Campus Development and Innovation: The Fourth 25 Years

As Northern moved into the 1980s and 1990s, it began to look at how it could redevelop its campus and improve its leadership position among evangelicals in North America. The fourth 25 years are marked by a number of campus development initiatives as well as programmatic innovation.
Northern’s eighth president, Dr. Ian Chapman, brought vision and leadership to the campus development projects. The Brimson Grow Library was renovated in 1994, and the changes enhanced the resources available to students as well as the spaces in which students could study. Kern Hall was dedicated in April of 1998. Along with the renovation of the academic building, this building project provided much needed office space, new faculty offices, a student commons area, renovated classrooms, and a large gathering space for events like chapel. The Lindner Conference Center was dedicated in May of 1999 with a vision for serving the Kingdom by offering events and gatherings which equipped the wider church and made the campus accessible to the community at large.

In the early 2000s, Northern received a grant from the Lilly Endowment to pioneer a new scholarship program aimed at bringing young adults into seminary. The Presidential Scholarship was made available for students under the age of 30 who were called to full-time study in preparation for ministry. The model for the scholarship program has since been used by other schools and foundations.

The early 2000s also brought a change of leadership, as Dr. Charles Moore succeeded Dr. Chapman. It was a time when all seminaries were experiencing the challenge of changing patterns of training for ministry, and Northern explored a closer relationship with Judson University and a location in Elgin. Plans were made to sell the Lombard campus and retain a Lombard teaching presence and institutional independence, while opening a new campus near Judson. Dr. Moore returned to pastoral ministry, and Mr. John Kirn became interim from 2006 to 2008, when Dr. Alistair Brown from Scotland became Northern’s tenth President.

Dr. Brown arrived as the worst economic recession since the 1930s broke across the nation and world. The recession greatly impacted seminaries, and Northern was not immune. However, strategic cost-cutting initiatives, innovative educational models, and God’s providence carried Northern forward. The timely receipt of $4.3 million bequest in the spring of 2009, a gift from William Francis, enabled significant levels of innovation and helped carry Northern forward. New programs and partnerships were in place by that summer, and with fresh awareness of how crucial the Lombard location was for a mostly commuter student body, the campus was taken off the market. Out of the recession emerged a seminary strong in heart, strong in vision, and strong in purpose. We remain committed to being a seminary that is biblical, missional, and personal.


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