The Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, the Eighth Dean and President of Seminary of the Southwest, announced this week that she plans to conclude her term in this role on June 30, 2024. She will have completed her eleventh year in this position, having overseen an unprecedented period of growth, vitality, and significance.
“This past spring, I completed ten years as Dean and President of Seminary of the Southwest, and this year I begin my eleventh,” said Dean Kittredge. “Major projects are coming to a close, and Southwest undeniably has the momentum to realize our vision to be a leader among institutions of higher learning, both within and beyond The Episcopal Church. At this point in the life of the school and in my vocational and family life, I sense that it is time for me to put down the role of Dean and President and prepare the seminary to choose a new Dean who will take on the next chapter of leadership.”
Dean Kittredge’s term as Dean and President began on June 1, 2013. Originally hired at Southwest in 1998, she served in various positions including as Academic Dean, Dean of Community Life, and Professor of New Testament.
“When the Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Th.D. accepted the call of the Board of Trustees to become our eighth Dean and President in 2013, we knew that she was a professor of deep faith and extraordinary academic talent and a trusted and delightful colleague,” said the Rt. Rev. Kathryn Ryan, Chair, Seminary of the Southwest Board of Trustees and Bishop Suffragan, Diocese of Texas. “It was with pride and an unwavering confidence in our selection that we watched her excel at leading the seminary to its current strength and health.”
Academically, Southwest made tremendous strides during her term. She supported and shepherded the creation and growth of a forward-thinking accredited Masters of Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree that was well poised to prepare for the now valued relationship of spirituality and mental healthcare. Southwest also revised its MDiv curriculum, creating a degree program committed to a deeper integration of theory, practice, and pastoral identity, and a cross-curricular commitment to preparing students to build beloved community. Further, under her leadership, Southwest adapted and launched the Iona Collaborative, now the most prominent local formation program in The Episcopal Church, currently providing curricular and formational support for local formation schools in 35 dioceses.
Under Kittredge’s leadership, Seminary of the Southwest experienced an exceptional decade of growth, vitality, and stability. The seminary’s endowment grew from $28.2 million to $42.4 million, the entirety of its long-term debt was eliminated, and multiple fundraising campaigns were envisioned and executed successfully. This characteristic of fiscal health and institutional effectiveness was well-represented by the completion of the Forming Leaders At the Frontier campaign, a $23.6 million building project which culminated in the recently opened Bishop Dena A. Harrison Library and new Learning Complex. That fundraising campaign – featuring the participation of more than 600 donors – was conducted primarily amid the pandemic and remains a remarkable example of Dean Kittredge’s style of strong relational leadership and motivational effectiveness of an entire institution.
“Dean Kittredge’s tenure as Dean and President has included historic accomplishments for the seminary – the maturation of Southwest as one institution with three distinctive expressions, the expansion and diversification of the full-time faculty, retirement of debt, the largest capital campaign in our history, and the completion of the long-anticipated Bishop Dena A. Harrison Library and new Learning Complex,” said Bishop Ryan, Chair of the Southwest Board of Trustees, and Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Texas. “She ably and courageously led us through the COVID-19 disruptions, helping the seminary to educate students, celebrate graduates, meet our Annual Fund goals, and bring to completion the Forming Leaders At the Frontier campaign. Her attention to relationship-building across the Church and the World and right here in the Austin community has raised the stature of the seminary and cemented its place among the strongest place-based seminaries serving the Episcopal Church.”
Her commitment to academic quality and beloved community has resulted in a diverse and pedagogically creative faculty. In an era of transition and change in theological education, Dean Kittredge’s thoughtful, empowering, and effective leadership and vision has been critical for Seminary of the Southwest’s emergence as a widely recognized institution of strength, resilience, renewal, and hope, admired inside and outside the Episcopal Church.
In her honor, at Commencement this past May, the Board of Trustees announced it had created the Cynthia Briggs Kittredge Leadership Chair for the Dean and President’s position. Very quickly, and because of the tremendous affection and fondness for Dean Kittredge among the greater Southwest community and beyond, this endowment has reached 87% funding of the 4.5M endowment goal.
Dean Kittredge expresses that while her appointment as Dean and President is coming to a close, she intends to seek new opportunities to serve. She plans to take a sabbatical, focusing on family, and then discern how the next chapter of her ministry will be defined. “Sustained prayer and reflection have drawn me to desire to exercise my gifts in a new way in this season of my life,” said Dean Kitredge. “My husband, Frank, is retiring from his career at the end of June, and we are expecting our first grandchild in March. I discern that God is inviting me to invest in writing, scholarship, poetry, teaching, and public theology in fresh ways.”
Under the direction of the Board of Trustees, preparations are underway to begin a search for the 9th Dean and President before the end of the Fall 2023 semester. “Undertaking this work prayerfully and deliberately, we hope to call the next Dean before the end of the current academic year,” said Bishop Ryan.