Ashland University Receives $472,174 in Grant Funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. for High School Youth Theology Institutes Initiative

Ashland University Receives $472,174 in Grant Funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. for High School Youth Theology Institutes Initiative

12/3/2015 ASHLAND, Ohio – Ashland University has received a Lilly Endowment Inc. grant of $472,174 that will allow the University to establish a Brethren Academy on campus.

AU is one of 82 schools that have received grant funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. as part of its High School Youth Theology Institutes Initiative, which seeks to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service.

“The purpose of the Brethren Academy project is to deepen the faith of young people by helping them think theologically, while developing the next generation of Brethren leaders from among high school students with denominational ties," said AU’s University Chaplain Jason Barnhart.

“From the perspectives of the University and our partners – Ashland Theological Seminary and the Brethren Church National Office – the Brethren Academy project holds the promise of revitalizing the denomination while strengthening ties between the Church and the University and Seminary that grew from it,” Barnhart said.

According to Barnhart, this project’s purpose is also an extension of – and adapts and builds on – Ashland’s recent development with these same partners of a collaborative theological institute for Ashland University students, and it will follow the pattern of an existing one-week religious ministry leadership training program for undergraduates.

“This initiative will help strengthen our relationship with Brethren groups,” he noted. “By recruiting up to 100 Brethren students a summer, this initiative will help establish Ashland as a top school for Brethren students and those exploring a kingdom calling for their lives.”

The 82 schools that are participating in the initiative are located in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Although some schools are independent, many reflect the religious heritage of their founding traditions, which include Baptist, Brethren, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian and Reformed churches, as well as Roman Catholic, non-denominational, Pentecostal and historic African-American Christian communities.

“These colleges and universities are well-positioned to reach out to high school students in this way,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Lilly Endowment. “They have outstanding faculty in theology and religion who know how to help young people explore the wisdom of religious traditions and apply these insights to contemporary challenges.”

The Lilly Endowment is giving $44.5 million in grants to help a select group of private four-year colleges and universities around the nation to create the institutes. The grants are part of the Endowment’s commitment to identify and cultivate a cadre of theologically minded youth who will become leaders in church and society.

An additional grant to the Forum for Theological Exploration will establish a program that will bring together leaders of the high school youth theology institutes to foster mutual learning and support.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family - J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli - through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grant making is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.

Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2016, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.                                                                                ###