National Association of College
and University Chaplains

A multifaith professional community supporting spiritual and ethical life in higher education

The Decade of the 1980s

The 1980 NACUC conference was held in conjunction with the 4th Ecumenical Campus Ministry Conference at Colorado Women’s College in Denver whose theme was “A Piece of the Rock and Social Justice: Agendas for the 80’s in Campus Ministry”. The NACUC sessions addressed the theme, “Facing the 80’s: Challenges and Opportunities”. Arnold Wolf, Alice Gallin and Sister Mary Paul were the resource people for our conference. At this conference the Tree of Life symbol was adopted by NACUC with references to Daniel 4:111-12 and Revelations 22:2.

In 1981 we returned to the East Coast and met at Boston University. The conference theme was “Higher Education and Ministry in the 80’s”. Speakers were Harvey Cox, John Silber, Paul Van Buren, Sr. Mary Hennessey, Sharon Parks, and Zalman Schachter, who taught conferees to experience spirituality through dance.

The 4H Center in Washington, D.C. was the site of the 1982 conference. Speakers were James Forbes, Monica Hellwig, Reuven Kimelman, Birch Bayh, Jr. and Robert Blaemire. The conference theme, “Wellsprings of Renewal: Spiritual Depth and Prophetic Boundaries”, inspired the Executive Committee to draft and send a letter to the Director of the 4H Center, objecting to the reported denial of the Center to allow a gay and lesbian organization to meet there for their conference. The letter stated that NACUC would not return unless the 4H Center changed its policy of discrimination against allowing gay and lesbian organizations to meet there.

A need for peace, Shalom, was at the heart of the gathering at the Dominican Retreat House in Philadelphia’s Elkins Park in 1983. "Shalom (Peace and Turbulence)" Within and Without" was considered by Douglas Steere, Arthur Green and again, NACUC's faithful guru, William Coffin. During the Coffin presentation the great irony of meeting in a marble lined facility as issues of peace and justice were the topics of the conference was strongly noted!

Perhaps the experience of contending with snow two of the previous three years led the association to go to Texas and the Briarwood Retreat Center near Ft. Worth for the 1984 meeting, where "The Future of Liberal Education: Faith, Learning and Social Policy" was discussed. Speakers included Rabbi Samuel Karff, Harry Smith, Louise Cowan and Samuel Dubois Cook. The “night on the town” included a visit to Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth for lots of line dancing, led by guest lecturer Harry Smith!

The Association returned to the east in 1985 and 1986, meeting at Convent Station in New Jersey where the rich resources of New York City were drawn upon, in considering the themes of "The Arts as Prophetic Vision" and "Campus Pluralism and Interfaith Integrity." Those leading us included Al Carmines, Mary Francis Judge, Charles Ketcham, Lawrence Langer; also Jane Redmont, William Willimon, Max Tickton, Howard Moody and Peter Meehan. As with many other conferences, trips into the city-to Greenwich Village and the United Nations specifically, enhanced the value of the conference experience. In 1987 NACUC accepted the invitation of Rollins College to come south and enjoy a sunny climate, grilled shark fingers and the hospitality of Arnold Wettstein and John Langfitt. Despite a surprisingly cold reception (weather-wise), the conference warmed up to the topic of "Jewish-Christian Reality in the University: Discerning the Way" with Alice Eckardt, John Pawlikowski and Marc Tannenbaun leading the association's thinking. In 1988 NACUC went west again (to warm up after Florida?), to the Mercy Center near San Francisco and a consideration of the theme, "Truth-Telling in the University." Jacob Neusner, Arthur Zannoni, and Marjorie Suchocki provided the stimulation for considering the nature of truth in the university. Again a trip to the Glide Foundation and conversations with people from that church greatly added to the value of the conference. The decade of the 80's ended with a return to the south-to Simpsonwood Conference Center near Atlanta. For the first time the word "liberation" appeared in the conference titles as the theme, "Breaking Free: Liberation and Ministry in Higher Education" was presented. Marc Ellis, Lou McNeil, Rebecca Chopp, and Jim Laney spoke with those attending.

Throughout the decade of the 80's there was a concerted attempt by NACUC leaders to be inclusive in organization, in the approach to conference planning and in programming. Efforts were made to keep before NACUC, perspectives of the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish faith traditions. A balance was sought in terms of women and men speakers, and Bobbi Patterson was elected President in 1987. There was also a concern in the decade to relate collegially with other campus ministry and religious groups working on campus. Representatives from chaplains' groups from other countries helped the group to continue to think globally, and there were fruitful exchanges between American chaplains and European chaplains. It is fitting that the last NACUC president of the decade of the 80's, James Stuart, went to the University of Canterbury in New Zealand on an exchange during the year of his presidency! Leading NACUC during the 1980's (in addition to Patterson and Stuart) were Bob Young, Yechiael Lander, Donovan Hull, David McDaniels, Jim Davis, Ted Linn, Bob Dewey and Cliff Cain.

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