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Alumni Stories of Faith and Action

 

To submit a story or quote, please contact Mike Moser, Major Gift Officer at mpmoser@noctrl.edu

Watch our alums as they recall their own stories of faith and action:

Lisa Pettaway

Leah Ostwald

Bishop Malone

Nikki Young

Hear from our alums as they recall their own stories of faith and action:

Fawn D. Hewitt ’63, Psy.D.

I must begin on campus, where I arrived in September 1959 from a small EUB church in Chicago.  I loved Naperville and its quiet natural beauty (which, yes, existed then).  It soon became clear that while many of my peers were from more rural settings, the offerings of the Office of the Chaplain––then Rev. George St. Angelo ’41––brought all of us together.  When I think back today, and realize that Martin Luther King spoke at Chapel and we had a chance to talk to him during his campus visit, I’m amazed at the richness offered us!

I was part of Campus Church Community, which had regular dinner meetings in the Student Union to help plan religious activities; that group was important in providing identity and belonging as well as learning.  I recall being assigned to lead devotions for the group on the evening in 1961 when the U.S. was in confrontation over the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and how George added to our education that night. 

International dimensions became more central for me as I participated in the 1963 North Central College tour of Europe, led by George.  My, what a life-altering experience!  For a grand total of $1,180 (says the itinerary), we experienced seven-plus countries in ten weeks—but those facts don’t convey the depth of the opportunities we shared.  George’s European deployment in World War II, as well as his resulting British and German EUB contacts, resulted in a tour in which we stayed in homes in many places, experiencing Europe person-to-person.  About ten days were designated as free time, and George armed us with our Eurail passes, advice, and the confidence to explore our own interests, an intimidating but exhilarating opportunity in that day and age. 

Indeed, we came home with strong relationships within the group, many of which persist to this day, almost 60 years later.  Because of the “field training” this experience with George created, my husband and I lived in Europe for four years, beginning in 1965.  We also passed on to our children the value of travel and international understanding.  As a result, they’re bi- and tri-lingual, with one of them employed full-time in guiding, coordinating, and writing about European travel.

I will always be grateful to George for his broad definition of chaplaincy, and for opening the world to me and my family

 

Carol Smith ’64

During my time at North Central College (1960-1964) Rev. George St. Angelo ’41 was our chaplain. Thinking about him from a distance of over 50 years, I recall his wonderful smile and warm welcome to all students.  At that time we were required to attend chapel every day.  Seats were assigned and attendance taken.  Freshmen sat in the balcony of the auditorium, receiving only three  excused absences and classes moved up to the main part of the auditorium as they progressed each year.  Chapel was a time for announcements, for community gathering and for some of the most interesting speakers I have heard in my whole life.  The giant among others that stands out was Martin Luther King, Jr.  Rev. George St. Angelo ’41 presided over our chapel sessions.  Although I cannot recall a specific thing that he said, I recall him being a beacon of goodness, kindness and proclaiming the message of social justice at a time our country was dealing with a lot of serious issues.  During those four years the three things that stand out the most to me are the Vietnam War, Civil Rights and the assassination of JFK.  As our years at NCC drew to a close, we were quickly thrown into a very serious world, and I have to say we are still dealing with the ripples from those events today. Remembering the goodness and moral fiber of our chaplain, George St. Angelo, we were fortunate to have him with us during those formative years. Remembering him today makes me smile. His messages of social justice were like throwing a stone into a lake, and seeing the ripples. Those of us that were lucky enough to have him as our chaplain are still living out those ripples in our daily lives. 

 

Rev. Ben Bohnsack ’65

North Central was the only place on my college list, at least in part because I had met Rev. George St. Angelo ’41 as a guest speaker at a gathering of high schoolers for Michigan churches. Arriving as a student I found that he was one of the most accessible people on campus, overseeing the weekly chapel series of speakers and services, as well as worship experiences. He had a profound effect upon the liberalizing of my theology and politics through significant conversations on retreats and what was then CCC, Campus Church Community, when I was part of their leadership group. George (we all addressed him informally) was warm, personable, sincere, and motivating, and he is among those who still "echo" in my memory as foundational in my life.

 

Rev. Larry Goebel ’65

One of the most beautiful gifts is to have your eyes opened. Rev. George St. Angelo ’41 did that for me. He opened my eyes to racial injustice. He opened my eyes to the possibilities of actually doing something about it. His sermons were on a personal level that offered an insight to other seekers’ struggles and their solutions. Seeing possibilities introduced me to hope and a new vision. Thank you, George St. Angelo, for taking a moment and helping me see God's world.

 

Rev. Richard Ploch ’68

(When I enrolled at North Central in the fall of 1964, it was a college of the Evangelical United Brethren Church. In April of my senior year, the EUB denomination merged with the Methodists to become the United Methodist Church.)

We were high school freshmen in 1960 when John F. Kennedy was elected President and everything felt different. The Civil Rights movement was on the evening news with Dr. King’s leadership, and President Kennedy began the Peace Corps. It was time to care about the conditions in which others lived, especially those going through hard times. In November of our senior year in high school, we were shocked by Kennedy’s assassination and then four years later, seniors again, this time in college, that another hero, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. To be active in programs through the college chaplain’s office was part of who we were as North Central students. It was where we found meaning for our college years and are the strongest memories of my life on campus.

A group of us tutored school children in a church basement in inner city Chicago. A classmate and I taught Sunday School at a girl’s cottage of a nearby orphanage. We looked forward to Sunday services in Pfeiffer Hall with Chaplain George St. Angelo ’41 and the weekly campus talks all students were required to attend, many planned by the chaplain. During the spring semester of my sophomore year, two classmates joined me for a semester at historically black colleges in Atlanta where we twice heard Dr. King preach and had an opportunity to meet him. The exchange program between North Central and undergraduate schools of the Atlanta University Center was sponsored through the chaplain’s office.

When St. Angelo left to develop his programs of European tours, Rev. Larry Bouldin stepped in as chaplain after his time as director of admissions. We became very close and continued to be friends after I graduated.

Through the Campus Christian Movement, a group of us traveled to a national convention in Cleveland and to the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) mission, Red Bird, in Beverly, Kentucky. When the January term was introduced as a time for off-campus experiences in our areas of study, three carloads of us drove down old Route 66 to Espaniola, New Mexico, and McCurdy School, a church mission for Native American and Hispanic students. We lived with the students in their dorms and participated in school activities.

Looking back, these were the experiences of faith becoming alive in those formational years and why I chose to attend a private liberal arts college. We also had many conversations with Revs. St. Angelo and Bouldin about matters of faith and how Christianity informed the decisions we make in our daily lives.

College chaplains matter. It’s been 52 years since graduation, and I would choose North Central again and be active in all these wonderful experiences that the chaplain’s office offered to us. It was also through these programs that I met my beautiful wife Carol, two years behind me at school and as active as I was in seeking to make our faith meaningful.

 

Don Schultz ’69

While I value the classroom education I received at NCC, it was the chaplains (George St. Angelo and Larry Bouldin) who helped put what I learned into a larger worldview. The most world-enlarging events were the Convocation speakers they arranged to have speak on campus. During my Junior year alone, I heard Senator Birch Bayh, economist Robert Theobald, psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, lawyer and author William Stringfellow, NAACP Labor Secretary and author Herbert Hill, poet Gwendolyn Brooks, psychiatrist Bruno Bettleheim, CBS commentator David Schoenbrun, political analyst Sidney Lens, and foreign correspondent Georgie Anne Geyer.

In addition to the Convocation speakers, there were the conversations around the tables in the Student Union, the counseling, the retreat experiences, the invitation to hear Dr. Martin Luther King speak in Chicago, and the opportunity to be in Chicago during the days after Dr. King’s assassination. I am grateful to this day that NCC provided for an Office of the Chaplain.

 

Marilyn Rinehart ’70

My sisters and I were at NCC from 1958-1973, but my parents said the most turbulent of those years were 1966-70 when I was there. It must have been hard to watch all that from Wisconsin with only a weekly letter or an infrequent phone call to connect with them. Chaplain Larry Bouldin and the Campus Ministry program were probably the greatest factors in giving meaning to the chaotic events of that time, and assuring my parents that I was probably not going off the deep end!  

In what other setting would I have been able to tutor kids in a Chicago grade school, teach a Sunday School class in a girls reform school, picket a Southside grocery store, and pose as a couple wanting to rent an apartment in a fair housing program with the West Side Organization? Weekend retreats, the Ecumenical Institute, work projects in Kentucky and New Mexico, even a summer-long program on the Northside put me in settings where I looked at the world in new ways. The weekly Convocation series and talk-back sessions brought an opportunity to hear authors and experts whose reputations we probably didn't appreciate at the time. Larry's support for the Campus ministry included attention to our personal growth and our development of leadership skills. His door was always open; he pushed us to face challenges along the way. 

Perhaps the culminating experience was participating in the October 1969 March on Washington. With the many retrospectives of the antiwar movement last year, I was reminded of riding the bus to Arlington, and walking across the bridge to the White House where we called out the name of a soldier who had died in Viet Nam.  We slept on the floor of a church in Columbia, Maryland, and bussed into DC the next day. Two and a half million of us were packed on the National Mall, peacefully, shoulder to shoulder. I don't remember if Larry or Dave Durham helped set that up, but my experience of it would not be the same without the previous three years of growing in my sense of responsibility for taking action.

I hope those thoughts are helpful.  I can see that my experience was more "liberation theology" maybe than where the United Methodist church is now.  Over the years I was disappointed from time to time when the church moved more toward evangelism and personal salvation––or maybe that was just the local church. Whatever the case on that, my own sense of responsibility to social justice is largely due to the experiences of those four years. 

 

Rev. Larry J Peacock ’71

In the late 1960's, the Chaplain's office was one place to find support and encouragement to bring faith questions and social change into dialogue. A Mission trip to Appalachia, organizing a few cars to go to Washington for an anti-war demonstration, joining with others in discerning next steps in a faith-based vocation––all found support from Rev Bouldin and Rev Durham.  I believe I even used their mimeograph machine––remember those?

After 30 years in pastoral ministry and 15 years in retreat and conference work, I was surprised to get an email recently from Rev. Durham inquiring how I was doing.  He had read something I had written in a yearly book of meditations and tracked me down to say thanks. The impact of Chaplain's while in school and now the care and support that finds me nearly 50 years later––amazing, simply amazing.

 

Bill Wylie-Kellerman ’71

Because it was so formative in my own experience of North Central, I’m glad to have the college chaplaincy lifted up. My time at NCC was marked by the ministries of Lawrence Bouldin and David Durham.

I think so readily of Larry’s influence. It was a season of hard rain, of graveyards gone to flowers, when the unspeakable stalks, and the winds of changes shift. I can see him in the basement office, walls booklined and thick with posters and banners. The door opens on a Buddha-faced pastor summoning in with a smile, light in his eyes and time for talk. Young Christians, the eager and the early disabused sit with him in a circle by the Student Union fireplace, turning together the pages of a book to be studied, something on the gospel and race, or war.

In those days the ministry was called the Campus Christian Movement (CMM). I assume that was a self-conscious echo of the Student Christian Movement, no longer in its heyday, though truly a movement, national and global. It evoked church itself more as movement than institution. Something fluid and open, if not yet interfaith. Indeed, this circle represented a gospel way into movements then current: Student, Freedom Struggle, Anti-war. We drafted and published CCM statements against the American war in Vietnam, and followed them with road trips east to the big D.C. Moratorium marches.

Likewise, Larry pointed us toward Chicago’s Ecumenical Institute for a weekend course in urban theology of change-making, and that in turn could lead to street work in community organizing with the likes of Organization for a Better Austin, where young Methodist pastors had found root. One January (in those days we had the month off for interim projects), a friend and I joined a CCM trip to a New Mexico mission school, which included not only tutoring, but self-appointed archeological digs, border crossings, snow skiing, and my first brush with the cops.

Larry’s administrative responsibilities included lining up weekly Convocation speakers for the year. In the auditorium of Pfeiffer Hall, Convocation was required and we balked a bit having to register our attendance on cards with name and SS# (then our student number as well) and some would slip out

quickly after the collection. But the speaker content was strong and could hold us. There was a certain balance to it, with free market conservatives, worth comprehending, given their due. But you could also walk in and find yourself rapt by Pulitzer winner and soon-to-be Illinois poet laureate Gwendolyn Brooks, or a foreign policy analysis of the Indochina war or Latin American revolution. You could hear Elizabeth Kubler-Ross on death and dying, Robert Theobald on cybernetics, or Professor Bill Rife, resident challenger of faith and religion, on scientific revolutions and paradigm shifts. Larry Bouldin was host and post-lecture moderator in the Student Union for questions and conversation.

Most significant for me, because he would eventually become a mentor and friend, was Harlem street-lawyer and theologian William Stringfellow. Prior to his coming, Larry passed out copies of Free in Obedience, wherein Stringfellow first laid out his groundbreaking approach to the biblical “principalities” and the “powers that be.” One of those powers was white supremacy. His talk, given while seated on the stage due to a yet undiagnosed illness, was on the freedom struggle as read through the book of Exodus, with Martin Luther King, Jr., standing in for Moses. I remember the Black students pressing round on stage and at the Union, confiding they’d never heard a white man talk like this.

Such things could be life changing, and for me were. To such birthings, Larry was pastor and midwife. Presente and thanks be.

 

Rev. Annie Gonzalez ’84

The Chaplain and the Chaplaincy Program at North Central College had a life changing impact on me and the way I understood God calling me in to the ministry. I would not be in ministry today if it weren’t for the Chaplains and the Chaplaincy program at North Central College.

A couple of years before starting classes at North Central College I felt God calling me in to ministry. However, upon sharing that with a person of faith, I was told that God couldn’t be calling me into the ministry and that I had misunderstood what God wanted me to do with my life. Believing that to be true, I set out to discover what else I could do. In the process I applied, and was accepted, at North Central College. After much contemplation and discernment, I decided on a career path that didn’t involve ministry and started classes at North Central College.

As a first-year student, I felt like a stranger in a strange land. I didn’t know anyone. I was disconnected from my people, my community, and my church. I was alone with no contacts or support. When I met Chaplain Michael Moser and Chaplain Carol Bingham they welcomed me in and made me feel like I was no longer a stranger. This gave me a much needed sense of belonging and a sense of being connected once again to the body of Christ. Through the Chaplaincy program I also met other students and participated in program events.

The strongest and most profound impact that the Chaplains and Chaplaincy program had on me and my life in my first year of college was that both Chaplain Michael Moser and Chaplain Carol Bingham encouraged me to reconsider God’s call to ministry. The Chaplains inspired me to once again discern God’s call in my life and shared with me their belief that God could call me, even me, into the ministry. It was the turning point in my life and everything changed.

I answered God’s call to ministry, changed my class schedule, and set a path that would take me through North Central College and on to seminary. I continued to participate in the Chaplaincy Programs throughout my time at North Central College. During my last year at North Central College I participated in a singing group that Chaplain Barbara Isaacs started.

I am grateful to North Central College for providing Chaplains and a Chaplaincy program. I am most thankful to have met Chaplain Michael Moser, Chaplain Carol Bingham and Chaplain Barbara Isaacs. They embodied the inclusiveness of God’s kingdom as they welcomed me, encouraged me and supported me as I discerned God’s call to the ministry and answered it.

Without the Chaplains at North Central College, I wouldn’t have reconsidered my understanding of God’s call. Without the Chaplains, I wouldn’t have discerned God’s call. Without the Chaplains, I wouldn’t have answered God’s call and spent the last 40 years in ministry.

 

Rev. Rob Hamilton ’04

My time at North Central College helped me discern my calling to be a United Methodist pastor. Our chaplain, Rev. Dr. Lynn Pries ’67, was instrumental in my discernment process and participating in campus ministry programming helped to confirm that divine call. Together, the experience helped form and shape me for ministry in the local church and in my community. 

 

Rev. Caitlyn Nesbit ’12

The United Methodist Chaplain played a pivotal role in my experience at North Central College. The role Dr. Rev. Lynn Pries ’67 had in my North Central experience is twofold. First, he provided a space for me to explore my identity. My self-identity and my faith have always been interconnected. Going away to college was the first experience that I had that challenged me to explore and question my beliefs. Lynn provided a space where I could do this exploration to better understand myself while still remaining grounded. Second, Lynn helped me begin discerning my call into ministry. As someone who began to feel a call into ministry in high school, fully understanding it was a task I was not equipped to do when I left for college. Lynn helped me gain tools to explore and discern what God’s call looks life in my life. These are tools that I was able to expand on in seminary, and are tools that I continue to use in my ministry today     

Cassidy Campbell ’17

I was a student at North Central when Rev. Eric Doolittle became the Chaplain. He was instantly warm and welcoming! He always instills faith in times of uncertainty and had always been supportive, lifting me up whenever I voiced doubts in myself and in my studies. I was so excited during his first year here when he brought me into the planning of the Gospel Extravaganza. He was determined and excited to keep the Gospel Extravaganza going strong and has since been consistent in the programming of this event year after year. He inevitably helps to bring together multiple groups to celebrate and praise together during this extraordinary event. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Rev. Eric Doolittle as a student and as an alumni at NCC. His role as Chaplain brings a joy that is truly important during these times and will continue to be!

 

Odell Zeigler IV ’16

As an educator/alum, I feel the chaplain position is essential to all college campuses in a day where we are talking about social justice, grit and resilience, gender identity, and many critical social issues, human issues- all of which impact students on the campus. I support securing this position as an ongoing support system for students of all races, religions, sex, and creed. This is one of the college's positions that dedicate its work to centering students and supporting them in any social-emotional way possible and offering various faith resources.  

In its true form, the chaplain counsels students on religion and other spiritual matters while they are on the campus and even creates lifelong support connections when students are no longer on campus. In this role, the chaplain addresses challenging questions about faith, leads prayer sessions, helps guide students to valuable resources, and otherwise provides religious services and support as requested.

I can attest to this position's dire need as it relates to studying and finding a faith-supporting space.  During my time at North Central College (2014-2016), I found support in my faith and educational studies. There were many times I stopped by the chaplain's office, where I received prayer, encouragement, and even resources that guided me in my studies. The chaplain has been instrumental in MANY students' lives, whether on the clock or off the clock. I have been fortunate to remain connected to my alma mater by participating in the Gospel Extravaganza and other campus events because of the chaplain's dedication to keeping a connection with its former students.  

I strongly support the chaplain position at North Central College, which serves so many people. I can direct you to several other former and current students who strongly share a similar stance in keeping a chaplain on the campus. I look forward to the security of the position for many current and former students' continued support.

 

Youssef Mekawy ’17/M ’20

My very first academic year at NCC was in 2013/2014 as an exchange international student from Egypt. I then came back in 2015-2016 as a transfer student. That's when I was introduced to Rev. Eric Doolittle. I graduated in 2017 with my undergrad degree from NCC. Then in 2020 with my MBA from NCC as well. Throughout all these years, as an undergraduate student, a graduate student, and an employee (graduate assistant) at NCC, the support I got from the Chaplain's office was endless. 

As a Muslim student and an undocumented immigrant, the chaplain's office was a source of strength, a connection point, and a great resource. In all honesty, Rev. Doolittle's support for me as a person and the rest of the Muslim population on campus was a major reason that this population exists and continues to grow at NCC so far. In 2015-2016 the number of Muslim students on campus was to be counted on your hands, despite how huge the Muslim community is in Naperville. Most of the local Muslim community college students were concentrated in Benedictine University. 

In 2015, I got all the support I needed from the chaplain's office to start the Muslim Student Association (MSA). This student group served the Muslim student population, connected the local Muslim Community and the Islamic center with NCC. We organized so many events on campus and off-campus for the NCC family. That all happened because I had the chaplain's office as a resource. In fact, the biggest event the MSA students organized was the MSA Community Dinner in 2017. The event was organized and led by the MSA, co-organized by the chaplain's office and the Islamic Center of Naperville, and sponsored by the Naperville Interfaith and Leadership Association. Over 200 people attended this event at Wentz Concert Hall. That number included NCC students, and employees, plus a big portion of the Naperville community at large, too. 

Another example that the chaplain's office helped in great part, is to organize the transportation services for the Friday prayer (for the Muslim students and visiting students from other religious studies classes) every week. The chaplain's office support for me and the MSA throughout my undergraduate and graduate program was always appreciated. From establishing the prayer room and making it available to the NCC family at large to the smallest catch-up chats and conversations here and there, it all contributed to my growth and sense of belonging to the NCC family. It left me and the rest of the Muslim population on campus feel welcomed, supported, included, and cared for. 

From my experience working for multiple higher education institutions, and as an NCC Cardinal at heart, I believe that the chaplain's office is a pillar that supports the vision and the mission statement of NCC. The chaplain's role is a fundamental contributor to the core values of the strategic plan.  I can go on for more pages, and write about so many more services and support I got from the chaplain's office, and I will gladly do it for Rev. Eric Doolittle. I owe him a lot. His support and dedication to his students always exceeded expectations.

 

Warner Hellyer ’21

The role of the Chaplain, Rev. Eric Doolittle, has had a tremendous mark on my time at North Central College. From his personal counsel and prayer over my life, to his sermons and talks he gives at numerous events around campus, his role fills the shoes of a dedicated teacher with profound wisdom over the complicated spiritual Word. His impact is both large and small from his words he speaks to many, or to just one. I believe having a formally educated and practiced role such as the chaplain on North Central College’s campus helps support the Colleges effort to support students from any faith background, and to act as a catalyst to their spiritual development. Which, I also believe, is part of a liberal arts education. The college chaplain, and Eric Doolittle specifically, is a blessing and gift to the campus at large and I am grateful the College has continued to invest in maintaining this role on campus. 

 

Mikal Mays ’22

Time after time Rev. Eric (Doolittle) continues to push the mission and vision of the College for the betterment of the community and students. He has navigated the Office of Faith and Action and the College through many hard topics, such as racial inequality and injustice. Most importantly, Rev. Eric supports the students that he encounters. For example, I had the vision to restart the gospel choir, Voices of Praise. There was never a doubt in his mind. Now, many lives have been brought to Christ, and are impacted by the glory of God through praise and worship.