May 8, 2019

Dear Willamette University and Claremont School of Theology communities,

It is with pleasure and excitement that we announce that the Boards of Trustees at our respective institutions have jointly approved an affiliation agreement, the next and critical step towards a shared future.

This formal affiliation agreement brings together two institutions that share a common mission to educate students and prepare them for lives that contribute to and transform their communities.

Willamette seeks to be the Northwest’s premier liberal arts university, educating leaders for our region and the world by building distinctive programs that leverage collaborative partnerships between its undergraduate and graduate schools. The Claremont School of Theology (CST) aims to position itself as the foremost theological school in the western United States by providing transformative ecumenical and inter-religious theological education that engages local and global communities.

Together, the two institutions will have immediate opportunities for improving and enhancing student experiences in existing programs. CST students will have the advantage of additional student support services available at a larger university, and Willamette students will have a greater breadth of curricular offerings. But most exciting will be entirely new opportunities for joint and collaborative work in areas of great interest to faculty and students from both institutions.

CST will incrementally move its programs to Salem, and collaborative activities of the two institutions will increase. Work will continue on CST’s planned sale of its California campus, as well as on obtaining the necessary legal, regulatory, and accreditation approvals.

The entire CST faculty is committed to the relocation. However, first to arrive to Salem will be several CST faculty and staff members, who will serve about 120 students in the hybrid (online, low-residency) and residential Master’s programs during the 2019-20 academic year.  A much larger relocation of people and programs is planned for the 2020-21 academic year. Active planning has begun for the relocation of the core of CST’s library resources. More information is available here.

The relocation of the internationally-renowned programs of CST to Salem also promises to fundamentally reshape progressive theological education throughout the Pacific Northwest, deepen Willamette’s connection to the diverse faith communities of the region, and strengthen CST’s commitment to serving the western United States. Together, the combined institutions have the potential to add value not only to the experiences of our students, but also to society and the communities in which our graduates live and work.

Sincerely,
Rev. Dr. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan
President, Claremont School of Theology

Sincerely,
Stephen E. Thorsett
President, Willamette University

Letter from President Kuan

January 25, 2019

Dear Friends,

Judgment was entered in our litigation against Claremont Graduate University and The Claremont Colleges, Inc. In summary, the Judgment, and Statement of Decision underlying the Judgment, allows us to receive fair market value for the sale of our property—clearing the way for us to move forward with next steps for evaluating the proposal to embed CST within Willamette University in Salem, OR.

As part of that evaluation, both CST and Willamette’s Board of Trustees took action in October to affirm mission alignment of our two institutions by signing a joint Memorandum of Understanding.

Like CST, Willamette is made up of students, faculty, and staff from a variety of religious, social, and cultural backgrounds. Our progressive approach to theological education—coupled with our shared commitment to educating students to contribute to and enrich their communities—will enhance academic offerings for students and further both CST’s and Willamette’s missions.

Our Board of Trustees has directed us to continue pursuing due diligence regarding a possible merger, and that work is underway. Although an appeal of today’s court decision is possible, it is unlikely to interfere with our ability to take next steps.

Our goal, upon completing due diligence, is to make final recommendations to our Board of Trustees this spring about the viability of merging our two institutions. Should the financial, legal, and accreditation-related reviews support moving forward, we anticipate reaching an affiliation agreement this spring. We foresee initiating some programs and operations for our students on Willamette’s campus in the fall of 2019. Assuming all goes well, a final merger agreement would be brought to the Board in the spring of 2020.

FAQs are available above.

We will continue to keep you apprised as this work continues and will keep our website updated here.

I am grateful to our Jackson Tidus legal team of Charles Clark, Kathryn Casey, Ron DeFelice, and Chris Green for the outstanding work they have done in navigating through the entire legal process and proceedings. I am also thankful for so many of you who have been steadfast and supportive through this long and arduous process with your prayers and your faith in the school’s mission and future. I know this has not been easy and that our potential move out of southern California is stressful. But I also know we are strong, and I take courage in our resilience, in the hope and callings of our students, and in the continuation of our mission. Together, we can do hard things.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey

Claremont School of Theology Litigation Press Release

January 24, 2019

CLAREMONT SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY PLEASED WITH LITIGATION RESULTS

CLAREMONT, CA— Judgment was entered in Claremont School of Theology’s (CST) litigation against Claremont Graduate University and The Claremont Colleges, Inc., formerly known as Claremont University Consortium (CUC), and related cross-claims. In summary, the Judgment, and Statement of Decision underlying the Judgment, allows CST to receive fair market value if it desires to sell its property.

Charles Clark of Jackson Tidus, CST’s lead attorney, said, “We are very pleased with the judgment. Our overarching goal in pursuing the litigation was for CST to be able to receive fair market value for its property, and I believe this decision allows CST to achieve this goal.”

A dispute between the parties arose, in part, over whether CST’s Property was encumbered by a Right of First Offer Restriction providing that once CST desired to sell its property, it was required to sell the property to CUC for the price CST paid for the property in 1957, plus improvements and property taxes and minus depreciation. The Judgment converted the Right of First Offer to a Right of First Refusal whereby CST is now able to obtain fair market offers from third parties, and CUC has the right to purchase CST’s property for the purchase price and other material economic terms of a third-party offer accepted by CST. If CUC does not want to purchase CST’s property pursuant to the terms of the third-party offer, then CST can close the transaction with the qualified third party.

Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, President of CST, expressed his satisfaction, stating, “This judgment allows us to move forward with our plans to sell the property and work toward an embedding partnership with Willamette University in Salem, OR. That’s what we wanted, and I’m so grateful to our Jackson Tidus legal team of Charles Clark, Kathryn Casey, Ron DeFelice, and Chris Green for the outstanding work they have done in navigating through the entire legal process and proceedings. I am also thankful for the continuing support of our Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni/ae, donors, and friends through this long and arduous process, and for their faith in the school’s mission and future.”

###

Established in 1885, Claremont School of Theology is fully recognized and approved as one of thirteen official theological schools of The United Methodist Church, with close relationships with other Protestant denominations, as well as many interreligious partnerships. CST offers graduate level programs, including Master of Arts, Master of Divinity, Doctor of Ministry, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in religion and practical theology.

Updates

October 5, 2018

Claremont School of Theology Update
October 5, 2018

Dear Friends:

The complaint that CST filed on Aug. 31, 2016 against CUC and CGU for claims, including quiet title and declaratory relief, and CUC and CGU’s cross-claims against CST, finally came to trial on September 24, 2018. I am happy to report that the trial portion is now over and that all the documents and testimony are in evidence. The parties must each submit Closing Briefs on October 19, 2018. After that, each party will submit a Reply Brief on November 2, 2018.

I wanted to give you general overview of the trial.

Day 1 began on Monday morning, September 24. Our Chair of the Board, Tricia Farris, Game Quan, and Mike Brown were in court, along with our legal team, Charles Clark and Kathryn Casey. Ron DeFelice, a real estate transactional lawyer from Charles and Kathryn’s firm, attended as well.

After opening statements by Charles and the opposing counsel, I was put on the stand. I remained there for the rest of the day and the beginning of Day 2. The opposing counsel took hours to cross-examine me. On Day 2, Game Quan, our VP for Business Affairs/CFO, was called to the stand. His testimony and cross-examination were focused on finances and didn’t take long. Charles then called Dr. Brenda Barham Hill, the former CEO of CUC. Her testimony lasted the remainder of Day 2 and continued on through the morning of Day 3. Charles spent more time questioning her than any other witness, and I believe this was also the case for opposing counsel.

Charles next called Dominic Dutra, who had flown in from vacation in Boston, to take the stand. Dominic’s testimony and cross-examination were not very long, partly because some of the documents he was going to testify about were excluded by the Court. The final witness we called for Day 3 was Stig Lanesskog, the current CEO of CUC. His testimony also did not last long, partly because opposing counsel could not discuss historical documents with Mr. Lanesskog as the Court determined that he lacked sufficient knowledge. On Day 4 Leslie Negitto, the VP of finance and administration and treasurer at CGU, and Jeffrey Slavin, one of our consultants at DCG Strategies, took the stand. Both their testimonies were short. Mr. Slavin was the last live witness to testify. CST put on a number of witnesses through designations from the witnesses’ deposition transcripts. Those designations will come into evidence and be considered the same as if the witnesses testified in Court. CUC and CGU did not call any additional witness to provide live testimony after CST closed its case.

Thereafter, Judge Oki dealt with administrative matters with the legal counsels. Judge Oki decided that closing statements would be made through briefs as opposed to oral arguments, which we understand is common in a bench trial where no jury is involved.

Moving forward, the two parties will be submitting closing briefs by October 19th and then have until November 2nd to respond/rebut each other’s closing briefs. We hope to have a final ruling from the Court by the end of November.

Our legal counsel, Charles Clark, with assistance from Kathryn Casey, did an amazing job to thread through the evidence with the different witnesses. Our attorneys stayed very focused on the relevant issues and we believe they were successful in putting the necessary documents and testimony before the judge. We believe the judge is focused on the correct issues and our counsel were able to prevent the injection of irrelevant and “sideshow” evidence. We are glad that this phase is over, and that we have moved closer to a decision. We remain hopeful.

I want to express my thanks to Tricia Farris for being there to support us, to Game Quan for the good work he did in serving as a witness for the school and sitting through parts of the laborious process, to Dominic Dutra and Jeff Slavin for their strong testimonies, and Mike Brown for being there on the first day to support us. I appreciate also Ron DeFelice’s presence every day. My gratitude goes to Charles and Kathryn for being incredibly well-prepared for the trial and for always being available and taking the time to discuss the many issues with us throughout the trial.

Thank you all for your good thoughts and prayers. I will continue to update you as our litigation moves toward a decision in the next couple of months.

Sincerely,

Rev. Dr. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan
CST President

August 22, 2018

CST and Willamette Communities

August 22, 2018
Dear Friends:
Over a year has passed since the initial announcement that Willamette University and Claremont School of Theology (CST) would enter into a due diligence process to study the viability of a potential partnership between our two schools. As outlined in our message last summer, the mutual benefits of such a partnership are numerous and what we have learned over the past year has increased our enthusiasm for the opportunity to bring our communities together.

Faculty and staff from both institutions have met or talked to explore programmatic collaborations and have learned more about each others’ scholarship and teaching interests. CST faculty toured the Willamette University campus in Salem over the past year and have met with Willamette’s faculty. Last fall, a Willamette and CST faculty member presented at a joint lecture at CST and CST hosted a meeting of its Board of Trustees as well as a reception for alumni and supporters on the Willamette campus. We have hosted a video conversation with students of color from CST and CST faculty participated in an NW5C workshop about supporting faculty of color. These are just some of examples of the kind of collaborations and connections that have taken place over the past year.

Both institutions have also created task forces comprised of faculty, staff and board members to review the academic, governance, financial and facility needs of a potential partnership. This process has been strengthened by a generous grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation to explore embedding CST at Willamette.

The sale of CST’s property in Southern California is an important step to successfully transitioning CST’s programs to Oregon and embedding CST at Willamette. As many of you are aware, CST is in the midst of litigation with the Claremont University Consortium (CUC) and Claremont Graduate School (CGU) regarding a dispute over a “Right of First Offer” restriction in CST’s property deed. A trial date was set for mid-July 2018, which was rescheduled to late September due to scheduling conflicts by CUC and CGU’s counsel.

These delays have not deterred us from continuing the important work of exploring the viability of integrating our communities. Leadership from CST and Willamette meet regularly to keep the process moving and address key questions on programming and logistics. We are also heartened by the many notes of support received from alumni, friends and other community members who share our enthusiasm and see the tremendous value of our partnership.

Willamette and CST websites, and we will be sure to keep you informed about our due diligence work and the results of the trial.

With gratitude,

Rev. Dr. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan
CST President

Dr. Stephen E. Thorsett
Willamette University President

July 6, 2018

Claremont School of Theology Update
July 6, 2018

Dear Friends:

The Final Trial Conference took place before Judge Oki this morning at the Pomona Superior Court for the trial that was set to commence July 16, 2018.  Regrettably, the trial was continued for another two months; however, we hope that the continuance will not drastically impact the timing in which we will receive a final ruling.

I attended along with Michael Brown and our counsel, Charles Clark and Kathryn Casey.  As Mr. Clark previously anticipated, Defendants Claremont University Consortium and Claremont Graduate University told the judge that they had a conflict on July 16, 2018, because of another arbitration that opposing counsel had to attend for his firm.  Mr. Clark pushed for a brief continuance to July 23, 2018 or July 30, 2018.  The Court was willing to move trials pending at that time to accommodate our trial, but with scheduling conflicts on all our parts, and with the Court’s conflicts in August, the trial date is now fixed forSeptember 24, 2018.

It is very frustrating that the trial was continued again, but we did take some positives from the hearing.  While the trial is pushed two months, we believe Judge Oki understands and appreciates the situation of our school and this can lead to a prompt decision after the trial.

Sincerely,

Rev. Dr. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan
CST President

April 23, 2018

Claremont School of Theology Update
April 23, 2018

Dear Friends:

I write to give you an update on where we are in our litigation with the Claremont University Consortium (CUC) and Claremont Graduate University (CGU). As I mentioned in my last communication, CUC/CGU filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate (“Writ Petition”) with the California Court of Appeal on February 21, 2018. Subsequently, the appellate court put a “Temporary Stay” on the trial, which was to begin on March 6, 2018. On April 11, 2018 we received a statement from the appellate court, finding that it believed good cause exists to allow CUC/CGU leave to amend their first amended cross-complaint attached to their previously filed ex parte application. This would allow CGU to assert their alleged claim, right and interest to the CST property and to ensure that all claims by all parties in interest may be resolved in a single action. The positive side of this decision is that the appellate court did not reverse or alter in any manner the lower court’s finding that CUC was not assigned any rights in relation to 1957 Deed or related Agreement in 2001, which we believe has impact in the enforceability of the 2001 Agreement. In response to the Court of Appeal’s statement, the CST proposed the following stipulations:

  • Stipulate to the Trial Court reversing its ex parte order that CUC and CGU cannot amend the cross-complaint, and the cross-complaint attached to the ex parte application will be deemed filed as of the date the Court signs this stipulated order. Even though Plaintiff is stipulating to the reversal, we will expressly reserve any standing arguments with regards to CUC at trial.
  • Stipulate to file a response to the complaint in 15 days.
  • Stipulate to a trial date in late May or June depending on the availability of the Court.

CUC/CGU agreed to the 1st and 2nd stipulations, and those have been entered as a stipulated court order. CUC/CGU did not agree on the 3rd stipulation. Hence, our legal team filed an ex parte application to set a new trial date as quickly as possible. The court granted a hearing on April 19, 2018 and has now tentatively set a new trial date on July 16, 2018 and a final status conference on July 6, 2018.

The trial is now back on track and we hope that we will have the litigation resolved this summer.

Please let us know if you have any questions, and we will keep you updated as the situation progresses.

Sincerely,

Rev. Dr. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan
CST President

March 1, 2018

Claremont School of Theology Update
March 1, 2018

Dear Friends:

I write to let you know that we received a notice on February 28, 2018 that the California Court of Appeal has ordered a “Temporary Stay” of the trial, which was to begin on March 6, 2018, to allow CST to file an opposition to the Petition for Writ of Mandate (“Writ Petition”) by March 15, 2018. On or around January 29, 2018, CST prevailed in part on its Motion for Summary Adjudication (“MSA”), which is believed to be an important victory against Claremont University Consortium (CUC). As a result, CUC filed a Writ Petition with the Court of Appeal, which highlighted the significance of CST’s victory, stating, “Just weeks before trial, an erroneous summary adjudication ruling has stripped Claremont University Consortium (Consortium) of its entire affirmative case and probably most of its defenses.”

Our legal team is working to submit the opposition to the Writ Petition by March 15, 2018. We hope that CST’s Opposition shows the Court of Appeal both that the lower Court’s decision was correct, and there are no extraordinary circumstances justifying the Writ Petition.  If the Court of Appeal denies the petition, we hope the Trial Court will be able to still commence the trial in March.

Please let us know if you have any questions, and we will keep you updated as the situation progresses.

Sincerely,

Rev. Dr. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan
CST President

Feel free to get in touch with my office jkuan@cst.edu, 909-447-2552 or the Office of Advancement and Communications, Rev. Sharalyn Hamilton at 909-447-6361 or shamilton@cst.edu

February 7, 2018

Claremont School of Theology Update
February 7, 2018

Dear Friends:

Our Spring 2018 semester is now in full swing. This spring semester, we enrolled 43 new students, bringing our total to 427. We continue to grow our enrollment in a context where many seminaries are experiencing enrollment decline, and our students are excited to be here. During the January Intensive week, I visited the Interreligious Dialogue and Leadership class. Looking around the class of more than sixty students, I was amazed at the diversity of our students. Only 35% of our students identify as White—no longer representing a majority of our student body. Our African American student population is at 16%, Asian American 15%, Hispanic/Latinx 5%, Pacific Islander 4%, International 15%, and two or more races 3%.

Our diversity goes beyond race and ethnicity. We remain deeply committed to The United Methodist Church. This is reflected in our student body. The 93 United Methodist students represent 22% of the population, the largest denominational group. Our commitment to our ecumenical mission is seen in the many denominations represented in our student population. The Disciples of Christ at 14% is our second largest group, followed by Korean Methodist Church at 5%, The Episcopalian Church at 4%, Presbyterian Church of Korea at 4%, Seventh Day Adventist at 4%, African Methodist Episcopal Church at 2%. Through our partnership with Bayan Claremont, we now have 51 students (12%) who identify as Muslims who are enrolled in degree programs. We also have Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish students. Thus, our commitment to the interreligious mission remains robust.

On the financial side, this fiscal year we are operating on a net revenue budget of $8,961,034 (which includes the budget of the centers and Bayan Claremont). Our revenue budget represents an increase of $1,086,025 over FY2017 ($7,875,009). We continue to cut our expenses. Our expense budget for FY2018 is $10,321,541 (including the centers and Bayan Claremont). Our expense budget represents a decrease of $1,253,161 from FY2017 ($11,574,702). This will still result in a deficit of $1,360,506, but this deficit will be far less than in previous years. In our effort to fund the deficit, we have been able to secure bridge loans from three annual conferences, churches, and individuals, including trustees, faculty and senior staff. Faculty and senior staff raised more than $600,000 in loans to the school because they continue to believe in the mission of the school and its future. Our plan is to use a portion of the proceeds from the sale of our property to repay these loans and refund our endowment.

We are grateful for your continued support of our students, faculty and staff, and of the courageous ways in which we are working to secure the mission of this school for future generations. In December, one couple—members of a United Methodist Church and longtime supporters—gave a gift of over $800,000. This transformational gift not only helps to sustain us financially but speaks loudly in support of all the work that is being done by trustees, faculty, and staff in this transition.

The exploration of an embedded partnership with Willamette University is going well. We are still in the process of doing due diligence. Last September and October were filled with cultural, intellectual, and social exchanges on the beautiful Willamette campus. Faculty were given two opportunities to visit Salem, tour the campus, and have quality exchanges with Willamette faculty and staff. Willamette was a gracious host, leading tours and providing table fellowship with each group. The CST Board of Trustees followed suit and held its October meeting on the Willamette campus. This gave the trustees opportunity to tour the campus and meet the mayor and city manager of Salem, who provided an overview of the attributes and goals of the city as well as engaged in conversation about shared values and potential collaborations. President Stephen Thorsett and his wife, Dr. Rachel Dewey Thorsett, welcomed us with a dinner party which allowed board members to meet and fellowship with representatives from the Willamette board. President Thorsett addressed the trustees earlier that day sharing his vision, what he perceived as our compatibility and their work in the due diligence process.

The complaint that CST filed on Aug. 31, 2016, against CUC and CGU for quiet title and declaratory relief is winding its way through the Superior Court of California. CST filed the complaint to confirm alleged restrictions, including a Right of First Offer (“ROFO”), embedded in the grant deed and agreement of 1957 were statutorily terminated. CUC subsequently filed a cross-complaint trying to enforce an alleged ROFO restriction.

Both parties have gone through a long process of discovery, the taking of depositions, and the filing of motions for summary adjudication (MSA). On Jan. 23, 2018 the Court denied CUC’s MSA in its entirety, on all sixteen issues that CUC had raised. The Court took time to prepare a detailed opinion with positive findings.

n Jan. 29, 2018, the Court held the hearing for CST’s MSA, which identified three issues: 1) the ROFO in the 1957 Agreement and 1957 Deed had terminated by Statute on Jan. 1, 1988, and can never be an equitable servitude as it is not mutual; 2) the 2001 Agreement is void for violating the Subdivision Map Act; and 3) CUC does not have standing to assert the ROFO because it was not party to the agreements and was not assigned any alleged property interest in the agreements. At the Jan. 29, 2018, hearing the Court ruled in favor of CST by granting summary adjudication of issue 3, which then mooted issue 1. The Court denied summary adjudication of issue 2 on the basis that it was not asserted as an affirmative defense, which CST contests as “illegality” of an agreement and does not need to be an affirmative defense. The rulings on the MSAs give hope that CST will ultimately prevail in the litigation. The Final Status Conference is scheduled for Feb. 26, 2018, and the Jury Trial is scheduled to begin on Mar. 6, 2018.

You—our alumni, donors, churches, and friends—are so important to us. We are your seminary and we will continue to be your seminary—educating your pastors, your chaplains, your teachers and scholars, and your leaders of nonprofits, and always working together with you to do all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can (to paraphrase John Wesley). Please continue to keep CST in your prayers as we work toward a bright and thriving future.

Sincerely,

Rev. Dr. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan
CST President

Feel free to get in touch with my office jkuan@cst.edu, 909-447-2552 or the Office of Advancement and Communications, Rev. Sharalyn Hamilton at 909-447-6361 or shamilton@cst.edu

November, 9 2017

Litigation Updates from President Kuan

The complaint that CST filed on Aug. 31, 2016, against CUC and CGU for quiet title and declaratory relief is