Duane Bonifer  |   Published July 06, 2016

$451,000 grant from Lilly

College receives its largest grant from national foundation for youth theology
Monmouth College has received a $451,000 grant from Lilly Endowment to establish the Lux Summer Theological Institute for Youth. It is the largest grant the liberal arts college has received from a national foundation.

The grant is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s 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 Lux Summer Theological Institute for Youth’s mission is to nurture and equip students to become servant leaders who are spiritually enlightened, globally engaged, socially responsible and vocationally driven,” said Monmouth Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies Dr. Dan Ott.

The Lux Summer Theological Institute for Youth will be operated under the College’s Lux Center for Church and Religious Leadership, directed by Monmouth Chaplain the Rev. Dr. Teri McDowell Ott.

“We are deeply appreciative that Lilly Endowment has chosen Monmouth College to participate in its High School Youth Theological Initiative,” said Monmouth President Dr. Clarence R. Wyatt. “Our selection affirms the College’s long tradition of spiritual inquiry, rooted in a Presbyterian heritage but ranging across many faith traditions. It also acknowledges and enhances Monmouth’s dedication to being more than a place to earn a degree, but rather a place where the nurturing of intellectual curiosity, moral courage, and responsibility for self and others are core commitments.

“The grant also recognizes Monmouth’s status as a national leader in the exploration of spirituality and faith within an intellectually open and inclusive environment. I am grateful to our chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Teri McDowell Ott, and her husband, Dr. Dan Ott, for their leadership on this initiative.”

The Lux Summer Theological Institute for Youth will provide high school students an ecumenical experience in which they will engage in theological inquiry, learn new modes of worship and spiritual practice, participate in service, experience interfaith activities, and explore their vocation.

Dan Ott said that students will be invited to apply to attend the Lux Summer Theological Institute for Youth later this year. He expects the institute to accept about two dozen high school students, mostly from the Midwest.

“This will be an ideal setting for young people who want to spend a couple weeks in a mature environment in which they will contemplate ideas and issues that they will be able to apply both to their home communities and throughout the rest of their academic careers,” Ott said.

Monmouth is one of 92 schools participating in the Lilly Endowment’s initiative. It is one of three Illinois schools, one of a handful of residential liberal arts colleges and one of two colleges affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA) chosen to participate.

The 92 schools are located in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Although some schools are independent, many reflect the religious heritage of their founding traditions. These traditions 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 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.”

Lilly Endowment is giving $50 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 Lilly 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 grantmaking 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. 
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