Story Magazine - Spring/Summer, 2010

Luther Seminary alumni/ae—Called back to the Seminary

by Richard H. Bliese, President, Luther Seminary

A Seminary staff member told me an incredible story last week about her first kiss with her husband. I don't usually hear such stories, of course. "But this one was different," she told me, "because it took place on campus."

"The kiss" happened years ago in the kitchen of Bockman Hall's old cafeteria-dubbed the Diet of Worms-when she and her husband were students. Today, as a leader in our Children, Youth and Family Program, she works in a renovated office only a few feet from the spot of that first kiss. Amazing!

Now, not every alumni/ae story of returning to work at Luther Seminary is so romantic. But these call stories are powerful reminders of how the Spirit continually moves experienced leaders back into service at the Seminary. Their stories are different, but they all have a common theme. These leaders value leadership, and now they want to contribute to the passion, skill and commitment of future leaders.

Rick Foss, '71 and '92, was called as bishop to the Eastern North Dakota Synod after years of pastoral service in Minneapolis; Moorhead, Minn.; Fargo, N.D.; and Seattle. After finishing his service as bishop, Rick was called back to Luther Seminary to provide leadership in our Contextual Education Program, which helps students integrate their studies with real-life experience. This program covers almost 30 percent of our whole curriculum! These mentoring relationships shape young pastors in deep and abiding ways. To have someone of Rick Foss' experience, dedication and talent in this critical position makes all the difference in the world to what the seminary can accomplish.

Rich Omland, '73, also served as an ELCA bishop-in Rich's case, in the Montana Synod. After 28 years of pastoral service and six years as bishop, he answered the call to return to Luther as a philanthropic adviser. In this capacity, Rich brings together his deep understanding of the church and the mission of the school, as well as his vast network of relationships, to build up the school's financial capacity for its mission.

Paul Harrington, '72, serves as pastor part time at Shepherd of the Valley in Apple Valley, Minn. Since it began in an elementary school in 1980, the congregation has grown to include more than 9,000 members. With his wealth of experience in leading such a mission-minded congregation, Paul returns to Luther to share that experience with our students as interim seminary pastor.

God calls each of us into a fascinating life of service. We are grateful for our alumni/ae whom the Spirit calls back to our community. Their leadership is life-giving to us all and a key to educating missional leaders. Oh, yes, in lifting up future leaders, the experience of alumni/ae counts!