Austin Seminary

In June of 1917 as the first American Expeditionary Forces were landing in France and most Americans were preoccupied with events related to America’s entry into World War I, Austin Seminary found itself mired in financial woes. Ultimately, a combination of financial problems and a diminishing student body—as young men joined the war effort—led Austin Seminary to accept the resignations of its faculty members and cease teaching regular classes in May of 1918. The Seminary grounds and buildings were leased out to The University of Texas at Austin (and later to the Scottish Rite), with the exception of the faculty home of Thomas White Currie. Currie, who had been secretary of the University of Texas Y.M.C.A. since 1911 in addition to his duties at the Seminary, was called to oversee the Seminary’s interests during the war, and he continued to teach a Bible class for students at the University of Texas at Austin at the Y.M.C.A. at 22nd and Guadalupe.

While the University was leasing the Seminary property, it was used by the Army as an R.O.T.C. encampment with the dormitory being used as a barracks and tents pitched throughout the grounds.

The majority of the students and faculty who left the Seminary in May of 1918 joined the war effort. Professor Robert Gribble became the student secretary of the State Y.M.C.A. and the other faculty members who resigned in 1918 (William Angus McLeod and Robert L. Jetton) went overseas as Y.M.C.A. secretaries. (During the war, the Y.M.C.A. provided spiritual care, rest-and-recreation programs, canteens, and other welfare support for soldiers both domestically and overseas.) Board members like Arthur Gray Jones served soldiers on the home front through the War Work Council and his home congregation at First Presbyterian Church of San Antonio. Students and recent graduates like Cecil H. Lang, E. B. Paisley, and Eugene McLaurin served as chaplains overseas.

E. B. Paisley, photograph, 1916

Edward Bland Paisley (1890-1968) was a 1916 graduate of Austin Seminary. Upon graduation, he went to serve with the Y.M.C.A. at Camp Travis in San Antonio. This picture of him in his uniform was taken in 1916. From the Cecil H. Lang papers.

E. B. Paisley to Arthur Gray Jones, 1918

Here Paisley writes to Rev. Arthur Gray Jones at the First Presbyterian Church of San Antonio to tell him of his appointment as chaplain in the United States Army. From the Arthur Gray Jones papers.

After the Armistice was signed, Currie and the Board of Trustees led an aggressive fundraising campaign to shore up Austin Seminary’s endowment. With donations from local congregations and supporters of the Seminary, and with the new energy of the Spanish Speaking Program supported by the Texas-Mexican Presbytery and the Executive Committee of Home Missions, Austin Seminary re-opened for classes in the fall of 1921. Since the Seminary property was still being leased out, classes were initially held at the University Y.M.C.A. It wasn’t until 1925, after all lease agreements had ended, that Austin Seminary completely moved back onto its historic campus.

The Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary 1917-1918 Course Catalogue

This Catalogue describes the final year of classes at Austin Seminary before the school closed in May 1918. The Seminary began teaching classes again in the fall of 1921. From the Austin Seminary records.

A Statement by The Board of Trustees Concerning the Condition and Needs of The Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary at the close of the Seminary Year 1915-16

In the years leading up to the U.S. entry into the war, Austin Seminary was experiencing severe financial hardship. This statement from the Board lays out the Seminary’s financial position and makes the case for increased support in order to continue the work of the school. From the Austin Seminary records.

Austin Seminary