The award is given biennially to a Presbyterian who has “made an outstanding lifetime contribution to theological education in and for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).”
Wheeler served as president of Auburn, a New York City school in covenant relationship with the PC(USA), for 30 years. She is still at Auburn, now serving as the director of the seminary’s Center for the Study of Theological Education.
Traditionally, Auburn has taught Presbyterian-related courses for Presbyterian students at adjacent Union Theological Seminary. Under her leadership, the seminary blossomed into a formidable theological institution in its own right.
In 1991, the Center for the Study of Theological Education was founded and has emerged as the pre-eminent research institute enabling theological schools in the United States and Canada to understand their work based on hard data and research.
The broad range of publications based on the center’s research — such as faculty recruitment and retention, student debt, public awareness and understanding of theological schools and presidential leadership — are widely read and referenced. Wheeler is also co-author of Being There, which addresses the role of the climate of the theological school as an integral part of the formation for pastors and future church leaders.
“Barbara knows more than anyone,” said McCormick Theological Seminary President Cynthia Campbell, “and has given freely to all of us.”
Wheeler, a Presbyterian elder, has served the PC(USA) as a member of the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church; as a founding member of the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation board of directors; as a bridge-builder between PC(USA) and other seminaries, particularly Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.; and currently as a member of the committee that’s developing a new Presbyterian hymnal. She is active in Albany Presbytery.
Wheeler will receive the award at next summer’s General Assembly, scheduled for July 3-10 in Minneapolis.
Previous Excellence in Theological Education Award winners include C. Ellis Nelson, James H. Costen, Sara P. Little, Jack L. Stotts, Robert Wood Lynn, Henry Luce III, Catherine Gonzalez, and Sara C. Jeungst.