ESR Remembers Keith Esch


We are deeply saddened to share that Keith Esch passed away on December 27, 2017. Keith was an intergral and beloved part of the ESR community. He was a 1966 graduate, and  retired in 1993 after 24 years of service to ESR. Keith was an active member of West Richmond Friends Meeting and Indiana Yearly Meeting and served on the Earlham College Board of Trustees.

A memorial service for Keith will be held on Saturday February 3rd at 1:00 pm at West Richmond Friends Meeting. A reception will follow in the ESR Center at 2:30 PM. Child care will be provided during the memorial service. His obituary can be viewed here:

Memories from f/Friends:

I have never met anyone who didn't like Keith Esch. Armed with an easy manner and a quick smile, he excelled at building bridges and relationships. Keith had multiple connections with ESR over the years. He began as a student. Later he was an administrative faculty member, recruiting students and cultivating donors. After retirement, he served on ESR's Advisory Board and Earlham's Board of Trustees. In each of those roles he was an incredible advocate for the school. I loved spending time with him, in part because he was such an encourager, but mostly because I considered him to be a friend.

Jay Marshall


It was with sadness that I heard of the passing of Keith Esch. He was a very good friend, and one of the reasons that I initially attended ESR.

I also want to remember him for his support of The Common Meal Quartet when we sang together during the years of 1979 and 81. Keith and I were also able to minister together at a number of meetings. Keith was a very able preacher, and I would share musically.

With thoughts and prayers!

Gary Wagner 


When the graduating class of 1991 chose it's speaker we agreed to have both Keith and Stephanie.  I had the privilege of asking Keith if he would accept. Keith was astonished and tearful at our request. Keith's astonishment at the honor was so Keith, he was humble, unassuming and yet a friend and mentor so many of us treasured!

I ran into Keith last month after the College Convocation with William Barber. I will forever cherish that last brief visit and hug. Keith will be missed.

Julie-Ann Silberman-Bunn


Keith had this wry smile and soft chuckle when contemplating the oddities and disappointments of life:

"Well, that's life, isn't it?"  As an ESR student from southern California, Keith invited me to join him in a visit to Whittier Friends. He said we could also visit my home, and Keith much enjoyed meeting my Mom. After that trip he often would check in on how Mom was doing. He was great at recalling how people delighted him. Keith remarked that he was surprised and so honored to be asked to work at ESR after he graduated from ESR, but his work for us was a great match for his gifts. He was just the person for development and student recruitment, and ESR benefited greatly from his work and his presence among us.

I miss him.

Lonnie Valentine 


I first came to know Keith as an invaluable mentor during my time as Ministerial Advocate for Indiana Yearly Meeting. Keith was generous with his time, meeting with me regularly to provide counsel and traveling with me to Indianapolis for day-long trainings and conferences. It was a joy to tell him when I became Director of Recruitment and Admissions at ESR, a role I knew he had held previously. He continued to share his wisdom from his own experience, as well as his time to participate in Open Houses and other events. Throughout all of our conversations, Keith combined deep care with a lively and much appreciated sense of humor. He will be greatly missed.

Matt Hisrich        

Keith Esch was an exceptionally fine person and a valuable trustee and devoted friend of the College and ESR.  In Board meetings, few could rival the quality of Keith’s presentations, usually on behalf of the ESR Committee.  Laced with humor and home-spun wisdom, a la Will Rogers, his reports and comments were a portion of the meetings we all looked forward to.  On the side, some personal and polite jesting with John Young (who gave as good as he got) and others added a lighter touch and brought smiles all around, without ever compromising his sincerity and dedication to serving Earlham.  He will be missed by many, I’m sure.

Tom Gottschalk


I don't have a specific memory to share, but I don't think I've ever known ESR without Keith Esch.  Most often, over many years, I would see him at Board and committee meetings, in whatever capacity ESR needed him.

His deep commitment to ESR was clear, as well as his friendliness and sense of humor, as a person with good people skills.  He was someone I was always glad to see, and I am saddened by his passing.

Gwen Weaver


Keith Esch was the embodiment of encouragement and grace. He and Virginia helped make all of our seminary years more joyful. And beyond seminary- he was so kind to visit me as a small town brand new pastor -and  listen kindly and advise wisely. Grateful for his life and his amazing sense of fun and hope and joy.

Deborah Suess