Majors: history and environmental studies ‘81
Northland Highlights: NCSA president, Board of Trustees student representative, Chequamegon Orchestra, working with President Malcolm McLean
Advanced Degrees: masters of non-profit management, North Park University, Chicago, Illinois; master of divinity, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, New Brighton, Minnesota
Current Location: Oak Park, Illinois
Current Occupation: nonprofit management coach and consultant; development director at Oak Park Regional Housing
How Northland College shaped the man I was to become.
I came to Northland College in the fall of 1977 convinced that I was going to teach biology when I graduated. However, it didn’t take much more than freshman orientation before my options even for what I was going to study and how I would be involved on campus began to expand beyond that assumption.
Since I was granted a small music scholarship in my financial aid package, I went to the music department table to see what I could do to meet that scholarship requirement. I thought I could just sign-up for choir, and that would be it. But when I arrived at the music registration table, Dr. Joel Glickman said, “Oh, you are the bassoonist!”
Yes, I played the instrument in high school, but I figured I had to put it away forever when I finished high school. Fortunately, Dr. Glickman easily convinced me to sign up to play in the Chequamegon Symphony Orchestra—my first ever orchestral experience. I loved every minute of it! In fact, thanks to my Northland experience, this year, I have actually started playing bassoon again, taking private lessons and finding opportunities to play in public.
Even my freshman Intro to Biology class was a horizon-expanding experience for me. Being Northland, the class focused on the big environmental problems of the world, and as I took in all of this new information, it became clear to me that the solution to the environmental crisis was not just a technical, or scientific one. The solution also had a lot to do with the way we understood God, and how we humans related to each other.
By the end of my freshman year, I was double majoring in history and environmental studies, taking classes in ethics, sociology and anthropology, literature, and psychology. Kent and Pat Shifferd were huge influences upon my academic career at Northland as I explored the relationship between humans and the land across history, cultures and many other dimensions.
After Northland, what seemed like a natural progression for me was to enter seminary which I did in the fall of 1981 at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Despite the fact that the only religion class I took at Northland was Native American Religions, I nevertheless felt uniquely and adequately qualified to enter that field of study out of college. In fact, with environmental and global theology beginning to emerge on the scene, I actually felt a bit ahead of the curve in seminary thanks to my Northland education.
Another huge Northland influence on who I am today was my working relationship with President Malcolm McLean. I served one year as NCSA president, and one year as student representative to the Board of Trustees. In both of those roles, I met and talked regularly with President McLean about important campus-wide issues, and I believe that he saw me as a trusted colleague and confidante. It was this experience that has provided me with my life-long interest in organizational governance, growth and development that I continued to pursue in my work first with congregations, and now with non-profit organizations and their governing boards.
Now, as I get older, the new horizon that is expanding for me comes within my personal mission statement of wanting to support the next generation of non-profit organizations and their leaders. This quest has me engaging with young leaders from places like Northland College about the value and potential of a career in nonprofit leadership. Believe me, this has been a very inspiring experience.
Practically every Northland student I have met recently has really impressed me with both their competence and their attitude toward the future. A couple springs ago, a group of sociology and sustainable community development students attended the Midwest Sociology Conference held in Chicago where I live. One of them was receiving a special award for her research there.
I invited myself to the conference to hear their presentations and organized an alumni event around this conference. The quality of those students and their work was very impressive and I was honored to be able to hear about their interests and talk with them about mine.
The world needs more students with a Northland-type education. I am honored to do whatever I can to share my knowledge and experience with them to help them succeed in whatever they want to do with their lives. I just hope that, for many of them, it will be in the world of mission-driven organizations working for social justice.