Administrative and Staff Positions

Administrative and Staff Positions

Vice President, Finance and Administration
(3/10/2014)

The Institution

Established in 1869, Luther Seminary is the largest seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the result of having consolidated six separate institutions through a series of mergers, the first in 1917, into a single seminary.  One of eight ELCA seminaries, Luther has educated one-third of ELCA pastors in addition to an increasing number of ELCA lay professionals, and leaders of many global Lutheran and ecumenical churches.  With a reputation of having a talented faculty in an innovative environment, Luther serves approximately 700 students, graduating about 150 each year in degree programs that include Master of Divinity, Master of Arts, Master of Theology, Doctor of Philosophy, and Doctor of Ministry in addition to certificate, non-degree and special programs.  Approximately half of the student body is enrolled in the M.Div. degree program; 108 of those are pursuing that degree in a Distributed Learning environment.  The seminary also supports a Distributed Learning program for a Master of Arts degree in Children, Youth and Family Ministry.  The first M.Div. Distributed Learning Cohort graduated in 2012.  Nearly one-third of the student body represents 40 denominations outside the ELCA.  There are over 70 international students from 28 countries.

Luther Seminary educates leaders for Christian communities


       
  • called and sent by the Holy Spirit

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  • to witness to salvation through Jesus Christ and

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  • to serve in God's world


Luther Seminary has a budgeted income of $23M, nearly half of which is the result of gifts and grants from individuals, congregations, and foundations.  Approximately one-fifth of the budget is supported by tuition and fees, and the balance is drawn from the endowment, ELCA churchwide and synod support, and other sources.  The institution has a $75M endowment and a campus whose net asset value is approximately $25M. Luther Seminary is accredited by the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

The 2011-2012 update to Luther Seminary's strategic plan, "A Bold and Faithful Witness: Keeping the Promises of our Mission," launched in 2007, identified five goals for the institution:

       
  • Goal 1: Luther Seminary's graduates will be prepared to lead the church in apostolic mission.

       
  • Goal 2: Luther Seminary will attract and support people with the character, capacity, and commitment to accomplish the seminary's mission.


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  • Goal 3: Luther Seminary will foster a culture that promotes our common mission.


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  • Goal 4: Luther Seminary's resources, finances and facilities will be transformed to support the teaching, learning, and community that take place on campus and around the world.


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  • Goal 5: Luther Seminary will be a responsive learning organization strengthened by a culture of assessment and accountability.


Recent History

In the fall of 2012, at the very end of the 3-day Fall Meeting of the Luther Seminary Boards (during which the financial "dashboard" used to portray the Seminary's health was presented as entirely "green"), the Directors and Trustees received the results of the Fiscal Year 2012 audit. It indicated a $4.1M operating loss for the year ending June 30 and an overdraft of the Endowment (for working capital) of $4M.

The VP for Finance and Administration tendered his resignation to the epically surprised and disappointed members of the Boards, who later agreed to accept the resignation of the CEO as well.  A group of financially literate members of the Boards then dug into the circumstance that had been regularly reported to them as sound, and even expansive, and discovered that the Seminary's accumulated operating losses of recent vintage amounted to $15M. These losses had exhausted the Seminary's cash reserves and precipitated a liquidity crisis which had been relieved by borrowing Endowment funds restricted for the support of operations in the accumulated amount (by December 2012) of $7M.
An Interim CFO was hired as of December 1, 2012, who determined that the Seminary was suffering a $5.7M structural deficit due to falling enrollments and tuition/auxiliary services revenues; rising costs of employment (Compensation and Benefits expense rose by a total of $2.3M in FY2012 and FY2013), and a growing deferred maintenance liability symptomized by emergency repairs of failing building systems and equipment. (Indeed, non-cash expenses for depreciation and abatement (of asbestos, etc.) were not reported to the community except by way of the audit.)

With the active participation of the Finance & Administration Committee of the Boards, a Turnaround Plan was formed to narrow the losses on presumptively stable revenues so as to break even in 42 months (in FY2017). New spending and contracting disciplines were instituted (to get control of the cash) and The Plan was designed to slow and eventually reverse the losses by expense reductions gentle enough to preserve the Seminary's ability to complete a curricular reform already underway and to use the marketing of it to regenerate enrollment growth.

Present State

Luther Seminary has outperformed its Turnaround Plan, largely on account of the remarkable responsiveness of its donors. In the final six months of FY2013, projected losses have been reduced from $4.5M to an actual $2.9M; $3.2M of the structural deficit was removed between January and June 2013; and the Seminary is projecting an operating loss at 6/30/14 of $860K as over and against a budgeted loss of $2.5M.

These successes have led the Seminary's chief creditor to expand its working capital bank line by $1.5M to $5M, none of which has been used as of mid-February 2014. Unexpected and unrestricted gifts in the amount of $1.7M have come to the Seminary so far in FY2014.

Having resolved to repay the Seminary's overdraft of the Endowment, and realizing that however able Luther was in restoring the Seminary to Financial Sustainability it could not expect to amortize the $7M owing to the Endowment from Operating surpluses, the Seminary convened a Property Development Task Force (from among Directors, Trustees, Administration and Village leaders) in the Spring of 2013. On February 8, 2014, the Directors of the Seminary approved the first of what is expected to be several projects intended to fit the 47.5 acre campus better to Luther's emerging enrollment profile (which favors distance and on-line learning with brief but regular on-campus residence). This first transaction is expected to yield in excess of $8M in proceeds.

However, Enrollment and Tuition revenues have continued to decline, and Luther does not expect to reach break-even until FY2019, 24 months after its original 42-month ambition. Hence, Luther is in the process of commissioning a Revenues Growth Task Force composed principally of entrepreneurial staff to broaden the Seminary's ecumenism, its Life Long Learning programs, its auxiliary services to both campus and community, and to hunt down and execute inter-institutional collaboration that will lower expense and increase productivity. (The leading promise here is in IT.)

Board Structure

Luther Seminary's governance structure includes a Board of Directors, charged with providing leadership in establishing policies and priorities, and a Board of Trustees, charged with providing key leadership in developing the financial support necessary to fulfill the seminary's mission.  The structure is unique in that both boards meet together, and committees of the Board of Directors are comprised of members of both boards.  The Board of Directors is comprised of 24 members, 16 of whom represent Regions 1 and 3 of the ELCA and eight of whom are appointed to the Board by the ELCA Church Council.  The Board of Trustees is a self-perpetuating board comprised of 12 members who are appointed by the Board of Directors.

The Position

The Vice President for Finance and Administration (Vice President) is the chief financial officer of the Seminary and reports to, and serves at the pleasure of, the President.  The Vice President provides leadership, oversight, and stewardship for all aspects of the Seminary's financial resources while ensuring absolute institutional integrity on fiscal and human resource matters.  The Vice President serves as a strategic advisor to the President and the Board of Directors and recommends financial and administrative objectives, policies, programs and practices that ensure a sound financial structure for the Seminary.  Together with the President and the Academic Dean, the Vice President is responsible for planning the operating and capital budgets and for developing a long-term sustainable economic model that ensures the viability of the Seminary.  As the Seminary's chief financial officer, she or he is responsible for the management of financial matters and for risk management and compliance with audit, legal, and donor requirements, IRS, federal and state regulations, and financial aid.   The Vice President controls the flow of cash through the organization and maintains the integrity of funds.  The Vice President works closely with the Vice President for Advancement and the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees to ensure the integrity of constraints on the acceptance and use of donor funds. 

The Vice President oversees Finance, Information Technology, and Facilities, including physical plant and public safety, bookstore and dining service through four direct reports: Controller, Director, Business Office; Senior Director, Technology; and Senior Director, Facilities and Auxiliary Services.

The Vice President is a member of the President's Cabinet and serves as liaison to the Finance and Audit and Investment Committees of the boards.  The Vice President also works closely with key faculty committees and supports and collaborates with the Academic Dean.  The Vice President actively participates in Seminary budget policy decisions while promoting fiscal accountability, and is a significant contributor to advancing the mission and strategic direction of the Seminary. 

Additional Specific Responsibilities

  • Creating and implementing a broad and compelling vision for Finance and Administration and assessing its effectiveness;

  • Providing continuous evaluation of short and long-term strategic financial objectives;

  • Producing budgets, forecasts and other financial statements and reports and presenting them to the President, the Board of Directors, the Board of Trustees and the Seminary community;

  • Providing leadership that fosters a collaborative, transparent culture both within and across teams within finance and administration and encourages innovative thinking at all levels;

  • Providing executive management with advice on the financial implications of business activities, the costs of strategic priorities, and options for funding strategies;

  • Working with Audit and Controller's office to ensure that effective accounting controls are in place and ensuring compliance with GAAP and applicable federal, state, and local regulatory laws and rules for financial and tax reporting; 

  • Working with Audit and Controller's office to foster collaborative relationships with auditors;

  • Working with the General Counsel to negotiate major contracts for the Seminary; reviewing and executing existing major contracts;

  • Working with other key Seminary leaders, ensuring effective strategies to address emergency planning and risk management;

  • Engaging collaboratively with Luther's community affairs leaders to work productively with the cities of St. Paul and Lauderdale and the neighborhood of St. Anthony Park in which Luther is situated;

  • Creating and sustaining an environment of service excellence and innovation.

Key Selection Criteria

The Seminary seeks a respected and collaborative leader who can connect a high level of competence with the mission of the school and who will be a strategic partner to the President, Cabinet, and Boards in leading the Seminary faithfully into the future at a time of re-adjustment and recalibration.   The Vice President, Finance and Administration, will have the ability to be innovative in the context of the changing landscape of theological education.  She or he will be an independent thinker with the courage to be a transparent truth teller and change agent.  At the same time, the Vice President must be a bridge builder and respectful listener, able to establish credibility with faculty, and demonstrating a track record of under-promising and over-delivering.

The Seminary seeks a respected leader in financial planning, forecasting, and analysis with experience in administration.  The new Vice President will be an able and experienced manager and leader capable of motivating diverse teams of employees across the range of areas within the Finance and Administration portfolio.  The Vice President will have the skills and talent needed to develop and execute plans to enhance the Seminary and to manage change within a complex environment.  Experience in managing debt, cost reduction, and administrative simplification that can be applied to a Seminary environment will be an advantage.

The Vice President will be committed to serving Luther Seminary's mission and promoting its vision and strategy.  She or he must be unquestionably committed to academic excellence.  The successful candidate for this position will view this position through the lens of a vocational commitment to help lead Luther Seminary into financial health and stability.

Among other specific characteristics, the Vice President will be:


  • An independent worker who collaborates well with the President, the senior leadership team, and the Boards;


  • Able to work with a diverse group of faculty, board members, and staff on complex resource allocation issues that divide opinion;


  • An open-minded, strategic, and creative thinker and a good listener, able to offer alternatives and consider diverse opinions while keeping the health and financial well-being of the Seminary the foremost priority;


  • An effective and clear communicator, both in written and spoken communications, who is able to succinctly and directly explain finances in non-financial terms to diverse internal and external audiences;


  • A skillful and talented financial executive able to develop and execute plans to enhance and grow the Seminary;


  • A skillful leader capable of managing change and taking intelligent risks in a complex environment;


  • A seasoned manager of people who is willing to roll up his or her sleeves.  An accessible leader and team builder who will support the professional growth of internal resources; promote innovative thinking about problems, opportunities, and situations at all levels within the organization; and foster a transparent culture which allows individuals to risk both failure and success.


Other important skills and competencies include:

  • At least ten years in progressively responsible financial leadership roles, with comprehensive budget and financial planning experience and responsibilities within a large, complex environment.

  • Strong business acumen is required. Experience in a higher education with accounting knowledge specific to non-profits is desirable but not required.


  • An understanding of complex financial instruments, awareness of market trends, and proven experience developing financial strategies that support strategic priorities.  Experience in the area of real estate would be a plus.  Solid negotiating skills.


  • An undergraduate degree from an accredited institution, with a strong preference for a CPA or an advanced degree such as an MBA and/or CPA equivalent;


  • The ability to set challenging and attainable goals, set priorities, and work with and inspire others to high levels of creative performance, and to leverage ideas into action; able to lead and navigate in a time of change;


  • Good judgment in recognizing talent and assessing where improvements are needed; an open and creative approach to problem solving and a willingness to address issues across areas and without concerns for "turf";
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  • Demonstrated ability to recruit, retain, and reward high quality staff;  an engaged and open management style that delegates authority, empowers staff, sets high expectations, and holds departmental colleagues accountable;


  • Promote transparency, integrity and high ethical standards within the institution;


  • Demonstrated commitment to building community and vigorously promoting equity and inclusion.



SEARCH TEAM AND CONTACT INFORMATION


Cynthia P. Barth, Managing Director
215-656-3578
cynthia.barth@divsearch.com

Kim M. Morrisson, Ph.D., Sr. Managing Director
(215) 656-3546
kim.morrisson@divsearch.com

Manuel A. Gongon, Jr., Principal
(215) 656-3588
manuel.gongon@divsearch.com

Deborah Lim, Executive Assistant
215-656-3573
deborah.lim@divsearch.com


Diversified Search
One Commerce Square
2005 Market Street, Suite 3300
Philadelphia, PA  19103
(215) 732-6666 (Main)
(215) 568-8399 (Fax)



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