The Rev. Karl Travis, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Fort Worth, says that the congregation has mission in its DNA and has for decades. Evidencing its continued commitment, First Presbyterian Church of Fort Worth Session voted Sunday to make a gift of $200,000 to Austin College to fully endow the College’s Alternative Spring Break program.
Each spring the Austin College Alternative Spring Break program mobilizes a group of approximately 40 students to serve communities in need, often by assisting with clean up and construction after a natural disaster. The trip is organized through the Service Station, which is part of the Religious Life Program at Austin College.
“Alternative Spring Break balances the cerebral life of a college student with the dirt-under-your-fingernails life of a disciple,” Travis said. “The impact of an offering that sets Alternative Spring Break into perpetuity while working with the disaster relief arm of the denomination (Presbyterian Disaster Assistance) is great,” Travis said. “Add to that, getting students ‘out of their heads and into their hearts,’ – this gift will last forever. And, that’s a check I want my name on.”
Austin College chaplain John Williams said, “This gift from First Presbyterian Church of Fort Worth will enable Austin College to continue to live out its church-relatedness by providing opportunities for interested students to spend their Spring Break working to serve others who face difficult circumstances.
“While service to our neighbors in the Texoma area is an ongoing priority for us, Alternative Spring Break trips allow students to take a break from campus life and to build community with student colleagues as they travel to serve in a new context, living out the good news for hurting communities,” Williams said.
The 2017 Alternative Spring Break was the 25th annual trip. The students and sponsors worked alongside the Blanco River Regional Recovery Team in San Marcos, Texas, to repair some of the 100 homes damaged in recent flooding.
In addition to Alternative Spring Break, Service Station student volunteers work an estimated 16,000 hours each year. The office is a pipeline for hundreds of regional service opportunities, tutoring for area school-age children, monthly on-campus educational programming for school-age children, and an annual fundraiser for TOSTAN, a grass-roots community education effort based in Senegal, Africa.
In the last 30 years, First Presbyterian of Fort Worth has supported Austin College with gifts to Presbyterian student scholarships, church relations programming, the Austin College choir, and the Judith A. and Robert W. Bohl Endowed Presidential Scholarship. Dr. Robert Bohl was a former pastor of the church and a former trustee at Austin College (1996-98).
“We are pleased to work with an institution that still relishes the intersection of faith with reason and prepares students for a life of altruism,” Travis said.
The gift is the largest single gift from a church for the College’s Faith and Engagement campaign, the campaign to endow the overall Religious Life Program of the College.
“Austin College has enjoyed a long standing, very special covenant relationship with the Presbyterian Church (USA). First Presbyterian of Fort Worth, in particular, has been extremely generous in supporting various aspects of the program,” Tim Millerick, vice president of Student Affairs, said. “This is a gift that will strengthen the long-term finances of a program that is directly related to our core institutional mission, as well as that of the Religious Life program.”
Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic preparation, international study, pre-professional foundations, leadership development, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities. One of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book, Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with more than 40 percent of students representing ethnic minorities. A residential student body of 1,250 students and a faculty of more than 100 allow a 12:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention. The College is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. Founded in 1849, the College is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original name and charter.