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Pacific School of Religion

In 1866, leaders of the Congregational Church in California - many of the same people who founded the University of California Berkeley - established the Pacific Theological Seminary, the first graduate school of religion west of the Mississippi River. The goal then was to equip young churches on the West Coast with educated ministers from the region. The first classes met in a room above a bookstore in San Francisco. The seminary moved to a campus in Oakland, where it built a small faculty, curriculum, and enrollment. In 1872, the first three men graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree. In 1901, the seminary moved to the first location in Berkeley, to be near the University of California campus. By that time the student body included Asians; the first Japanese student graduated in 1887. Women were first admitted in 1895, and Nazarenes, Methodists, Presbyterians, Disciples, and Episcopalians, as well as Congregationalists, all followed. In 1916, Pacific Theological Seminary became Pacific School of Religion, a name change that reflected the new non-denominational status. In 1926, the school moved once again, this time to the new Holbrook building and Benton residence hall, where they still remain. World War II brought global divisions to the school. The war in the Pacific had particular repercussions for students of Japanese ancestry; five seminarians were imprisoned under government orders in relocation centers for Japanese Americans on the West Coast. For two years after the war, the school's President McGiffert organized a post-war Rehabilitation School on campus to train students to minister to the diverse needs of war-shattered communities in Europe and Asia. In 1950, Georgia Harkness, one of the best-known theological writers of the time, became the second woman professor. The construction of the Chapel of the Great Commission and d'Autremont Dining Hall, were funded by new gifts. In the early 1960s, Pacific School of Religion participated in the creation of the Graduate Theological Union, which they joined, in 1964. In the 1970s and 1980s, the number of women admitted grew from 10 percent to a majority. The first openly gay student graduated in 1971. The number of second-career people entering seminary has grown, and African-American students from historic Black churches and Pentecostal traditions, are increasingly enrolling at the Pacific School of Religion. In 2000, PSR opened its ground-breaking Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry and a new Institute for Leadership Development and Study of Pacific and Asian North American Religion (PANA Institute). The Pacific School of Religion knows that the ability to identify and respond to the ever-changing faith communities of the world it is essential to have a diverse student body and faculty, who have the firm conviction and ability to work in diverse communities.