Good stuff found by Norm: Seminaries Receive Largest Endowed Bequest

Editor’s Note: In a day and age when leaders of the LCMS are talking about closing down seminaries and selling them for the assets it is good to see that the Lord has other ideas and is providing for them. Both seminaries are a gift from God and we pray that the church will continue to support them. Click here to read the original story.

FORT WAYNE, IN (CTS)—Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, are beneficiaries of a $2.48 million bequest from a Texas donor, the largest estate gift received from a single individual to support future pastors, missionaries and chaplains attending either seminary. Thelma O. Pietsch designated the bulk of her estate to be divided equally between the two seminaries and used to establish a permanent student financial aid endowment at each institution.

The endowments are named in loving memory of her parents, Andrew and Martha Pietsch, and in recognition of Thelma’s generosity. Miss Pietsch chose to care for her aging parents and never married. She operated a farm and ranch in Fayette County, Texas. A lifelong Lutheran, she was an active member of St. Michael Lutheran Church, Winchester, and quietly provided cash scholarships to local students. She was known for the care she provided to her animals, providing veterinary care until each animal’s death from natural causes.

Each seminary received approximately $1.24 million which, as invested funds, will provide approximately $60,000 annually for tuition assistance to students preparing for ordained ministry in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Income earned by the two endowed funds will be distributed to qualifying seminarians by each seminary’s financial aid office in accordance with instructions outlined by Miss Pietsch in her will, seminary policies and state laws governing the prudent management of endowed funds. No special application process beyond the filing of each seminary’s financial aid application form is required.

“The entire seminary family rejoices in the faith and support of MIss Pietsch. Such support will bring blessings to the church through able and faithful pastors for generations, ” offered Dr. Dean Wenthe, President, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne.

“Thelma’s gift, like every gift to endowment, offers great hope for generations of future pastors, missionaries and chaplains,” said Dr. Dale Meyer, President, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. “Through her estate plan, she created a fund that will continue to support seminary education long after the Lord called her to himself. While we are not able to thank her personally for this bequest, we give thanks to God for leading Thelma to invest so generously in both of our seminaries.”

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Good stuff found by Norm: Seminaries Receive Largest Endowed Bequest — 8 Comments

  1. Based on what it cost me to be a residential student living in the dorms between 2005 and 2009, $60,000 a year could cover the full bill for roughly four students. Let’s hope and pray our seminaries can find more funding like the generosity of Miss Pietsch!

  2. @Rev. Jack Gilbert #1
    Check my math here, but based on what you said the synod could support 800 seminarians, not including vicars, for about $12,000,000 a year. That’s roughly $6.00 per LCMS church member per year. This should the top priority of the LCMS.

    Miss Pietch’s faithful offering alone covers the annual costs for about 165 seminarians.

  3. @C.S. #2

    When I lived in the dorms, after all the help I received from tuition grants, home congregation support, and home district support, the total cost left to me as a student was about $15,000 a year.

    Your point is correct, if everyone gave a little it would be a great help.

  4. Something is also required for the care and feeding of professors and maintenance of the property.

    But if we could be sure that the money was going to professors, seminarians and their maintenance, we wouldn’t need outside consultants to raise it. That may be why Miss Pietsch gave her money to the seminaries and not to lcms, inc.

    I hope her “designated gift” isn’t “borrowed” to fan a flame!

  5. My understanding of accounting rules is that if a person restricts their donation to a specific entity, and restricts it even further for a specific use, the recipient organization must either accept it under those conditions or refuse the gift. If they accept the gift under the conditions and use it for something else, they have ‘borrowed’ the funds temporarily and must fully replace those funds at some point.

    If this wonderful woman in her will spelled out that the money was to be sent directly to the seminaries, then only the seminaries can use it. If, as the notification states, she stated that the seminaries could only use these gifts to provide monetary aid to students, then the seminaries can only spend the money as aid to students. If they did otherwise, an external audit would reveal the misappropriation and the auditors would require that the seminaries replace the money in order to get a clean audit.

    Re CS’s comment in #2, the news notification says that she wanted the money put into an endowment. When I do the math, $60,000 divided into $1.24 million comes out to be a 5% rate of return, which is standard among universities and the like. I certainly hope, although it is doubtful, that both seminaries can earn that much in this economy. It is nice to know that a gift like this is put to work so that money is available every year to help those who need it most. How many students each year would benefit from $60,000 is beyond me.

    Perhaps the best thing for the seminaries to do is use this money to pay all of the expenses for one student, and then another, until the $60,000 is exhausted. At least that way a couple of students could graduate each year without any debt at all.

  6. @Helen #4


    During my final year at CSL (2008-09), it was explained to me that of the then $24,000,000 annual budget, 12.5% went to paying the professors. I’m not certain if this included their medical insurance and benefits. Either way, that’s a lot of overhead!

    Since then, a number of changes have been made (retirement packages to professors, laying off of staff members, maintenance projects postponed, etc.). Time will tell how much more the financial woes of the seminary will set up her graduates for extreme levels of debt.

    Please keep the seminaries and their students in your prayers!

  7. @Rev. Gilbert #6

    What an excellent request, Rev. Gilbert! Seeing as you are a recent graduate suffering the ill effects of indebtedness, and are no doubt familiar with the plight of many of your class members, would you be so gracious as to post five or six specific things about the seminaries and their students that we can pray for?

  8. @Concerned #7

    In no particular order…

    Prayers of supplication:

    1. More financial assistance, specifically from the congregations in our church body.
    2. Guidance for those in positions that must decide how money is raised and spent.
    3. Loving, pastoral professors who can explain what pastors are called to do in the parish.
    4. More Biblically-based admissions policies. (If nothing has changed since my graduation, some students are turned down due to carrying “too much” debt from his undergraduate studies.)
    5. General prayers for the seminary community: professors, administrators, staff members, and students–that our Lord would strengthen them during these hard financial times.
    6. Provision for graduates carrying heavy debt loads.

    Prayers of thanksgiving:

    1. Our Lord has given us His Word, which is used in our seminaries in training future pastors!
    2. Our Lord has called some wonderful men to teach at our seminaries!
    3. Our Lord has provided throughout our history as a church body and has seen us through good times and bad, while at the same time He promises to never leave us nor forsake us!
    4. Our Lord has given graduates of the seminaries churches to serve and people to receive His Word and Sacraments through these men!

    And for the record, I graduated with no debt. I am one of a paltry few graduates like this. Thank you for your willingness to pray!

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