Building on a 40-Year Partnership
By Dr. David Greenhaw, president of Eden Theological Seminary
Eden Theological Seminary’s relationship with Webster University and the Webster community is not new. Our school has been in Webster Groves for 86 years and for the last 43 of those years we have had an active and productive partnership with Webster University.
Thousands of Webster University alumni remember Eden from their time spent studying in the Luhr Library, which was built in 1967 on Eden’s campus and which from its very beginning was for both Eden and Webster students. Today, as it has been for several years, Webster University’s Religious Studies department is located in Schultz Hall on the Eden campus – the same location where Webster religious studies students have class.
And for a much longer period of time―really since the completion of the historic 1924 S.D. Press building (the building that features the magnificent tower)―Eden has become familiar to Webster Groves residents as it has been the “host” to numerous Webster Groves civic organization and neighborhood meetings; weddings and special events of Webster Groves residents, and beyond; and, has served as a key polling place for our Webster Groves neighborhood. And of course, Eden has welcomed to our campus Webster Groves community events such as the “Art & Air” art fair held annually that attracts not only Webster Groves residents but also thousands of visitors from elsewhere who come to admire our beautiful community.
The agreement between Eden and Webster University for the Luhr Library and two smaller buildings is yet another chapter in what will continue to be a vital and vibrant partnership between the two institutions―a partnership that helps build both institutions’ long-term stability as part of the Webster Groves community. Eden and Webster University’s collection of books remain part of a unique and innovative “shared library system”―the same system that’s been in place for four decades. The only difference is that today, some of Eden’s collection is found in the beautiful Emerson Library on the Webster University campus while other parts of the Eden collection are found in the newly renovated Luhr Reading Room in the S.D. Press building and in the soon-to-be renovated archives area in the same building on Eden’s campus. The consolidation of our libraries is good stewardship for both institutions as it provides excellent library facilities and services to both campus communities, as well as to the Webster Groves community in general. This unique library arrangement was recently extended by both institutions through 2030.
While the consolidation of our libraries leaves an empty educational building on Eden’s campus, it also opens new possibilities to further evolve the Eden and Webster University relationship through the repurposing of an existing building. This transaction allows Eden to realize financial benefit from a building no longer needed by Eden while at the same time providing Webster University a wonderful educational building. Very importantly, it accomplishes these goals without Webster University needing to acquire one square foot of Webster Groves property not already committed to academic use. As we like to tell people, it’s a “win-win-win.”
Eden Theological Seminary is in its strongest financial position in its more than 160 year history. Our strategic plan paints a clear path of how we will strengthen the life of the church by educating women and men for ministry, enlivening critical reflection on faith and supporting bold Christian discipleship. It details our vision to be recognized as an ecumenical educational center for the progressive Christian movement.
Eden will continue its mission and achieve its vision with its roots firmly planted on our campus and will continue to be open to other “win-win-win” opportunities for Eden, Webster University and the community of Webster Groves.