The Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest was begun in Austin by John E. Hines, coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Texas, because the established theological seminaries of the Protestant Episcopal Church were unable to enroll all of the men volunteering for the ordained ministry in a period in which church growth was great. It was possible to make a beginning in Austin because the church had a lease on a residence near the University of Texas in which Bible classes were being taught by Rev. Gray M. Blandy, instructor at the Canterbury Bible Chair and chaplain of Episcopal students at the University of Texas. There were two other clergymen available to assist Blandy, Rev. Lawrence Brown, Bible Chair instructor at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) at College Station, and Rev. John M. Holt, vicar of the mission church at Mexia. Classes began September 1, 1951, under the auspices of the Austin Presbyterian Seminary. Blandy, who lived in Austin, was appointed dean, and the other faculty members arranged to commute to teach their classes. All three were present for the weekly Eucharist, at which they alternated as celebrants and preachers, with students taking part as readers or servers.
Two gifts strengthened the infant seminary. First, it received a bequest from the estate of Ann Laird of Kilgore and was thus able to add to the faculty. Second, the library of the former De Lancy Divinity School of Buffalo, New York, was given to the seminary by Bishop Laurisand L. Scaife of the Diocese of Western New York. The De Lancy Divinity School was no longer active and its library no longer in use. It contained a collection of English sources now out of print and hard to replace.
The seminary received a charter from the state of Texas in 1951 and was recognized as an agency of the Diocese of Texas in January of 1952. At the same time it was recognized by two other dioceses in Texas, West Texas and Dallas, which had sent students to it and shared in its board of trustees. Its title, "of the Southwest," reflected this.
The need for a campus was met by the donation of an Austin family, Dr. and Mrs. Ernest Villavaso and Frederick Duncalf, who, as a memorial for the Villavasos' son Ernest, donated a tract of five acres in the university neighborhood near Austin Presbyterian Seminary. The seminary retained the architectural firm Fehr and Granger to plan the campus. Of the proposed buildings two were begun in 1954, a two-story building with classrooms and faculty offices on one floor and the library on the second, and a dormitory for single students. The administration building, a connecting classroom and faculty office building, and the library were begun the next summer. Services were continued at nearby All Saints' Chapel at first, then space was set apart in the library for temporary use as a chapel. Christ Chapel was built in 1960.
After Bishop Hines was elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and resigned as chairman of the trustees, he was succeeded by Bishop E. H. Jones of West Texas. The following priests have served as dean of the school: T. Hudnal Harvey, Lawrence Brown, Gordon T. Charlton, Jr., and Durstan R. McDonald. The seminary confers the degrees of master of divinity, master of arts in religion, and master of arts in pastoral ministry, as well as certification in five programs. In 2000 the seminary had an enrollment of 113 students and a faculty of twelve.
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Gray M. Blandy and Lawrence L. Brown, The Story of the First Twenty-five Years of the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest (Austin: Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, 1976). Robert Lee Shemwell, Redesign and Additions for the Campus of the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest (M. Arch. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1986). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Theological Seminaries and Colleges
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Lawrence L. Brown,
“Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 28, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
November 2, 2001