As the spouse of a former seminary president, I was happy to see a feature article on spouses’ care for their communities in the Spring 2020 issue of In Trust, and to see that a male spouse was featured alongside several wives. I was saddened, however, to see no mention of those of us who carry on our own full-time vocations outside our spouse’s seminary.
When my husband Michael first became president of Gettysburg Seminary (now United Lutheran Seminary) in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, I had already been teaching for one year at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, 120 miles away. Tenure-track faculty positions are precious, and so we began a chapter of our lives as a commuter couple, which we continue to do to this day. When Michael began at Gettysburg we were sometimes asked, “But if Pamela is in Philadelphia, who will host receptions?” Our answer was, simply “A caterer!” On weekends we alternated between seminary campuses and supported our daughter’s events as she was growing up.
Together with that now-adult daughter, we have a book in progress with the working title, Together Apart: Surviving and Thriving as Commuter Couples and Families. As someone who cares about my spouse and his seminary, I was often in Gettysburg, and I did indeed attend many receptions, but I did so as a member of the community in my own right, not only as “president’s spouse.” Traditional gender expectations soon gave way as we forged our way of partnership in ministry. Over many years, students both male and female thanked us for being role models as they, too, began to pursue callings as clergy couples, while finding their own equilibrium in which neither partner was habitually sacrificing their own unique gifts for the sake of the other.
Each president’s spouse — like each clergy spouse — must carve out their own role as they feel called. Spouses’ care for communities will be greatly valued whatever form it takes. Either way, whether traditionally, or breaking old molds, we can be assured that if both partners in the marriage are following their sense of call by the Holy One, our seminaries will benefit.
The Rev. Pamela Cooper-White, Ph.D.
Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs
Christiane Brooks Johnson Professor of Psychology and Religion
Union Theological Seminary
Thank you for the article on newly retired women presidents, the first women to lead our particular seminaries. I’m struck by the strength we gained from other women presidents who were “the first” at their theological schools, and impressed by the qualities that allowed some sister presidents to push through gender-biased resistance to their leadership. I am hopeful it may unblock the path for other “firsts” to benefit theological education.
The Rev. Carol E. Lytch, Ph.D.
Lancaster Theological Seminary
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