In September 1923, H.C. Morrison, having shared in the founding of Asbury College, also located in Wilmore, Kentucky, felt the call of God to found a seminary. He did not know where the money would come from, nor did he know how many students would respond. When the first class was begun, there were three students – and the rest is history.
When Morrison established Asbury Seminary, he felt that “the greatest need of our time is a well-trained, Spirit-filled, aggressive ministry to go forth into the world and preach Christ." He wrote,
“I am hoping to be able to preach the Gospel if He should extend my life, for some years yet, but it occurs to me that if my Lord has raised me up for a purpose, that purpose is to build up and enlarge the scope of Asbury Theological Seminary. As never before, I hope to devote such energy as God may give me, to this great work."
From 1942 to 1962, Dr. J.C. McPheeters led the seminary through some of its most trying and changing times. He had a friendship with the Beeson family, who contributed to the nearly $40 million grant that has helped the Seminary become one of the most technologically advanced and best endowed graduate schools in the country. Construction, accreditation issues, financial concerns, the development of new departments and endowment gifts marked these years, yet Asbury survived and flourished. His leadership was characterized by prayer and faith, and his vision for Asbury became a reality in the years to come.
Frank Stanger was president of Asbury Seminary from 1959 to 1982. He led Asbury into what was unprecedented growth in building and enrollment, reaccredidation and increase in academic respectability. The seminary strengthened its connections to the United Methodist Church, administrative restructuring, innovative curricular offerings, and a strong spirit of campus community. During his 23-year tenure, enrollment increased significantly, new faculty was hired, endowed lectures were formed, the curriculum was reorganized, and additional degree programs were added. The E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism that had been the vision of President McPheeters’ now was a reality, and was opened in 1983. Stanger’s focus on spiritual formation and model of servant leadership shaped the Seminary and formed it into the world-renowned school that it is today.