FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS)- This fall Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary received a $500,000 gift to open up an endowment for the support of students in its research doctoral program.

This initial endowment toward the Southwestern Scholar Program puts the seminary “on the cutting edge” of theological education, Mike Hughes, vice president for institutional advancement, said. Through funding from past gifts, the seminary has already begun to sponsor one student in the Southwestern Scholar Program. The recent endowment of $500,000, however, will create interest to supply $25,000 a year for a student in the program and to allow for the program’s expansion. The endowment will provide finances for tuition and books, as well as a living stipend.

“Southwestern Seminary has always been serious about training the next generation of pastors and missionaries,” Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said. “Now I am grateful to God for new friends who understand that we must also provide for future teachers and scholar pastors.  This is one of the most significant developments of this year for us and for the SBC.”

According to Craig Blaising, executive vice president and provost, public universities often provide for their doctoral students through stipends and fellowships. Some of these stipends reach up to $40,000 per year for one student.

“However, these (doctoral) programs are by and large devoted to the propagation of ideologies and worldviews opposed to orthodox, biblical Christianity,” Blaising said. Evangelical institutions have rarely had the resources to provide for doctoral students in this way. The need for well-trained Baptist scholars and pastors is especially great today. However, the “preparation and study required for this purpose is extensive and demanding,” and costs in education have risen greatly. Many doctoral students must work to provide for themselves and their families as they go to school, but this often “extends the length of their studies and limits their focus.”

“What is needed is a program of fellowships to lift up and support those of excellent gifts and preparation who commit themselves to be Baptist scholars of the 21st century,” Blaising said. The seminary hopes to eventually sponsor students in each of the major concentrations of its doctoral program through endowments to the Southwestern Scholar Program.