General Theological Seminary dean to step down at end of academic year

Posted Nov 12, 2020

[General Theological Seminary] The Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle announced on Nov. 9 to the Board of Trustees of General Seminary that he was resigning as dean and president, effective at the end of the current academic year.

“I am eager to model a healthy transition of leadership,” Dunkle said. “Part of a ‘normal process’ of leave-taking is the excitement of imagining the possibilities ahead. General’s future is very bright. Our focus will continue to be how to best serve the church.”

Atlanta Bishop Robert Wright, chair of the seminary’s Board of Trustees, commented on Dunkle’s decision: “Dean Dunkle served marvelously over the season he led General, remaining clear-eyed and steady-handed through many challenges. As he leaves us, he leaves the seminary strongly positioned to fulfill its mission statement of educating and forming lay and ordained leaders for the church in a changing world.”

Wright continued, “On behalf of the entire Board, I wish he and Cathleen well on the next stage of their journey, wherever the Spirit may guide them. I am grateful for his time as Dean, his perseverance and character, he has added strength and faithfulness to the GTS community.  His successor will inherit the good will and momentum that he has forged for the days and years ahead.  It is because of Kurt’s good work that The Board of Trustees is excited to discern GTS’ next chapter of service.”

The Rev. Susan Wrathall, president of the Alumni Executive Committee, offered her sentiments: “Dean Dunkle’s enthusiasm for General has been infectious. The Alumni Executive Committee’s relationship with the Board of Trustees has significantly improved over his tenure, and I am grateful that he is leaving the seminary in a position of health. These will ensure a successful time of transition, and I wish him the best.”

Dunkle was installed as the 13th dean and president of General Theological Seminary on Oct. 17, 2013, in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. Since then, Dunkle has overseen the reaccreditation of the seminary, including two focused visits and a comprehensive visit, all with no notations. In five years, he led the seminary from a $3 million structured deficit to a balanced budget. In fact, the seminary has maintained a surplus in several recent years.

Dunkle oversaw the creation of two new degree programs: the Doctor of Ministry program welcomed its first cohort this year, and Master of Arts in Ministry, accredited in 2017, was the first new degree program for General in 20 years. He also shepherded the realignment of Board of Trustee membership from 42 to under 30, which is the first reduction in over 100 years.

Throughout his tenure, Dunkle’s resolute commitment to financial, missional and cultural health and sustainability guided decision-making. These three foci, along with the four strategic pillars, and seven core values brought results. Financially, annual giving increased each year, and about $3 million was raised for the chapel, in addition to new grants, including from the Lilly Foundation.

The clarity of Dunkle’s vision and resolute focus shifted the culture of the seminary and encouraged a community-wide embrace of hospitality, alignment of faculty to mission with full engagement in “education and formation.” He also oversaw a 10-15% increase in admission applications every year since 2015 with the largest entering class in 2020, with 40 students, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Committed both to the focus on worship and the highest standards of health and safety, more recently Dunkle oversaw the creation of the new outdoor altar, the first altar consecrated for the seminary in 140 years.

The Board of Trustees will announce an intentional transition process by Dec. 15, 2020. Dunkle anticipates his last day will be at the end of May or June 2021.