Over the last year, we have tried to keep you posted through Response about various strategic initiatives under way at Seattle Pacific University.
The May 1996 Response issue set out the president's "Agenda for Renewal," which included our goals to be a "grace-filled" organization, and to become more widely recognized as one of three great universities in Seattle. I have written about the enormous challenge of financial affordability and the aggressive efforts we are making to address the cost of an SPU education. And, most recently, I reflected on the importance of lifting up our identity as an evangelical institution, thinking as a community about what it means to be distinctly and deeply Christian.
I hope Response has allowed readers to enter into the "grand conversation" taking place about our purpose and aspirations for the 21st century. And I hope you have enjoyed keeping up with the extraordinary work people are doing to ensure a bright future for this institution.
Building on the work completed this year, we are now ready to create a very specific and comprehensive plan for the University's future. I will have much to say about this blueprint as it unfolds in the coming year. Though there will be many streams flowing into the overall plan, one key component will be a fresh and strategic look at our endowment. We are already hard at work on an endowment plan that will provide clear direction as we build for the long-term financial health of SPU.
A strong endowment is critical to Seattle Pacific. It is a bedrock for the future, providing stability and credibility. It is also part of the answer to the issue of affordability, providing ongoing scholarship assistance to students. Put simply, the colleges and universities which will be able to provide students with a quality, affordable education in the coming years will be those with a healthy endowment.
Less than 20 years ago, the University had no endowment at all. The growth of the fund in recent years is nothing short of remarkable. Today, the SPU endowment stands at more than $20 million, while total assets managed by the Seattle Pacific Foundation are approaching $39 million.
A new endowment plan will determine how fast it is reasonable for the SPU endowment to continue to grow. But whatever new targets we finally determine, this effort rests squarely on the commitments and achievements over the years of many individuals, some of whom will be mentioned in this issue of Response. We are deeply thankful for this legacy.
The work of building the endowment is difficult, partly because it seems to pay off so slowly over such a long period of time. In some ways, we do this work for future generations. It is good stewardship, something vitally important to all of us who believe in Christian higher education.
We have come a long way in a short time. Recently, I spoke to 800 business leaders gathered for a luncheon in downtown Seattle to hear the SPU story. I asked them what they would do if they, like Seattle Pacific, had $39 million to devote to a charitable cause. What would be the purpose of their foundation? What would be the focus of its contribution back to the community?
It is easy for me to answer these questions about SPU. We use our endowment to impact the lives of students, one of the most important investments we could ever make. We invest in educating our graduates well. We invest in character formation, character shaped by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And ultimately I believe the people that emerge from Seattle Pacific make an enormous contribution to the life of the community.
As we work to complete a comprehensive plan for the University in the 21st century, it is clear that we need a strong endowment. We need that solid foundation to ensure that future generations of students will be able to experience the distinctive value of an SPU education. We will keep you informed as this important work unfolds.