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$21M gift a boost for religious college

ST. PAUL -- Luther Seminary says a $21.4 million donation for a new Master of Divinity program will enable 90 students to complete their degrees more quickly and without taking on debt.

Waste Management founder Dean Buntrock’s gift will pay for a five-year experiment at the St. Paul college, whose alums account for over a third of all Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastors.

Luther will welcome the first of three groups of 30 students in the fall of 2019. They will study year-round while working part-time in congregations across the country on paid internships. They’ll get free tuition and materials and stipends for living expenses.

Through an accelerated program combining online and in-person study, they’ll complete their divinity degrees in two years instead of three or more.

The donation is the largest in Luther’s history and supports a key area of focus for the church.

“Identifying, inviting, equipping and supporting leaders is one of the highest priorities for our work in the ELCA,” Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton said in a news release.

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