During a teleconference on September 9, 1998, members of the Board of Trustees of Saint Herman’s Theological Seminary here unanimously rejected any notion of closing the school by voting to maintain operations on a limited basis during the 1998-1999 academic year.
“It is my intention, with the concurrence of the Board of Trustees, to keep Saint Herman’s Seminary open, if only on a limited basis,” stated His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America [OCA] and Seminary President. “We will use every available resource at our disposal to maintain a program of study which satisfies the current requirements of the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education while exploring the means by which the seminary’s future will be ensured.”
Board members also voted unanimously to empower the seminary administration and trustees to undertake an in-depth review of the school’s original mission statement and to compare and contrast it to the present needs and requirements of the Orthodox Church in America’s Diocese of Alaska.
Established in 1973 as a pastoral school, Saint Herman’s has trained numerous clergy, catechists, choir directors and Church workers for the diocese, which encompasses the entire state of Alaska.
Precipitating the current discussion on the seminary’s fate was an August 18 letter distributed by the Very Rev. Michael Oleksa, the seminary’s Dean, which stated that Saint Herman’s was to be closed.
One week earlier Father Oleksa had informed Metropolitan THEODOSIUS that he intended to resign from his position as Dean, to which he had been appointed just two years ago.
“The announcement concerning the seminary’s closing, which was immediately reported by the press and posted on the internet, was a unilateral action on the part of Father Oleksa,” explained Metropolitan THEODOSIUS. “The letter was distributed after an ad hoc informational meeting of some trustees residing in the Anchorage area.”
The majority of the trustees, including the seminary’s President, were neither present at the informational meeting nor consulted in advance of the announcement, according to Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, who added that “any decision and subsequent announcement to close the school was invalid without the complete concurrence of the President and trustees.”
During the teleconference Metropolitan THEODOSIUS explained to the seminary trustees that he had in principle accepted Father Oleksa’s resignation, an action which was unanimously ratified by the Board in a formal motion which became effective September 10.
In addressing their concerns for the seminary’s financial situation, Board members agreed to intensify appeals for donations and financial support among the OCA’s faithful and to upgrade communications on the needs and work of the seminary.
“A plan of action must be put into place to stabilize the seminary’s financial picture,” Metropolitan THEODOSIUS stated. “Raising the level of awareness concerning the needs of the seminary and the diocese across the lower 48 is crucial, especially during the school’s 25th anniversary year.”
Board members concurred that an updated operating budget should be prepared once a workable administrative structure is put into place to ensure the seminary’s continued operation. A local committee to oversee the day-to-day administration of the seminary and to report its findings to the President and Board was named. Chaired by His Grace, Bishop INNOCENT of Anchorage, the local committee includes the Very Rev. Nicholas Molodyko- Harris and Messrs. Ben Ardinger and Moshe Zorea, with Mr. Roy Madsen serving as consultant.
“The committee’s immediate priority is to visit Kodiak to inform the community that the seminary does not intend to close its doors,” Metropolitan THEODOSIUS reported. “Committee members will also identify students willing to enter a program of study during the Fall Semester; establish a curriculum program that will meet the needs of the students and conform to the requirements of the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, and engage the services of a receptionist/secretary and maintenance person.”
Several students, three of whom are already in residence on the seminary campus, have expressed an interest in pursuing studies at Saint Herman’s during the coming academic year.
“As I travel throughout the diocese, I continually meet individuals interested in studying at the seminary,” added Bishop INNOCENT, who serves as an auxiliary to Metropolitan THEODOSIUS and Rector of Saint Herman’s. “What seems to prevent them from enrolling is uncertainty as to the school’s certification.”
Several months ago, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS reported, Saint Herman’s lost its certification by the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education. While the seminary can still operate without certification under restrictions specified by the State, it cannot offer the Bachelor of Sacred Theology Program with any of its component parts. The seminary, the Metropolitan added, is working with the state to reapply for certification at the next Commission meeting on December 10, 1998.
In response to the issue of certification, Board members unanimously voted that the seminary’s administration should continue to pursue the process of acquiring certification from the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education in preparation for the December 10 meeting. The Board also empowered the school’s administration to prepare a proposal on alternate methods for funding students’ tuition, room and board if Alaska Student Loan Program (ASLP) funds are no longer available to seminarians.
Before closing the teleconference, Protopresbyter Robert S. Kondratick, OCA Chancellor, announced that a full meeting of the Board of Trustees will be scheduled in the near future to discuss the seminary’s progress.
Other trustees participating in the teleconference, in addition to Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, Bishop INNOCENT, Fathers Kondratick and Molodyko-Harris, and Messrs. Ardinger and Zorea, were the Very Rev. Simeon Oskolkoff, the Revs. Peter Bourdukofsky and Nicolai Larson, Dr. Richard John Dauenhauer, and Messrs. Robert Andrews and Clifford T. Argue. Also participating were Protodeacon Eric A. Wheeler, OCA Treasurer, and Mr. Paul B. Hunchak, Assistant to the Chancellor.