Less than three years after he began his ministry in the United States in December 1971, Rev. Moon initiated plans for the establishment of the Unification Church’s first theological seminary. For this purpose, in 1974 the church purchased the campus of St. Joseph’s Normal Institute, a Christian Brothers boarding school located in the Hudson Valley that had recently closed. Rev. Moon appointed Dr. David S. C. Kim to establish the Seminary and lead it as its first president. President Kim assembled a faculty and staff, and on September 20, 1975 UTS welcomed the first class of 56 students, who enrolled in a two-year Religious Education Program. In its first years, Rev. Moon often visited the campus, sharing with students in the classroom or on long walks around the 250‑acre campus. He initiated a tradition of fishing in the Hudson River, personally showing the students how to prepare fishing nets, and guided the creation of a soccer field and scenic pond
Interreligious encounters have been a central component of the school’s history and vision. UTS’s inaugural faculty, rich in its own diversity, encompassed the breadth of the Judeo-Christian tradition, hailing from Methodist, Reformed, Church of Christ, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Jewish faiths. The Seminary convened ecumenical conferences, beginning in February 1977, which attracted top scholars and religious leaders from a wide range of denominational backgrounds. Building upon these, UTS organized a number of interfaith initiatives including the Global Congress of the World’s Religions (1977) and the Youth Seminar on the World’s Religions (1982). The most important was the New Ecumenical Research Association (New ERA), begun in 1979. New ERA developed as an interfaith community of theologians that brought together hundreds of religious scholars for wide-ranging discussions, many of which resulted in publications. Several additional interfaith organizations arose from New ERA, among them the International Religious Foundation (IRF), Religious Youth Service (RYS), the Council for the World Religions (CWR), and the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace (IRFWP).
The seminary added a three-year Divinity Program in 1980 which reflected its commitment to prepare theologically trained ministerial leaders. In 1986, UTS received a provisional charter from the State of New York, and on January 17, 1990 it was granted its Absolute Charter.
With the retirement of President Kim in May 1994, Dr. Theodore Shimmyo, a graduate of the seminary’s first class, became the school’s second president. During his tenure, the Seminary evolved from an institution serving primarily American students to one of international scope with seminarians enrolling from numerous countries with significant concentrations from Korea and Japan. UTS also obtained its initial accreditation from the Commission of Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools on November 21, 1996 (re-affirmed June 2003).
Dr. Tyler O. Hendricks, a member of the seminary’s second graduating class, became the school’s third president in May 2000. Under his leadership, UTS further advanced its core emphases of interfaith dialogue and professional development for ministry. In September 2000, UTS established an Extension Center in New York City with an interdenominational faculty and staff serving students of diverse denominations. In 2005, UTS launched a Doctor of Ministry degree program. Recently, UTS has initiated a concentration in Interfaith Peace-building for students wishing to gain the knowledge and skills to minister in situations of religious and cultural conflict.