Jim and Berta Laney

Heartfelt Giving: Donors Connect with Candler

With longstanding ties to The United Methodist Church and lives dedicated to serving others, James T. and Berta R. Laney (pictured above) have created a legacy of leadership at Emory that permeates every area of the university. To recognize that legacy and strengthen Candler School of Theology, Emory University in partnership with alumni and friends have endowed a chair and an advanced internship program in the Laneys’ honor through Campaign Emory.

Private gifts creating these endowed funds—along with thoughtful investments in many other areas of academics and service—helped Candler surpass its $60 million campaign goal, and the school continues to garner support for its mission. Top priorities for philanthropy at Candler include building the school’s endowment and increasing student financial support.

The professor who holds the James T. and Berta R. Laney Chair in Moral Leadership will teach courses in Christian moral leadership and provide guidance for the internship program, named the James T. and Berta R. Laney Program in Moral Leadership. The internships will be open to Candler students who exhibit moral leadership and demonstrate potential for continuing to do so throughout their professional careers.

“The internships will prepare Candler students to be leaders in the mold of Jim and Berta Laney, possessing integrity, wisdom, clarity, compassion, and commitment to the common good,” Dean Jan Love said.

An ordained United Methodist minister who studied with Christian ethicist H. Richard Niebuhr, Jim Laney has been a pastor, teacher, missionary, U.S. ambassador, dean of Candler School of Theology, and Emory University president. Berta Laney, who has been a missionary and lay minister, shared her faith with the Emory community as the founder of a pastoral care training program for lay people and as a compassionate first lady dedicated to the spiritual health of students, faculty, staff, and their families.

The couple is beloved by the Emory community, and the endowed gifts serve a dual purpose, combining financial support for Candler with a lasting tribute. Increasing numbers of Emory alumni and friends are creating named funds to honor loved ones, link family names with Candler’s mission, and strengthen the areas of Candler’s work that mean the most to them.

The O. Wayne Rollins Foundation, for example, has provided substantial funding for Candler’s building project. In early 2012 the foundation granted $15 million to make possible the construction of the second phase of the project. In recognition of the gift, the first building—a 65,000-square-foot facility completed in 2008—was named in memory of the late Rita Anne Rollins, the first grandchild of the foundation’s namesake.

“My grandparents, O. Wayne and Grace Rollins, believed in giving to living institutions that would affect people’s lives. Our family has strived to keep that vision alive by the foundation’s continued interest in many areas at Emory University,” said Amy Rollins Kreisler, director of the O. Wayne Rollins Foundation. “We are very pleased to be a part of the continued growth of Candler School of Theology.”

To fund educational programming at Candler, alumnus Herchel Sheets 52T has established The Gladys Mallard Sheets Endowment for Methodist Studies in honor of his wife. The couple married three months before Herchel Sheets enrolled at Candler. In 2009 they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

“Gratitude is the primary motivating factor in this gift,” he said, “gratitude for Candler School of Theology’s contributions to our lives and ministry, and gratitude for the person in whose honor it is given.”

Emory neighbors Jim and Mary Wesley have created an endowed scholarship fund to lessen the financial burdens of theological education for Candler students. Moved by the struggles of the young ministers in Mary’s family—there are 10—the Wesleys chose this giving strategy as a practical way to make things easier for ongoing generations of students. The couple also is funding the Wesley Teaching Chapel in the second phase of Candler’s new building, and they have included Candler in their estate plans.

Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded a $1 million grant to sustain Candler's Youth Theological Initiative (YTI) and a $250,000 grant to help Candler develop a model curriculum for improving the financial literacy of its students. The first Lilly grant is providing infrastructure support so YTI can build its endowment. The second grant will fund a three-year required curriculum for Master of Divinity degree students focusing on both personal and professional financial knowledge. Candler will partner with faculty members from other Emory schools and with financial advisors to incorporate the new material into its current programs.

The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation also has made a grant to help Candler address seminary student debt through educational programs in financial management for those called to serve in ministry settings.

An Episcopal seminary in New York has donated 90,000 volumes to expand the collections of Pitts Theology Library. Part of an exchange program with the Keller Library of the General Theological Seminary, the volumes are strengthening Emory’s holdings in biblical studies, English history and parish life, and church music. The Pitts Foundation is supporting the gift with a $100,000 grant to integrate the materials into the library’s collections. With 650,000 volumes, Pitts is one of the nation’s premiere theology libraries.

Along with these and many other investments in Candler, alumni and friends are creating new professorships, strengthening key programs such as the Youth Theological Initiative, and supporting the Candler School of Theology Fund for Excellence, which has been earmarked for tuition scholarships.

To learn how you can support Candler School of Theology, contact Mathew Pinson at 404.727.8879 or mathew.pinson@emory.edu


Candler School of Theology Volunteer Campaign Chair: Bishop B. Michael Watson 74T