Vice-President / Executive Dean



Ashland University, a higher education institution in Central Ohio aliated with The Brethren Church, is seeking an evangelical leader and scholar with proven administrative acumen to join the President’s leadership team and assume administrative leadership of the Ashland Theological Seminary as Vice President/Executive Dean.

Ashland Theological Seminary is a broadly evangelical seminary of 300+ students with its own small campus located in close proximity to the University campus and enjoys all the benefits of being an integral part of the larger, vibrant University. The Executive Dean/Vice President will lead an exceptionally talented and committed group of faculty who are looking forward to welcoming a new leader who will provide collaborative leadership to guide them in their desire to serve the contemporary needs of the church and world. The Seminary has historically served students from over 70 different denominations and para-church organizations. The Seminary is committed to the development of aordable and accessible educational programming for any who seek to grow in their vocational calling and understanding of the Christian faith. That commitment has led the Seminary to reach out beyond the home campus in Ashland with online learning and educational centers in Cleveland, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; and Detroit, Michigan.

The new Vice President/Executive Dean will have the extraordinary opportunity and responsibility to ensure the Seminary’s curriculum and programming remains vibrant and relevant to the ever-changing needs of the church and the world.


Ashland Theological Seminary is a graduate division of Ashland University. For over a century, theological education has been an integral part of the mission of the university. The 1888 charter and constitution of Ashland University (then College) specified that the training of suitable persons “for the ministry of the gospel shall always be sacredly regarded as one of the main objects of this institution.”

To fulfill this mission, J. Allen Miller resigned his position as president of the university in 1906 in order to become the dean of the college’s theological department. Thus began a century of welcoming in and sending out thousands of men and women to live out our mission of transformed leaders serving the church and the world. The picture shared is the class of 1911 of the theologians who graduated from Ashland.



Ashland University, guided by our Christian heritage, is a comprehensive, private university that provides a transformative learning experience, shaping graduates who work, serve and lead with integrity in their local, national, and global communities.


Ashland University aspires to be a nationally recognized private university, where traditions of excellence are fostered and students discern their life calling and thrive.


Ashland Theological Seminary is part of the Graduate Division of Ashland University, under the governance of the same Board of Trustees. The Seminary seeks to fulfill the identity statement of the University, while at the same time being true to its own unique calling as found in its mission and identity statements.

Ashland Theological Seminary integrates theological education with Christ-centered transformation as it equips men and women for ministry in the church and the world.

Ashland Theological Seminary will creatively provide comprehensive educational resources for the development of Christian leaders who serve the church as well as its partner organizations in the marketplace. These resources constitute a continuum of learning that extends the seminary’s ministry far beyond the traditional degree program offerings.


The new Vice President/Executive Dean will have the exceptional opportunity to lead in creating a bright future for the Seminary that honors its remarkable legacy and provides a compelling vision for educating "with Christ-centered transformation as it equips men and women for ministry in the contemporary church and world." To accomplish this, the agenda for the new Vice President/ Executive Dean will include:

1. Build enrollment stability through working with stakeholders to reimagine the curriculum, programs, branding and marketing.

Enrollment is closely tied to the quality and relevancy of academic programs offered. The new leader will need to work carefully with faculty and other knowledgeable experts to become very familiar with the Seminary’s outstanding programs of study and determine how well those programs meet market needs and demands. Working in close collaboration with the faculty, the President, and board, the Vice President/Executive Dean must make certain that the continuing curriculum remains relevant and new programs are developed, always ensuring a curriculum that is Christ-centered in focus, biblical in substance, Spirit-led in effect, evangelical in orientation, orthodox, and relevant to the life and ministry of the church in its ever-changing context. With academic programs aligned to meet market needs and demands, the Vice President/Executive Dean can lead in the Seminary’s brand development efforts and marketing to ensure strong enrollment and future effectiveness in serving the church and society.

2. Invest deeply in supporting the Seminary’s internal constituencies: faculty in their professional development, teaching and research; staff in their professional supportive role; and students who are preparing for ministry to serve the church and the world.

The Seminary‘s new leader will be joining faculty, staff, and students who have made deep personal commitments to their professional supportive roles. To do their best teaching and research, faculty members need the strong resource support and inspirational leadership of the Vice President/ Executive Dean who understands and appreciates the central role of faculty in the education and training of students. The sta members serving the faculty and students need the resource support and encouragement of the Seminary’s leader. The Vice President/Executive Dean should seek to attract students called to faithful mission and ministry in the Anabaptist-Pietist-Brethren traditions and the wider Church, and make sure they receive a biblically-grounded Christian education, practical ministry training, and spiritual formation.

3. Develop a rigorous financial plan to ensure resources are properly aligned and accountability systems are in place to maximize mission success.

Theological education is facing intense financial pressures perhaps even more intense than higher education in general. The Association of Theological Schools has produced a resource outlining the basic facts about the cost of theological education, the financial implications for students, and what schools are doing to address the problem. The new Vice President/Executive Dean will need to examine the Seminary’s financial structure, sources of income and expense, and a multitude of factors impacting the Seminary’s future financial health. Careful stewardship of precious and limited resources will be required to place the Seminary in a healthy position to seek the financial support necessary for the Seminary’s long term health.

4. Implement an aggressive outreach plan to current and past donors, alumni, the church, and the broader Ashland community that will inspire the constituencies’ renewed commitment to invest in the Seminary’s future and significantly expand and strengthen the Seminary’s fundraising programs for annual support, endowment, and capital needs.

The turnover in leadership of an institution often results in some friends of the institution losing connection or interest. The Seminary’s new leader will need to give a high priority to building relationships with long-term Seminary friends as well as aggressively seeking new friends and supporters. The lofty, worthy mission of the Seminary is compelling. With careful research, good management, and an inspiring vision for the Seminary’s future, the new Vice President/Executive Dean will be well-positioned to secure charitable dollars even in a time of tremendous competition for charitable gifts.

5. Create a compelling vision for the Seminary’s future; provide creative and innovative leadership for reimagining the Seminary’s courses, programs, and delivery methodologies in alignment with the future needs of the changing church and culture to ensure the Seminary continues to fulfill its founding purposes.

The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) 2018 Annual Report was titled “Legacy and Innovation” stressing the need for remaining connected to our roots while innovating to ensure relevancy for the future – a worthy goal for the Seminary’s new leader. The Seminary has a rich history of fulfilling its lofty mission and has evolved new programs in online learning, establishing centers in nearby major urban centers, and creating programs for laity and a range of Christian ministry vocations. But we live in a fast-changing world and the Vice President/Executive Dean will need to give major leadership to anticipating future needs and leading change proactively to secure the Seminary’s future as a supplier of leaders to meet the needs of the church and society.

6. Review and refine the Seminary’s long-range strategic plan consistent with the revised vision for the Seminary’s future; implement the plan with short and mid-range metrics and measurable goals to ensure accountability to the Seminary’s constituencies.

The new Vice President/Executive Dean will need to work collaboratively with Seminary stakeholders to not only build a healthy strategic plan but also will need to develop an implementation strategy that includes measurable goals and a system of accountability. The Seminary faculty and staff and other appropriate constituencies have expressed significant interest in participating in the plan development, which should help ensure greater success for the full implementation of the plan.


Candidates for the Seminary’s Vice President/Executive Dean position will be assessed on the basis of the following qualification requirements:

  • A mature Christian, who demonstrates through life and vocation a commitment to the tenets of the Seminary’s Statement of Faith and who is experienced in the knowledge of God, spiritual formation, and effectively leading the gospel mission to the world
  • Commitment to the Seminary’s mission and culture
  • Accept, respect, and commit to uphold The Brethren Church’s history and ethos of the Seminary
  • Demonstrate a deep understanding of and respect for the traditions of The Brethren Church
  • Commitment to living out the historic Brethren theological emphases affirmed by the seminary
  • Be mature in the knowledge of God
  • Possess a graduate terminal degree, preferably an academic doctorate in a theological field
  • Demonstrated record of teaching and scholarship sufficient to be appointed to associate professor rank at a minimum with a preference for appointment to full professor
  • Leadership experience in the academic community and in the church
  • Meaningful senior leadership experiences in pastoral, parachurch organizations, and Christian education – at the graduate and professional levels preferred
  • Experience in leading short, medium, and long-range strategic planning processes to establish goals and metrics
  • Demonstrated success in implementing strategic plans and achieving their goals
  • Track record of success managing complicated systems, being action-oriented to drive toward clear solutions while working collaboratively in the context of institutional shared governance
  • Demonstrated success in raising financial support through charitable gifts – annual operating support and capital gift support


Based on listening sessions with a variety of stakeholder groups, the following list of personal traits and attributes have been identified as qualities to be sought in the new Vice President/Executive Dean. Candidates will be assessed on the basis of these desired personal attributes:

  • A thoroughgoing evangelical, warm-hearted, with a pastoral heart
  • Integrity
  • Credible
  • Winsome
  • Approachable
  • Collaborative/collegial
  • Relational
  • Transparent
  • Respectful
  • Innovative
  • Creative
  • Servant-oriented
  • Data-driven
  • Financial acumen
  • Excellent oral and written, public and interpersonal communication
  • Excellent leadership skills employing shared governance
  • Learning ethos – curious and inquisitive


The Ashland Theological Seminary Vice President/Executive Dean Search Committee will be accepting nominations and evaluating application materials on a rolling basis until March 25. Although applications will be accepted until the time that a new Vice President/Executive Dean is selected, candidates should submit materials by March 25 for the most favorable consideration. The new Vice President/Executive Dean will be invited to begin work no later than July 1, 2019.

Application materials should be submitted electronically to:
Mr. Tom Murray, Chair, Vice President/Executive Dean Search Committee

Inquiries and questions may be addressed to Rachel Pierce (Phone: 419-289-5485; email:

Application materials should include 1) a letter of candidacy that responds to the topics described in the Agenda for the new Vice President/Executive Dean, 2) a complete CV or resume, and 3) the names and contact information (phone and e-mail) for three references, none of whom will be contacted until a later stage of the search nor without the formal permission of the candidate. All inquiries and applications will be received and evaluated in strict confidence.

Ashland University. An Equal Opportunity/Equal Access Institution.

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