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Explore Our 200 Years of History

1818

Founding of the Society of the Education of Pious Young Men for the Ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church.

The original governing body of Virginia Theological Seminary, the Education Society, is tasked with raising funds and establishing a seminary in Virginia. Made up of local, prominent Episcopalians, the Education Society: includes the Rev. William Wilmer, the Rt. Rev. William Meade, the Rt. Rev. Richard Channing Moore, and Francis Scott Key, Esq.

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1823

First class of Virginia Theological Seminary.

The initial fourteen seminary students begin the year with classes taught by the Rev. William Wilmer at St. Paul’s, Alexandria. The Rev. Reuel Keith, first professor, and students soon relocate to rented quarters at the corner of King and Washington streets.

1823-1862

Antebellum period.

Virginia Theological Seminary is born, bred, and operates within the economy based on chattel slavery.  The vast majority of VTS’s founders, faculty (including the first two eventual deans Sparrow and Packard), governance, and benefactors, as well as the institution itself, hold Black people in bondage. This is not unique in the Episcopal Church in that 82% of the clergy within the Diocese of Virginia in 1860 are enslavers.

Most service jobs on campus are performed by Black people, both free and enslaved, including personal servants and farm laborers. Southern students often bring enslaved servants to seminary with them, and the Education Society provides funds for slave labor for the institution and the students it supports financially. VTS hires out enslaved Black people from local constituents, hires contractors that use enslaved and the discounted labor of freedmen, constructs slave quarters on campus, and operates daily as a traditional Southern, slave-based institution.

1827

The Holy Hill.

With funds procured from the Education Society, Professors Keith and the Rev. Edward Lippitt lead the students to a new campus in Fairfax County, west of the City of Alexandria. The original parcel, consisting of sixty-two acres and a dwelling (Oakwood), is purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Jonah Thompson, and provides the faculty and students a place apart from the inconveniences, distraction, and expense of living in a city.

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1830

First foreign missionary.

Dr. John Henry Hill (VTS 1830) and his wife Frances travel to Greece as members of the Episcopal Church’s first appointed missionary team. Both John and Frances spend the remaining 50 years of their lives in Greece and are considered founders of the Greek school system.

1836

Packard joins faculty.

The Rev. Dr. Joseph Packard teaches Sacred Literature at VTS from 1836 until 1895, by far the longest tenure in faculty history. A student of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Packard is so prominent on campus and synonymous with VTS that the Rev. Carl Grammer (VTS 1884) indicated Packard seemingly “belongs to the same category as the great oaks of the Seminary’s splendid grove.”

1839

Episcopal High School opens.

In response to a request made by the Rev. Joseph P.B. Wilmer, the Diocese of Virginia approves the creation of a school to help educate boys for seminary.  The VTS Board of Trustees purchased 80 adjacent acres in 1838 and financial support is provided by the Education Society. Under the direction of the Rev. William N. Pendleton, VTS faculty and students provide some of the instruction, and of the 43 future clergies that attended EHS prior to the Civil War, 40 attend VTS.

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1841

Sparrow joins faculty.

Considered by his peers as “the Seminary’s greatest professor”, the Rev. Dr. William Sparrow teaches Systematic Divinity and Christian Evidences at VTS for over 30 years. Sparrow is credited with the Seminary’s motto which he speaks at the end of each class: “Seek the truth, come whence it may, cost what it will.”

1842

James May joins faculty.

The Rev. Dr. James May (VTS 1827), teaching Ecclesiastical History, rounds out the faculty triumvirate that leads Virginia Seminary for the remaining 20 years of the antebellum period. An abolitionist, May is revered by students, as well as Dr. Sparrow, who refers to May as “the most perfect Christian character I have ever known.”

1849-51

Liberian students.

At the request of the Rt. Rev. John Payne (VTS 1836), the first bishop of the Missionary District of Liberia, three Grebo men, Musu (English name: John Minor), Bidi Wah (G.T. Bedell), and Ku Sia (Clement F. Jones), train for ordained ministry at Virginia Theological Seminary. They are welcomed into the home of and supported by Professor May and his wife, Ellen, in a foreign, segregated land while so many Africans, and those of African descent, remain in bondage. Musu, Bidi Wah, and Ku Sia are the only students of African descent to study at VTS for 100 years.

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1849-51

Liberian students.

At the request of the Rt. Rev. John Payne (VTS 1836), the first bishop of the Missionary District of Liberia, three Grebo men, Musu (English name: John Minor), Bidi Wah (G.T. Bedell), and Ku Sia (Clement F. Jones), train for ordained ministry at Virginia Theological Seminary. They are welcomed into the home of and supported by Professor May and his wife, Ellen, in a foreign, segregated land while so many Africans, and those of African descent, remain in bondage. Musu, Bidi Wah, and Ku Sia are the only students of African descent to study at VTS for 100 years.

1855

Bicentennial Hall built.

Constructed as the original library to hold 7,000 volumes, Bicentennial Hall has had many uses: library, refectory, common space, choir room, practice chapel, and home to the Center for the Ministry of Teaching. It has also had as many names including “the Old Library”, Wilmer Hall, and Key Hall. It is renamed Bicentennial Hall in 2019 in honor of the Seminary’s upcoming bicentennial in 2023.

1856

First dormitory built.

St. George’s Hall is the home to generations of seminarians for almost 100 years; it is located at the west end of campus. As a gift from “a lady of St. George’s Church, New York,” it is named after that congregation. Razed in 1945, another St. George’s Hall is built in 1952.

1856

Phillips Brooks enrolls.

The eventual Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks (VTS 1859), the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, is one of the more prominent churchmen of the latter half of the 19th century. Known nationally for penning “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, Brooks’s enduring historical import to VTS is through the extensive correspondence he writes while on campus. Much of what we know about the daily life of the era, particularly that of the enslaved, is from Brooks.

1858-60

Aspinwall Complex built.

Virginia Theological Seminary constructs the main building complex utilizing a network of benefactors lead by a push from the student body. Records indicate that the laborers, both skilled and unskilled, were comprised of both enslaved and free. Aspinwall, Meade, and Bohlen Halls are still the main administrative complex on campus today.

1859

First missionaries to Japan.

Classmates John Liggins and Channing Moore Williams (VTS 1855) are the first Episcopal missionaries to Japan. Liggins returns to the U.S. after two years, but Williams remains for most of his life. He is consecrated bishop of the Missionary District of China (which includes Japan), and then the first Bishop of Yedo (Tokyo). Considered the father of the Anglican Church in Japan, Williams founds numerous churches, schools, hospitals including the existing St. Barnabas Hospital, Osaka, and what is now known as Rikkyo University, Tokyo, and has a seminary named after him in Kyoto.

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1858-60

Aspinwall Complex built.

Virginia Theological Seminary constructs the main building complex utilizing a network of benefactors lead by a push from the student body. Records indicate that the laborers, both skilled and unskilled, were comprised of both enslaved and free. Aspinwall, Meade, and Bohlen Halls are still the main administrative complex on campus today.

1861

VTS and the Civil War.

With the Civil War imminent, and officials in Alexandria warning of skirmishes locally, the campus is vacant of faculty and students by the end of May. Professor Packard recollects thinking the conflict would end shortly so he simply locks the door and leaves all his family’s possessions in place, falsely assuming they’d still be here upon return. Professors Sparrow and Packard attempt to continue schooling in Staunton, Virginia while the student body slowly dwindles as they go off to support the war effort.  

1861-65

Fairfax Seminary Hospital.

The U.S. Army commandeers campus in the summer of 1861 and shortly thereafter converts the grounds into a military hospital. Officially receiving patients by March 1862, Fairfax Seminary Hospital treats up to 1,500 infirmed at any given moment. The deceased are buried daily with full military honors, and when the war is over many of these remains are reinterred at what will become Arlington National Cemetery.

1865

Virginia Theological Seminary re-opens.

With only two professors, a ravished campus, almost no funds, and a handful of students, training for the priesthood officially resumes on the Holy Hill in October.  The Seminary is slow to rebound and only graduates 30 men between 1865-69 (there were 18 men in the Class of 1860.)

1866

Virginia returns to ECUSA.

Having seceded from the Episcopal Church of the United States in 1861 in support of the Confederate cause, the diocesan council affirms “the Diocese of Virginia now resumes its normal ecclesiastical relations as a Diocese in connection with the General Convention.”

1868

The Rev. Dr. William Sparrow appointed first Dean of Virginia Theological Seminary.

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1872

Alexandria Infirmary Association.

Julia Johns, daughter of the Bishop of Virginia and President of the Board of Trustees John Johns, forms the Alexandria Infirmary Hospital with members of St. Paul’s, Alexandria. Fearing a typhoid fever epidemic from sailors returning to port, the association determines “to establish and control a Hospital for the sick among the respectable laboring classes.” This initiative eventually becomes Alexandria INOVA Hospital.

1873

VTS Turns 50 Years Old.

1874

The Rev. Dr. Joseph Packard appointed second Dean of VTS.

1877

Isaac K. Yokoyama graduates.

Born in Japan, Yokoyama comes to the U.S. to study and joins the VTS Preparatory Department in 1972.  He subsequently completes full seminary training and returns to Japan as the first native-born Protestant Christian priest.  Yokoyama is the first known person of Asian descent to study at VTS.

1878

Sunday school for African Americans.

William Assheton (VTS 1881) creates a Sunday School on campus to minister to the Black community. Assheton is following the example of some of his antebellum classmates in addressing the need to serve this community, many of whom served VTS for years, both voluntarily and not. This initiative leads to the establishment of the congregation of St. Cyprian’s/Good Shepherd.

1878

Bishop Payne Divinity School founded.

The need for an institution to train Black men for the priesthood was great in Virginia, but not great enough to integrate Virginia Seminary. With a strong foundation of educators and Black men who sought ordination in the Episcopal Church in Petersburg, a seminary grows out of St. Stephen’s parish school. Eventually known as Bishop Payne Divinity School (BPDS), the Seminary with prominent graduates such as James Solomon Russell (BPDS 1882), George Freeman Bragg (BPDS 1886), and Odell Greenleaf Harris (BPDS 1933) receives financial support from VTS starting in 1882.

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1881

Immanuel Chapel built.

Having fallen into disrepair and going largely unused after the war, Virginia Theological Seminary replaces its “old Chapel” with a new, Gothic-style chapel with funds raised largely from alumni. Consecrated on June 23, 1881, Immanuel Chapel serves VTS, Episcopal High School, and Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill until it is lost to fire on October 22, 2010.

1883

Chapel of Good Shepherd/ St. Cyprian's built.

The large, local Black community, many of whom worked at Virginia Theological Seminary for generations, were, of course, segregated from worshiping with the rest of the VTS community. Born out of the Sunday School started on campus in 1878 by William H. Assheton (VTS 1881), the funds for a chapel for African Americans are procured from the Board of Trustees by Benjamin Dennis (VTS 1883).

The worshipping congregation, St. Cyprian’s, also known as the Chapel of the Good Shepherd to the Diocese of Virginia, is solely ministered to by seminarians. One of two main houses of worship in the area at the turn of the century for African American Christians, the Chapel of Good Shepherd/St. Cyprian’s relocates from campus in the late 1920s and shutters completely in 1943.

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1894

John W. Johnson appointed as first Black faculty at Bishop Payne Divinity School.

As the Diocese of Virginia continues to limit the representation and participation of its Black members at the diocesan council, enrollment at Bishop Payne Divinity School declines. One action to combat this is the hiring of the Rev. John W. Johnson (BPDS 1890). The first Black faculty member at the Black seminary, Johnson teaches Homiletics and Old and New Testament History at BPDS for 10 years.

1894

First woman in academic position.

Miss Maria B. Worthington is hired as the first full-time Librarian, thereby becoming the first woman to hold an academic/faculty-level position at VTS.  Starting in 1891 as an assistant, Miss Maria, as she’s affectionately called, serves the seminary with distinction for over forty years.  Over 600 men graduate during her time as librarian.

1895

Preparatory department closes.

To bridge the gap from the high school to Seminary, and to remedy the problem of no Episcopal Church-related college in Virginia, the Seminary creates a preparatory department in the late 1850s for Virginia Seminary students that are not college graduates.  Philips Brooks (VTS 1859) is its first instructor teaching Latin and Greek. As trust in Virginia colleges grows, VTS faculty debate its merits and close the department.

1896

The Rev. Dr. Cornelius Walker (VTS 1845) appointed third Dean of VTS.

1898

The Rev. Dr. Angus Crawford (VTS 1916 DD) appointed fourth Dean of VTS.

1899

Henry St. George Tucker graduates.

The Most Reverend Henry St. George Tucker, 19th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, leaves Seminary for the foreign mission field immediately upon graduation. Over his 25 years in Japan, he serves as President of St. Paul’s College (eventually the aforementioned Rikkyo University), the Bishop of Osaka, and subsequently the Bishop of Kyoto. 

Back in the United States, Tucker serves as Professor at Virginia Seminary, Bishop of Virginia, and Chairman of the VTS Board of Trustees before being elected Presiding Bishop in 1938. 

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1905

Immanuel Chapel redesign.

VTS begins the multi-year renovation plan for its sanctuary in response to increased use by the student body.  Completed in 1907, the redesign creates a vesting room, a new choir, and an enlarged/recessed chancel.  The new chancel now features the prominent stained-glass window by Mayer & Co. depicting Jesus sending disciples into the world surrounded by the words of Mark 16:15 that inspire generations of future priests and missionaries: “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel.”

1907

Good Shepherd/St. Cyprian’s Renovations.

With support from Dean Crawford and local benefactors, Good Shepherd/St. Cyprian’s completes much needed repairs and renovations.  The work also augments the sanctuary’s beauty and comfort by providing new chancel furniture, pews, as well as newly decorated walls and stained-glass windows by artist Marietta Minnigerode Andrews.  The structure remains on campus after the congregation’s departure to Fort Ward in the 1920s and ceases to on campus by 1931.

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1910

Campus electrified.

After much back and forth between the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee over cost, an electric plant is built, and all buildings are wired for electric lighting.

1916

Joseph DuBray, 1st Native American Indian graduate.

Only the second known Native American Indian to enroll at Virginia Theological Seminary, the Rev. Joseph DuBray is the first to receive his degree. 

DuBray returns to South Dakota and ministers to the Lower Brule Mission for the entirety of his career. He is the only identifying Native American Indian to attend VTS for the next 100 years.

1916

The Rev. Dr. Berryman Green (VTS 1890) appointed fifth Dean of VTS.

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1921

Packard-Laird built.

VTS sees a small post-war boom to coincide with the changes in the curriculum and pedagogy of the early 1920s. In response, the Board of Trustees erects three new buildings in a line west of the Aspinwall Complex: a deanery, a library, and a dormitory. 

Packard-Laird, constructed to hold 75,000 volumes, serves as the Seminary’s library from 1921 until 1957. It is used as a lecture hall, home to the Center for the Ministry of Teaching, the Welcome Center, and a return to its roots as the temporary Welcome Center Library for 2020-2021 while Bishop Payne Library is renovated. Funsten Memorial Deanery, which was never used as a deanery, and the dormitory, Sparrow Hall, are completed in 1924.

1922

First Japanese Bishop.

The Rt. Rev. Yasutaro Naide is the first Japanese-born bishop in Japan and the first Bishop of Osaka.  Naide attended lectures at VTS in the early 1900s.  Naide’s son, Takeshi (1922), and grandson, Timothy (1962), both graduate VTS and return to Japan to serve their homeland.  Bishop Naide is awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by VTS in 1924.

1923

VTS Turns 100 Years Old.

1923

Episcopal High School gets own Board of Trustees.

Acknowledging the need for separate management of the schools, both institutionally and financially, Virginia Theological Seminary and Episcopal High School formally separate. This allows VTS to pursue improvements, fundraising for its own endowment, and its centennial celebration, and EHS to focus on its rapid growth.

1924

First Asian Honorary Degree Recipient.

The Rev. Jacob K. Kobayashi (VTS 1894) is among the first two people of Asian descent to be awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from VTS.  After finishing seminary, Kobayashi returns to Japan to serve Church schools and is a well-respected professor of Apologetics at St. Paul’s College/Rikkyo University.  He also serves as the long-time rector of St. Margaret’s School, Tokyo.  The Rt. Rev. Yasutaro Naide receives his honorary degree at the same time.

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1931

The Rev. Dr. Wallace Rollins appointed sixth Dean of VTS.

1933

John Elbridge Hines graduates.

Commencing his career during the Great Depression and working in impoverished congregations in the South, John Elbridge Hines’s ministry is aimed at empowering the poor and defenseless.

Consecrated the 22nd Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in 1965, the Most Rev. John Hines leads the Church through some of its most tumultuous times. His call for social justice and self-determination lead to the controversial General Convention Special Program in 1969. A supporter of women’s ordination and an increase in minority and women members on church councils, Hines heads the Episcopal Church until 1974.

1933

First female instructor.

Lillian Pierce Rudd joins the seminary as instructor in Reading and Speaking making her the first woman to hold a teaching position.  Mrs. Rudd teaches at VTS until June 1944.

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1940

The Rev. Dr. Alexander C. Zabriskie appointed seventh Dean of VTS.

1941

Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill founded.

Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill is born out of Dean Zabriskie’s desire to have a Seminary parish worship on campus and serve the local community. Growing quickly in the first several years, Virginia Theological Seminary supports the building of a parish house in 1948 and a small chapel in 1958 named in honor of Zabriskie, their first rector. No longer a parish of the Seminary, Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill continues to worship on campus.

1948-52

Second post-war boom.

As enrollment increases after World War II, the need for bigger, better facilities is great. Over the course of four years, Virginia Seminary builds four new dormitories and a refectory with an attached reception area. Scott Lounge serves as the Seminary’s living room, while Johns, Wilmer, Madison, and (a new) St. George’s Halls, and the Refectory have housed and fed generations of seminarians.

1949

Last Commencement of Bishop Payne Divinity School.

Three factors lead to the closing of Bishop Payne Divinity School: poor finances; crumbling school infrastructure; and poor enrollment numbers. All of these can be partly attributed to the Church’s continued subjugation of its Black members in the first half of the twentieth century. In total, BPDS officially educates at least six Black women (20 years before Virginia Theological Seminary would admit women) and 256 Black men for Christian service.

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1950

The Rev. Dr. Stanley Brown-Serman (DD 1936) appointed eighth Dean of VTS.

1951

John Walker enrolls at VTS.

The debate on whether to integrate Virginia Seminary, build a seminary for African Americans on or near campus, or subsidize Bishop Payne Divinity School continues at Board meetings for years prior to 1950 with no progress. Finally, in November of that year, Dean Zabriskie reports to the Board of Trustees: “The Faculty and Admissions Committee are prepared to admit to the Seminary next September a highly recommended and well-prepared Negro applicant from the Diocese of Michigan.” John Thomas Walker enrolls at Virginia Seminary in September 1951, thereby integrating Virginia Theological Seminary.

1948-52

Second post-war boom.

As enrollment increases after World War II, the need for bigger, better facilities is great. Over the course of four years, Virginia Seminary builds four new dormitories and a refectory with an attached reception area. Scott Lounge serves as the Seminary’s living room, while Johns, Wilmer, Madison, and (a new) St. George’s Halls, and the Refectory have housed and fed generations of seminarians.

1952

The Rev. Dr. Felix Kloman (VTS 1925, DD 1975) appointed ninth Dean of VTS.

1953

Bishop Payne Divinity School merger.

Several years of no enrollment, combined with the integration of Virginia Theological Seminary, the Trustees of Bishop Payne Divinity School propose a merger with Virginia Seminary. The VTS Trustees vote unanimously to accept the proposal. On June 3, 1953, the two institutions officially merge with unanimous ratification of the agreement from both sides.

1954

John Walker graduates VTS.

A year to the day after the merger with BPDS, John T. Walker graduates from VTS.  Walker goes on to become Suffragan Bishop, Bishop Coadjutor, and eventual Diocesan Bishop, as well as Dean of National Cathedral.

1956

The Rev. Jesse M. Trotter (VTS 1936) appointed tenth Dean of VTS.

1957

New Library built.

The completion of the New Library rounds out the second post-war building boom and provides the institution with a modern library facility built to hold 100,000 volumes to meet the needs of the growing student body. Packard-Laird is converted into a prayer hall and auditorium space.

1959

First woman graduate.

Entering as a transfer student in 1958, Marian Smallegan graduates in 1959.  Women are not yet formally admitted to the degree program, but are admitted on special, case-by-case basis.  Not a candidate for ordination, Smallegan is ultimately an Associate Professor of Nursing at UNC Chapel Hill. She is awarded a Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, in 1989.

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1962

Marion Kelleran appointed to faculty.

Marion Kelleran began teaching at VTS as a part-time lecturer in Christian Education in 1949 and is elected as the first full-time, female faculty member in 1962. A past president of the Association of Professional Women Church Workers, Kelleran is influential in the formal enrollment of women at VTS and the ordination of women to the priesthood. She teaches Pastoral Theology and Christian Education until she retires in 1973.

1966

Phyllis Ingraham graduates.

Admitted as a special case prior to the Trustees’ formal admittance of women, Phyllis Ingraham becomes the first woman to complete all of her divinity degree work at VTS (cum laude).  Her recommendation for ordination was supported by faculty members Clifford Stanley (VTS 1928) and John Rodgers (VTS 1958, DD 1987), but the motion failed despite her suitability for ordination being confirmed. Ingraham is ordained in the Congregational Church the following year.

1968

Master of Arts in Religion.

The demand for masters-level theological training among women was on the rise while the Episcopal Church remained steadfast in its refusal to permit women to be ordained. This influenced VTS to create a two-year Master of Arts in Religion program to allow for women to enroll.

1969

The Very Rev. G. Cecil Woods (VTS 1953) appointed eleventh Dean & President of VTS.

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1970

VTS Civil Rights Act.

The first substantial, communal dialogue on race and race relations, the 1968 Workshop on Racial Conflict & Justice, made clear the existing anger and resentment among the Black members of the community and the subsequent fear surrounding it. This, combined with the perceived failure of the 1970 Conference on Racism held at Virginia Theological Seminary, led to the adoption of the VTS Civil Rights Act on April 24, 1970.  Among other initiatives, it calls for: concerted efforts to appoint Black faculty and staff; inclusion of Black studies in the curriculum; and intensified efforts to recruit Black students.

1973

Library renamed in honor of Bishop Payne Divinity School.

One other resolution of the VTS Civil Rights Act was for concrete expression on the VTS campus of the heritage of the Bishop Payne Divinity School. On October 18, 1973, Bishop Payne Divinity School alumni, led by the Rt. Rev. Richard B. Martin (BPDS 1942), gather on campus along with the Dean & President, the Very Rev. G. Cecil Woods, and the Bishop of Virginia/President of the Board of Trustees, the Rt. Rev. Robert F. Gibson, Jr. (VTS 1940, 1948 DD, 1974 DHL), to rename the library Bishop Payne Library in honor of the divinity school and its graduates.

1973

VTS Turns 150 Years Old.

1974

Philadelphia Eleven.

Frustrated by the lack of action of the 1973 General Convention and unwilling to wait for 1976, eleven women and three retired bishops defy canon law. On July 29, 1974, at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia, eleven women, including Allison Cheek (VTS 1969) and Nancy Hatch Wittig (VTS 1974) are ordained to the priesthood. Four more women, including Betty Powell (VTS 1972) are ordained in Washington, DC on September 7, 1975.  These ordinations force the Church’s hand and women’s ordination to the priesthood and episcopacy is finally approved during the 1976 General Convention.

1976

First Black woman student.

Pauli Murray (DD 1980), lawyer, teacher, poet, activist, and the first Black woman to be ordained in the Episcopal Church, completes her theological training at VTS. The descendant of both slaves and slavers and founding member of the National Organization for Women, Murray celebrates the Eucharist for the first time in the same chapel her enslaved grandmother was baptized in, the Chapel of the Holy Cross, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

1977

First Doctor of Ministry degrees awarded.

Created several years prior, the Continuing Education Center offered a six-week residential program on personal growth and renewal, a weeklong “refresher” course for alumni in the summer, and the Doctor of Ministry program. This is in large part a response to meet the need for post-seminary education. Four people received D. min. degrees during that first award in May.

1978

First Black faculty.

Although there were several previous African American part-time instructors, including the Rev. Henry B. Mitchell (VTS 1957) and the Rev. John C. Davis (BPDS 1936), Lloyd Anthony “Tony” Lewis, Jr. (VTS 1972) joins VTS teaching New Testament as the first full-time African American faculty.  A native of Alexandria and the first Black student in Alexandria parochial schools, Fr. Lewis would serve VTS for roughly thirty years over two stints.  Fr. Lewis proudly carries the legacy of Bishop Payne Divinity School from his mentor, Davis, and continues to spread that legacy through the Black graduates of VTS.

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1980

Bishop Payne Library expansion.

Addressing the need for more volumes and more services, VTS dedicates the new addition to Bishop Payne Library on November 11. Named in honor of Armistead Lloyd Boothe, former VTS Director of Development and special counsel to the Dean & President, the Boothe addition nearly doubles the book capacity and provides for better archives, special collections, and rare book spaces, as well as a periodical room named in honor of the Rev. Walter Russell Bowie (VTS 1908, DD 1938).

1982

First African American Woman M.Div.

Norma Lee Blackwell, from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, is the first Black woman to complete her M.Div. degree here at VTS. She was ordained to the deaconate and priesthood by the Rt. Rev. John T. Walker (VTS 1954, 1978 DD) at National Cathedral.

1982

The Very Rev. Richard Reid appointed twelfth Dean & President of VTS.

1985

Center for the Ministry of Teaching.

Initially, the vision of Dean Reid and led by the Rev. Locke Bowman the Center for the Ministry of Teaching (CMT)  provides instruction to students in the religious education of children, produces the Episcopal Children’s Curriculum and Episcopal Curriculum for Youth, and offers a master’s degree in Christian Education. The following year, CMT would publish its first issue of Episcopal Teacher.

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1991

First MLK Day observance.

In January, VTS observes Martin Luther King, Jr. Day for the first time with a “focus on celebrating and discovering social concerns ministry.” The Rev. Henry Mitchell (VTS 1957) preached, and the seminarians spent “Action Day” doing good deeds locally. This is also the beginning of a diversity training component to new-student orientation.

1993

Addison Academic Center opens.

In the late 1980s, the Board of Trustees Long-Range Planning Committee identifies a new, stand-alone academic center, as the Seminary’s primary physical need as it approaches the twenty-first century.  

Specifically created for teaching and learning, it is comprised of lecture halls, classrooms, the Lettie Pate Evans Auditorium, and the Seminary Book Service/Cookesbury Bookstore. Addison Academic Center is named in honor of Edmund B. Addison, the grandfather of major benefactor John H. Lyons. 

1994

The Very Rev. Martha Horne (VTS 1983) appointed thirteenth Dean & President of VTS.

1997

A Call to a Holy Life.

Led by the Very Rev. Martha Horne, dean and president, this policy, A Call to a Holy Life, formally nullifies the overt discriminatory policies of the 1970s and 80s against seminarians and applicants that identify as lesbian or gay. It was passed by the Board on January 21 and is still current, allowing for all members of the LGBTQ community to enroll in Seminary.

“The context in which we live, study, and interact with other persons presumes the right of each individual to be respected as a person without regard to sex, race, color, religion, national origin, citizenship, handicap, age, sexual orientation, or theological position. All members of the community, especially those in authority over others, have an obligation to promote this environment.”

Very Rev. Martha Horne

1997

The Center for Anglican Communion Studies is established.

In response to the many theological issues around the Anglican Communion, Virginia Theological Seminary creates the Center for Anglican Communion Studies to coordinate and nurture scholarly engagement among Anglicans worldwide; to house Anglican materials and host Anglican scholars; and to devote time, money, and energy towards assisting individuals and groups around the world to reflect creatively upon the historic nature and contemporary possibilities of the Anglican Christian Tradition.

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2003

The Rev. Ruthanna Hooke, Ph.D., appointed to faculty.

The Rev. Ruthanna Hooke, Ph.D., comes to VTS as the first openly gay and partnered member of the faculty. With the support of Dean & President Martha Horne, her appointment is nonetheless filled with controversy.  The community debates her belonging for over a year in small group discussions, papers, and fora.  After her arrival, the tension culminates in a public forum to debate her belonging.  Determined not to be defined or restrained by her sexuality, Ruthanna and her partner Judy, settle in on campus, raise a child together, and are pillars within the community.  Ruthanna serves as Associate Dean of Students and Professor of Homiletics and as a member of the Senior Leadership team.

2005

AAEHC formally dedicated.

In 2003 the African American Episcopal Historical Collection (AAEHC) was established at the VTS Archives as a joint project with the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church. Through documents, institutional records, oral histories, personal papers, and photographs, the collection documents the experience of African American Episcopalians in the U.S. Individual collections contain significant references to religious faith and involvement in the Episcopal Church, particularly at the regional, diocesan, and local levels.

2006

First commemoration of MLK Martyrdom Day.

Every April, since 2006, Virginia Seminary comes together to commemorate the martyrdom of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a series of events designed to celebrate and honor his life and legacy.

"The themes of this annual two day commemoration are always important, but perhaps at this time in American history they are more important than ever. The Seminary recognizes that this work of justice is fundamental and completely gospel. We have two exceptional speakers who will invite us to think ever more deeply about ourselves, our church, and our country."

The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D. (2019)

2007

The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham appointed fourteenth Dean & President of VTS.

2009

The Apology.

Shortly after his arrival in 2007, Dean Markham issued a formal apology, on behalf of Virginia Theological Seminary, for the Seminary’s exploitation of slavery. This acknowledgement, along with the publication of No Turning Back: The Black Presence at Virginia Theological Seminary by the Rev. Joseph Constant for VTS Press the same year, was a direct response to resolution A123, from The Episcopal Church’s 2006 General Convention. These first steps helped set the stage for the long overdue journey towards reparations.

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2010

Liberians awarded alumni status 159 years later.

Musu (VTS 1849), Ku Sia (VTS 1851), and Bidi Wah (VTS 1851), upon resolution of the Board of Trustees, are officially considered members of their respective classes and alumni of this seminary. The Board passed the motion at the request of the faculty. They would be the first graduates of VTS of African descent.

2010

Immanuel Chapel fire.

On Friday, October 22, at 3:55 p.m., the 1881 Immanuel Chapel is destroyed by fire. The heart of VTS for 129 years, Immanuel Chapel was the spiritual home for generations of Alexandria residents, as well as students of Episcopal High School. The Chapel was fully engulfed in flames when the first fire crews arrived, destroying the majority of the stained glass windows, including a large iconic window underneath the words “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel.” Fortunately, no one was injured.

Four years after the fire, the consecrated remains of the 1881 Chapel are dedicated as the Chapel Garden, serving as a peaceful spot for contemplation, for prayer and worship, and as the final resting place for some community members.

2013

Christian Rock Concert

On April 13, the Holy Hill hosts a day-long Christian rock concert. Over 2000 people from across the country registered to see the reunited band, Five Iron Frenzy, headline a concert festival on the Grove. The VTS community welcomed visitors to the campus for a beautiful day of fun, fellowship, Quidditch, music, and, fellowship. This is the largest single day gathering of people on the campus since the Civil War.

Christian Rock Concert (YouTube video)

2013

The 1881 Chapel Garden dedication

The 1881 Chapel Garden was dedicated on October 9. It sits on the site of the
1881 Immanuel Chapel, which was destroyed three years earlier. Enclosed by the remnants
of the Chapel’s walls, the garden has an area designated for the interment of ashes.

2015

The consecration of the new Immanuel Chapel.

Following a successful capital campaign, Virginia Theological Seminary consecrates a new home for worship on October 13, 2015 in front of over 1000 attendees. Serving in attendance was Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev. Justin Welby, and the three most recent presiding bishops, the Rt Rev. Frank Tracy Griswold III, the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, and the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry. Designed by Robert AM Stern architects in New York, this award-winning, and LEED-certified, “Chapel for the Ages” features stunning artisan woodwork from mid-Atlantic and global artisans.

Immanuel Chapel (YouTube video)

2016

Campus apartments.

On October 4, new residential housing is dedicated. These 39 apartment units make it possible for students with partners or families to live on campus. The four buildings in this complex demonstrate the commitment VTS is making towards a theological community rooted in residential formation.

2017

St. Cyprian's Labyrinth.

Commemorating the chapel and congregation of St. Cyprian’s, also known as the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, the labyrinth is given to the glory of God from the Class of 2009 and the Class of 2017.  Made from material salvaged from the 1881 Immanuel Chapel that was destroyed by fire in 2010, as well as material from the construction of the new Immanuel Chapel, the labyrinth is located behind the Deanery.

2019

Reparations.

On September 9, 2019, Virginia Theological Seminary announces the formation of the first-ever initiative in higher education to issue reparations. The first in the United States, the program looks to find descendants of enslaved persons and those who worked on the campus during the Jim Crow era, as well as recognize local Black congregations. 

More about Reparations at VTS.

Reparations Program (YouTube video)

“As we approach our 200th anniversary, it is important to acknowledge the sin as well as the grace.”

The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.

2019-2021

Campus Renovations.

An ambitious multi-year plan to renovate the campus was the most visible result of the Seminary’s Bicentennial Campaign. Beginning with Bicentennial Hall, extensive renovations continue to the Addison Academic Center, the Coffield Refectory (including Scott Lounge, 1823, and the kitchen), the Bishop Payne Library, The Welcome Center, the Deanery, and Oakwood.

Saints & Stories (YouTube video)

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2019-2021

Campus Renovations.

An ambitious multi-year plan to renovate the campus was the most visible result of the Seminary’s Bicentennial Campaign. Beginning with Bicentennial Hall, extensive renovations continue to the Addison Academic Center, the Coffield Refectory (including Scott Lounge, 1823, and the kitchen), the Bishop Payne Library, Maywood, Bell House, the Welcome Center, and the Deanery.

2020

COVID-19.

Virginia Theological Seminary feels the impact of the pandemic immediately. In mid-March 2020, a seminary rooted in residential theological education learned to adapt to a new virtual reality. Learning to use “Zoom” became the way for teaching, meeting, and worshipping.  Commencement 2020 was held online, as students left campus. Over the course of the next year, several members of the community did receive positive test results, however VTS was able to adjust and by the end of the 2020-21 academic year, after most people had received the vaccine, many classes were being held in person.

In the Spring of 2021, vaccine shots were given out twice a week in Immanuel Chapel. In May 2021, Commencement was held in person, outside on the Grove with the Most Rev. Michael Curry, the 27th presiding bishop and primate of The Episcopal Church, delivered the address in person.

2021

Recipients.

After months of research and conversation, on February 27, Linda Thomas and her family are the first recipients of reparations from VTS. A bold milestone for the Seminary, this is a testament to the researchers who devoted time and expertise in the work to lift the names of the nameless. No amount is enough, but the work has begun. Many more families immediately followed. 

More about Reparations at VTS.

Reparations Program (YouTube video)

2021

President Joseph Biden visits VTS.

On Tuesday, April 6, the Hon. Joseph R. Biden, the 46th president of the United States, visited the campus of VTS  as part of a visit supporting an initiative to host vaccination clinics in faith centers. In early February, the Seminary invited Neighborhood Health to use Immanuel Chapel as a venue for a COVID-19 vaccination clinic. In his visit, the President took the opportunity to thank the Seminary for their willingness to partner with Neighborhood Health. He met Dean Markham and Marty Wheeler Burnett, D.Min., acting associate dean of the chapel. The President also took the opportunity to meet some of the community members visiting Immanuel Chapel for their COVID-19 vaccine.

"This afternoon, I stopped by a vaccination clinic at the Virginia Theological Seminary. It’s an example of the kind of partnerships we’re seeing around the country — people coming together across different faiths to serve those most in need. It’s America at its best."

Joseph Biden

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