificate programs, through which pastors can obtain credentialing through the Covenant Church
- The Center for Spiritual Direction, which prepares Spiritual Directors to serve the Evangelical Covenant Church and the wider church
- The Center for Faith and Health, now the Faith and Health initiative, which brings together theologians, Bible scholars, and health care professionals
- The Center for Justice Ministries (now part of the University’s Collaboratory for Urban and Intercultural Learning)
- The Center for World Christian Studies, a joint effort of the Seminary and Covenant World Mission to prepare students for cross-cultural ministry
In September, Dr. Phelan will begin a sabbatical including a week-long spiritual retreat on the Island of Iona off the coast of Scotland, then divide his time between working on a book on eschatology for pastors and churches and preparing to teach classes on eschatology and the gospel of Mark in the spring term. Over the next few months, he will be speaking at a number of venues, including the Central Conference pastors’ retreat, the Covenant Midwinter Conference, the Theology and Peace Conference, and the Evangelical Jewish Dialogue in Washington, D.C.
"I was very moved by the kind words, the affirmations, and gifts from faculty, staff, students, and adminstrators," Dr. Phelan said. "It was a joy to have so many friends and colleagues crowded into Olsson Lounge! It has been a great and humbling honor to serve this remarkable community. I am looking forward to continuing my calling as a teacher and am thankful to God for the opportunity."