The Juicy Details…
The Wesley Foundation at The University of Texas at Austin traces its roots to both the Wesley Bible Chair and the Texas Methodist Student Movement. The Wesley Bible Chair has been an integral part of The University of Texas at Austin for over 80 years, attracting large numbers of students to its courses, especially during the Directorship of Dr. C. W. Hall from 1923 through the late 1960’s.
Another part of Wesley Foundation heritage, the Texas Methodist Student Movement, arose after World War II when the five Methodist Annual Conferences in Texas and many local churches cooperated to support and expand emerging campus ministries around the state. In the 1960’s, the Texas Methodist Student Movement dissolved after successfully launching several campus ministries. In Austin the Methodist Student Movement became the Wesley Foundation of Austin.
At this point, the Southwest Texas Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry began to provide financial support and accountability for the Wesley Foundation of Austin. During this turbulent decade, financial stresses, social unrest, political activism, changing perceptions of campus ministry, and the aging Wesley building created many challenges for the ministry, its Board, and conference leaders.
In the late 1970’s, for the reasons mentioned above, the Board decided to sell the Foundation’s building and property to University United Methodist Church. In the early 1980’s, new hope came from oil and gas earnings provided by the Hall Estate Endowment and the Board began to envision an expanded outreach to students. The Wesley Foundation of Austin helped establish and funded a number of site-based ministries and the United Campus Ministry of Austin, an interdenominational umbrella organization.
While this multiple-site / multiple ministries experience was exciting, by the end of the 1980’s there was a growing feeling that the Wesley Foundation of Austin should be more visible and present on campus again. In 1988, the decision was made to purchase a building near campus and to staff a centralized ministry. With funds saved from the sale of the Foundation’s former building, plus those from the sale of a lakeside retreat property previously donated to the Foundation, the Board purchased the current building and an adjacent apartment complex located at the corner of Nueces and 22nd Street. The rental income from the apartment complex has provided much needed revenue for the continued operations of the ministry. This revenue, combined with the income from the Hall Estate Endowment, has been the major source of funding for the Wesley Foundation of Austin.
Currently, and for the past several years, the Wesley Foundation of Austin has received approximately $10,000 per year of the near $300,000 distributed to campus ministries units by the Southwest Texas Annual Conference. Consequently, the Hall Estate Endowment helps not only the Wesley Foundation of Austin reach out to students but also the other campus ministry units to which the conference allocates funds.
The priority of the Board during the past twenty years has been to focus on a United Methodist campus based ministry centered at the Wesley House. Since the early 1990’s, Wesley Foundation’s continued growth has created the need for additional meeting space. Prior to 2000, the weekly worship service, called Overflow, met in the main room of the Wesley House. In that year, attendance at Overflow became too large for the Wesley House to accommodate, at which time the Foundation rented space and began holding the service in the fellowship hall at University United Methodist Church.