Austin College Receives $250,000 Gift for ACtivator Ministry

SHERMAN, TEXAS–Austin College President Marjorie Hass announced today that the College has received a gift of $250,000 from Grace Presbytery of North Texas. The gift provides half of the funding necessary to endow the College’s ACtivator youth ministry program, a key element of the College’s Presbyterian outreach of the past 20 years and of strategic planning for the College’s future.

“We are so grateful to Grace Presbytery for this gift and the continued opportunity to serve that it will provide to students at Austin College—and to the hundreds of young people and adults who enjoy the leadership of our ACtivator youth ministry team,” said Dr. Hass. “The endowment of this program will provide another lasting connection in the long and supportive relationship between Austin College and the Presbyterian Church. We thank the leaders of Grace Presbytery for meeting the first half of the endowment for this program.”

Austin College Chaplain John Williams, a 1984 graduate of Austin College, began the ACtivator program at the College in 1995. Since then, the program has involved more than 520 students who have planned and led more than 600 ministry events involving more than 48,000 youth and adults in 13 states. “Since the beginning of the ACtivators program in 1995, Grace Presbytery has been our faithful, generous, flexible, courageous, eager, and encouraging partner,” Williams said. “This significant and visionary gift is the most recent chapter in the long and inspiring story of the relationship between the Presbytery and Austin College.”


The Reverend Joe Clifford, senior pastor of Frist Presbyterian Church of Dallas, also serves on the Austin College Board of Trustees and understands the long-term benefits of the gift. “Grace Presbytery’s investment in the ACtivators is a blessing not only for Austin College but also for the Presbyterian Church (USA),” he said. “Our congregations and our Presbytery have benefitted from the energy, intelligence, imagination, and love the ACtivators bring to everything they do. In turn, many ACtivators go on to leadership positions in the congregations they join later in life.” 


The gift to Austin College was one of several gifts announced by Grace Presbytery, which received $7.8 million in a legal settlement in September 2014 from Highland Park Presbyterian Church of Dallas in exchange for a release from the Presbyterian Church (USA) trust clause and for ecclesiastical dismissal from the denomination.


The Presbytery determined to give away or designate for missions more than 90 percent of the funds received. A subcommittee made recommendations and the Presbytery voted Thursday to disperse the funds as presented. “The older I get, the clearer I am: mission is who we are and why we matter,” subcommittee chair Reverend Karl Travis said. “So it is refreshing to see a judiciary lead the way in sacrificial generosity.” The Rev. Dr. Jan DeVries, General Presbyter, said the unexpected money offered the opportunity to strengthen ministry in the region. “We felt the responsibility to be involved in supporting the larger church and in growing our young adult leaders,” she said.


“Grace Presbytery is very grateful for the educational strength and ministry of Austin College,” DeVries said. “We have many graduates in our churches; we know the strength of the ACtivator program and the training it offers in terms of individuals discovering future ministries. This gift was representative of our deep commitment and appreciation to Austin College and the office of the Chaplain at Austin College.”  


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 36 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.


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