Alumni lives and outcomes

Our alumni lead lives of purpose. Whether they’re working as ministers or teachers, entrepreneurs or social workers, they are finding creative ways to serve in today’s world.

Retired Chaplain

After graduating from Kalamazoo College in 1968, I served as a VISTA Volunteer assigned to the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho. In correspondence with one of my college roommates, we began to discuss religion –he was a student at Colgate Rochester Divinity School– and seeds were planted.

While in Idaho, I decided to file for status as a Conscientious Objector to military service. After Mary and I were married, I moved back to Kalamazoo, MI, to do alternative service at Borgess Hospital. A cousin of mine was a member of the Kalamazoo Friends Meeting and encouraged me to explore living in the rental apartment at the Meetinghouse. As it turned out, the rental was not available, but the Resident Caretakers were leaving. Mary and I became Resident Friends, started attending Meetings for Worship and became Convinced Friends. Through the Quaker network, I learned about ESR. The seeds planted by those conversations with my college friend, Charlie Hartman, took root, and I became a student at ESR in 1973.

David Garman photo

Practicing marriage and family therapist

Throughout my time in seminary, people often asked: “What do you plan to do with your M.Div.?” The only honest answer I could provide to the question was: “I don’t know.” When I started ESR, I had no plan, no agenda, and no real goal for applying for my M.Div. to any sort of money-making endeavor.

In May of 2022, I earned an M. Div. from ESR. I had to field the dreaded question many times during graduation month. Luckily, I had gained clarity about the purpose of the MDiv. Here’s how I answer the question now: “It may appear that I will be doing nothing with it. However, my career as a therapist is built upon its foundation.

Jill Frame photo

Champion chaplain

“I jumped into the deep end,” says Lisa Lundeen, looking back at her introduction to becoming a chaplain at Moses Cone Health System. “During my time at ESR I never saw myself as a chaplain. In fact, I pursued CPE after seminary to deepen my pastoral formation.”

Her two CPE residencies deepened her pastoral authority in ways she did not anticipate. “Conflict resolution, family systems, group and individual spiritual direction – those ESR courses became the backbone of my ministry of spiritual accompaniment in times of high distress.”

The retirement of the Cone Health Women’s Hospital chaplain caused Lisa to consider professional chaplaincy. “I believed that as a minister, a woman, a mom, and someone who had healed through significant grief, I could participate in helping patients and families heal.”

She joined Women’s Hospital and over time, “chaplaincy became normal. The things that seemed so scary before I began became everyday occurrences to me.”

Today, Lisa is Lead Chaplain at Cone Health Cancer Center, where she serves patients and caregivers in an outpatient setting. “I’m challenged to build trust and relationships with people who face tremendous challenges, but who aren’t in a typical hospital environment.” Lisa brings creative solutions to her ministry, and has a keen interest in healing arts, both for support groups and patient classes.

Lisa recently became a Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) through the Association of Professional Chaplains and was system-wide division Employee of the Year at Cone Health in 2015.

“During my time at ESR I never saw myself as a chaplain. In fact, I pursued CPE after seminary to deepen my pastoral formation.”

Way will open

Deborah Suess takes time out of her busy schedule to look back at her time at ESR. Recently retired as pastor of First Friends Meeting in Greensboro, NC, she’s enjoying travel and time with her husband Tim while she considers her future in ministry.

“When I entered ESR I had been a Friend for four years, and had a strong ecumenical background,” says Deborah. “Immersion in Quaker community and practice was important to me.”

Deborah’s first formal pastoral work was as an assistant campus minister at Earlham College. “I spent two years in that role, and that time helped me claim the words ‘minister of the gospel.’ It was a powerful experience, and I assumed that when I graduated I would find a job as a college chaplain.”

Instead, way opened for Deborah to join West Branch Friends Meeting in Iowa, as their pastor. “I felt empowered to join West Branch. Several faculty members had identified gifts that fit that role, and encouraged me. It wasn’t what I expected, but it was the beginning of three great experiences serving three wonderful Quaker meetings.”

Along the way, she maintained several strong connections with peers from her time at ESR, through a Quaker Pastors Covenant Group that she founded with fellow alums Scott Wagoner and Judith Dancy, and through close friendships that developed during her time in Richmond.

While she is busy enjoying semi-retirement, she has an eye on the future. “I’m excited to see where my theological education and experiences take me next.”

“I’m excited to see where my theological education and experiences take me next.”

The Night Ministry

Jessica is a Quaker minister who is endorsed by her home Meeting (Lake Forest Friends Meeting) to provide a ministry of presence to folks of a variety of life circumstances. A large part of her ministry involves demonstrating that Quakers still exist, are relevant to today’s concerns, and can look like her.

At ESR Jessica learned that God can be present and active in the most complicated and difficult circumstances. As a result, she has been able to highlight the presence of God in some of the most heartbreaking and challenging of situations (e.g. the deaths of children, spirituality and sexual minorities, and the growing tension between police and youth of color).

During her final year of seminary, Jessica was certified as an HIV pre- and post-testing counselor and health educator. Upon graduating ESR, she embarked upon a yearlong internship as a chaplain at the University of California San Francisco’s three main clinical sites. She currently works as a Youth Outreach Professional at The Night Ministry in Chicago, Illinois. Taking seriously George Fox’s encouragement to answer “that of God in everyone,” Jessica has ministered to and been blessed by everyone from pediatric cancer patients in San Francisco to homeless LGBTQ youth on the streets of Chicago.

Renaissance House

An ESR M.Div. graduate, John launched Renaissance House in 2003 as an ESR student. This is “an intentional Christian community…located in an impoverished area of Richmond, Indiana [serving the poor and those who have] physical or mental disabilities.” As former resident and ESR graduate Micah Bales puts it, “We had an open door policy, inviting folks from the neighborhood to stop by and visit with us. Three nights a week, we hosted community meals, inviting folks from the neighborhood, and our friends from around town, to come and have dinner together. These dinners were an amazing demonstration of what Christ’s table looks like.”

The Laundry Project

Abbey has always had a heart for social justice. Recently, the most noticeable way she lived this out was with her work on Richmond Indiana’s Laundry Day Project. Three to four times a month she went to the local laundry mat with others from the community to provide soap, dryer sheets, and most importantly quarters to local residents so they could clean their laundry for free. It’s a need that is often overlooked in the community but an important one for dignity. The Laundry Project has recently passed its 3,000th load and continues to grow.

Love and inclusivity

“After ESR, God became bigger and more inclusive to me.”

After growing up in a conservative denomination, Vivian Wyatt was certain of one thing: Church should be inclusive. That quest for an open faith community eventually led her to ESR. “I had never met a Quaker until I went to ESR,” says Vivian. “But the qualities I found there gave me the courage to open up my thinking about faith.”

“My goal was to be a hospice chaplain. But a clearness committee of people I trusted steered me toward preaching, and supervised ministry in an MCC church. I loved the experience, and they loved me, and after graduating I stayed.”

“I’ve always been ‘an only.’ Today, I’m the only black women, the only straight person, on the pastoral staff. At ESR I wrestled with my beliefs, and now I’m in a comfortable place.

“After ESR, God became bigger and more inclusive to me.”

Pursuing seminary together: ESR couples

In recent years, the ESR community has been blessed with the addition of several couples who have decided to pursue seminary studies together. Below, learn a little bit more about these couples and what it’s like to pursue seminary alongside a partner.

Revitalized and directed

When Eva Abbott started working in pastoral care in 2012, she quickly realized she needed more knowledge and training to do it effectively. “After taking two courses on-line through ESR, I applied for and was awarded a one year scholarship to continue my studies. Van was nearing the end of a four-year effort to create an affordable housing organization in New Orleans and needed a sabbatical for rest and discernment,” she says. “Moving to Richmond and joining the ESR community have revitalized, deepened and directed our passion for justice. I’ve found academic study both exhilarating and exhausting, and Van has been thrilled to audit several ESR writing classes. We are both very grateful for the welcome and guidance from professors, administration and staff.

“Professionally, Van has restarted his land trust consultant business, and I will be exploring ministry direction in my upcoming 9-month internship. I’m in conversation about a chaplaincy internship at the Veteran’s Hospital in Cincinnati and an advocacy position with a local nonprofit committed to community well-being and justice. Both of us have also gotten active in the local Indivisible resistance group and are watching, with wonder, something new emerging in us and in the community.”

Midlife illumination

With the help of Cooper Scholarships, Elizabeth and John came to ESR from New York City, where John had raised two children to adulthood and retired after 44 years as a packaging and display designer, and Elizabeth was working as senior research associate for a consulting firm serving non-profits. Each of them a mid-life convert to Quakerism, they had met at New York’s Fifteenth Street Meeting and married under its care. Now members of Richmond’s Clear Creek Meeting, both had been active contributors to the life of New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM), as well as to their monthly meeting and to the annual meetings of Christ-centered Friends in the Northeast. Elizabeth holds master’s degrees in music and library science. John, a sometime street evangelist whose tract Jesus Christ Forbids War was taken under the care of NYYM in 2006, carries concerns to promote ministries of prayer, hands-on healing, and mutual confession and absolution of sins among Friends. John serves ESR’s student body as recording clerk of the Student Meeting for Business and as editor and publisher of the weekly newsletter The ESR Luminary.

Enriched ministry

Dan and Jaimie had a calling to ministries of individual and community renewal. They had cast longing glances towards attending ESR for an M.Div. Together they began to deliver retreats on prayer, Meeting and Church renewal as well as Friends Couple Enrichment. While delivering a workshop at the 2016 Intermountain Yearly Meeting they took time to visit with ESR alum Tracy Davis and ESR Student Travis Etling. These ESR shining stars urged Jaimie and Dan to call Matt Hisrich and discuss admission possibilities. They called Matt and proceeded to enter discernment with their anchor committee. Within weeks they were admitted, enrolled, moved to Richmond as Cooper Scholars and began studies. Whew! They love sharing their lives as a couple with ESR and with Richmond. Dan’s passion is creating a safe space for people to explore their spiritual life and relationship to the divine. His ministry is focused on prayer, spiritual direction, and the Experiment with Light meditation. Jaimie brings her passion for the light within people and organizations into her work with faith communities across the denominational spectrum. She enables the realization of faith in action in community and entrepreneurial ministry. Together they deliver Friends Couple Enrichment Retreats.