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May 02, 2011

Seminary of the Southwest to Award Honorary Degree

Seminary of the Southwest[Episcopal News Service] Robert M. Ayres Jr., a San Antonio, Texas native, investment banker, philanthropist and churchman, will be awarded the honorary doctor of humane letters at the Episcopal Church-affiliated Seminary of the Southwest's commencement in Austin May 10.


The seminary's board of trustees chose to honor Ayres' many contributions to the fiscal and spiritual health of Episcopal educational institutions and the church, according to an April 29 press release from the school.


Ayres served as vice-chancellor of the Episcopal Church-affiliated University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee for 11 years. It was his leadership during a time of fiscal crisis in the mid-1970s and his continued and generous support of the school which has led many to consider Ayres "one of the modern founders" of the school, according to the release.


In the 1970s, he served on the Episcopal Church's Executive Council and what was then called the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief, the organization now known as Episcopal Relief & Development. During this time, at the request of the presiding bishop, Ayres coordinated relief efforts in Honduras following a devastating hurricane and in Guatemala after a major earthquake, the release said.


Twenty-three graduates will receive master's degrees from Seminary of the Southwest. The Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest, housed on the Southwest campus for almost four decades, will award certificates to graduates of its Theological Education for Emerging Ministries Program, which prepares students for ministry with ethnically diverse populations, for service to inner city and rural congregations and for ministry to congregations in decline.


Seminary of the Southwest offers master's degrees for ordained ministry and for people seeking education and formation for counseling certification, chaplaincy and pastoral care, and for spiritual formation. The full-time tenured faculty teaches the core theological courses, and more than 30 professionals in the Austin area make up the adjunct faculty. It has 130 students from across the United States enrolled in its degrees.