Leaving ‘Holy Hill’ behind, NBTS develops a prime corner of College Ave
(New Brunswick, NJ) – New Brunswick Theological Seminary (NBTS) has made a bold and creative
decision to sell more than half its land in order to assume a new place on the corner of College Avenue
and Seminary Place, where it will build a new, beautifully landscaped campus and embark on a new
future. The sale of this portion of the seminary land for $30 million is a key component of the $300
million College Avenue Redevelopment Project managed by the Development Corporation of New
Brunswick (DEVCO) in partnership with Rutgers University and the Seminary.
About 200 members of the press and the public attended a groundbreaking ceremony on a stunning
final day of July. “Thank you all for coming as we’re building a new campus on this old property on
which we have resided for over 150 years,” NBTS President Gregg Mast greeted guests assembled in
the historic Victorian Gardner A. Sage Library, “You’ll get a chance to see how we will carve it out in
New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill led the remarks: “New Brunswick is honored and proud to be the
home of the Seminary since the early 1800s. Like New Brunswick, the Seminary is diverse and
attempts to address the needs and opportunities of a very modern, vibrant and certainly ever-changing
“As the first Seminary established in North America, New Brunswick Theological
Seminary has provided exceptional ministry education for really thousands and
thousands of students,sent forth from here to carry out the mission to transform
people, institutions and society all for the better. So we look forward to the day in a
year when the Seminary will have the facilities to enhance the teaching experience
for students and teachers alike. New Brunswick remains committed to providing an
atmosphere conducive to all your good work.” –Cahill.
Christopher Paladino, president and executive director of DEVCO focused on the “larger than life”
individuals who have imprinted the last 200 years of history of New Brunswick Theological Seminary,
Queens College, Rutgers College, Rutgers University, and the newly merged Rutgers University and
medical school. “Among names like Frelinghuysen, Hardenberg, Demarest, when the history of the
next century is written, and a group like this gathers in the future, it will be names like Hanson and
Mast that will be recognized for their contributions to this historic partnership.”
“What makes a successful leader? There are people who see opportunity before the
rest of us do. And most importantly, know how to act on it. In each step of this
process, since the first morning in the winter when I was summoned to Morristown
to his office, Jon Hanson has guided this process, helped us to see the opportunity,
focused on the task at hand, what’s important, and most importantly taught us all the
importance of finishing the job. John has been an invaluable counsel without whom
we would not be here today.
“President Mast has succeeded where others have come close. He broadened the
vision, guided a rather cumbersome process that will result in a new building, but
maybe more importantly, created an unlimited opportunity for the Seminary and the
community that it serves. He’s accomplished this with grace, a lot of patience, and
most importantly, humor.” –Palladino.
Jon Hanson, Senior Consultant for NBTS and Chairman of the Hampshire Real Estate Companies in
Morristown, NJ is the Senior Consultant on the project for NBTS. Twenty years ago, Hanson and Mast
served together on the board of Hope College. Hanson nodded at the former NBTS President Norm
Kansfield in the audience. “I’m so glad to see Norm here, because that’s how I first got drafted for this
project. Someplace between 15 and 20 years ago he appeared in my office in Hackettstown. Why me?
My father-in-law was a Reformed Church minister.”
“When you do a project in the real estate development business, you must have a
plan. And how do you stay on plan? Patience, perseverance, and most importantly,
you have to have passion. All of us involved have passion about this project.”
Sandra Fisher, Moderator of the Board of Trustees of NBTS, read the lesson for the day, from the book
of Genesis. And then the presidents of three student organizations–Association of Black Seminarians,
Student Society of Inquiry, and the Korean Students Association–led the audience in a prayer litany.
Before sending the crowd out to dig up the old dirt for a new project, NBTS President Mast first
addressed Palladino. “A year from now, Chris, we’ll be sitting in our new building–we have a group of
witnesses!” Then he reminisced about his own story. “In the fall of 1974, I arrived at NBTS as a
student. The Class of 1974 looked a lot like the class of 1874. We were a homogeneous group. We
lived on campus. Our professors lived on campus. When I returned as president seven years ago, ‘Holy
Hill’ was still physically present, but that kind of residential community had disappeared. No longer do
seminarians leave their homes and devote three solid years to ministerial formation. Most of our
students are bi-vocational and second-career. So this move comes a little late. We’re no longer a
residential community. It’s perfectly fitting that we come off the hill onto the main street of the city in
which we work.
“We have become a multi-ethnic, multi-denominational and multi-generational
community of faith and learning. Our new campus will communicate who we are–a
Seminary in the heart of the city, with the city on its heart. Let us continue the
journey –for God waits for us in a future filled with hope.” –Mast.