Donation will allow Claremont School of Theology to train rabbis, imams


Leaders of the Claremont School of Theology will announce Monday the gift of $40 million from an Arizona couple to help expand the Christian divinity institution into a university that will include training for Jewish and Muslim clergy.

The donation from David Lincoln, a Claremont trustee, and his wife, Joan, is the largest ever to the 126-year-old theology school, which enrolls about 240 students in master’s and doctorate programs in religion and counseling. The couple also gave $10 million to the school last year.

The contributions will help the school transform itself into an unusual multifaith institution, to be named the Claremont Lincoln University in the couple’s honor, with enrollment expected to grow to about 600 over the next decade, officials said. The new university will offer interfaith degree programs and serve as an umbrella for three units: the existing Claremont School of Theology, which will continue to train students from its United Methodist base and other Christian denominations, and new divisions that will train rabbis and imams.


Those new units will be affiliated, respectively, with the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, a non-denominational rabbinical school based in Westwood, and the Islamic Center of Southern California, a mosque in Koreatown.

Jerry Campbell, Claremont School of Theology president, said the three divisions will control their own religious educations while collaborating in other areas. The Lincoln funds will help hire faculty, provide scholarships, improve the home campus in Claremont and develop online teaching tools linking the schools and allowing students to take classes from around the nation and the world, said Campbell, who is a United Methodist minister.

“It’s important for us that the participating partners maintain their own brands. We are not blending or merging. We are only looking for understanding, respect and the possibility of collaboration,” he said, adding that Buddhist, Hindu and other religions may join later. Campbell said he and the Lincolns want the schools to generate interfaith solutions for such social issues as homelessness.

A plan proposed last year to train Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergy in one college upset the United Methodist Church, which has sponsored and provided funding to the seminary since its founding. The tripartite structure was created to quell the controversy; the Christian unit alone will receive money from the church.

David Lincoln, a trustee of the theological school since 2003, is a Caltech-trained aerospace engineer and inventor who successfully invested in mining, technology and real estate. Joan Lincoln, a graduate of Scripps College in Claremont, is a ceramic artist and former mayor of Paradise Valley, Ariz., where the couple live.

“We believe the outcome of this kind of education will be tolerance and respect among religions,” David Lincoln said in a statement.