ESR Hosts 50th Anniversary Kick-Off Celebration

The Earlham School of Religion hosted their 50th Anniversary kick-off celebration on Friday, September 25th on their Richmond campus. Alumni/ae, former and current faculty and staff, and f/Friends of the school attended the day-long event.

The celebration began with morning worship in Quigg Worship Room. Introductory words were given by Earlham President Doug Bennett. Nathan Macy, son of ESR Board of Advisor and 1970 ESR grad Howard Macy, played the guitar and led the group in song. Students Sarah Swift-Simons and Silas Wanjala contributed readings, and Dean Jay Marshall provided the message.

Lunch for a large group followed in the ESR Center, with a short program presented by Rob Pierson, ESR Access student and winner of the 50th anniversary essay contest. After lunch, guests and the wider community were asked to "reconnect" with ESR by touring several classrooms dedicated to displays of ESR’s archives, alumni photos and information, online programs and resources, and the future of the school.

Showcase of archive photos Guests  watch a video from ESR's archives Friends reconnect in the hospitality room

The highlight of the celebration was a catered dinner that welcomed 150 to ESR’s gathering area and dining room. Following the dinner, a program was presented that included contributions from ESR Dean Jay Marshall, Earlham President Doug Bennett, President of Bethany Seminary, Ruthann Knechel Johansen, and former ESR Faculty member and Alumnus, Keith Esch.

"With this occasion, we celebrate the fact that an experiment launched by the Earlham College Trustees fifty years continues to flourish five decades later," stated ESR Dean Jay Marshall. "The day's events gave ample opportunity to thank those who have contributed to the school's success, and for renewing old acquaintances. Energy and enthusiasm filled the building all day as friends came and went, providing a strong reaffirmation of the value of this ministry of education."

ESR Dean Jay Marshall speaks to dinner guests

Keith Esch addresses the crowd

Jay Marshall addresses the dinner guests

Essay contest winners Rob Pierson (1st) and Kim Pratt (2nd)

Keith Esch shares his memories of ESR with the crowd

Following the dinner, a commemorative video was presented that showcased interviews from many ESR alumni/ae and former faculty and staff, including the late Wilmer Cooper and Tom Mullen, who both served as Deans of the school.

Awards were presented for the first and second place winners of ESR’s anniversary essay contest, which asked participants to answer the question, “What message or gifts do Quakers offer today in answer to the world’s greatest needs?” First place was awarded to current ESR Access student Rob Pierson for his essay titled, "Science, Faith and Building the Kingdom", and second place was awarded to ESR Alumna Kim Pratt for her essay "The Delightful Inheritance of Friends". The winning essays have been printed in commemorative pamphlet.

Also recognized was ESR 2007 alumna Eileen Kinch, who recently finished writing The ESR Story: 50th Anniversary Volume. This book is a follow-up to Wilmer Cooper's original ESR Story. Eileen's book highlights the most recent 25 years of life at ESR, and along with the commemorative essay pamphlet, is available for purchase in the ESR online store at: The evening concluded with a special concert in Goddard Auditorium, which featured performances by the Common Meal Quartet and several other ESR alumni/ae and Friends including Sabrina Falls on harp and a repeat performance by Nathan Macy on acoustic guitar.

ESR will be continuing their 50th anniversary celebration during the coming year, hosting events and educational opportunities throughout the country.