National Association of College
and University Chaplains

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

The Decade of the 1990s

The decade was ushered in with a conference on the theme, "Humor and Healing in a Reconciling Community." Mel Gottlieb, David Ray Griffin, and Leontine Kelly were engaging leaders. Members returned to Mercy Center near San Francisco and again enjoyed the resources of the city by the Bay. Jewelnel Davis, then Chaplain of Carleton College, served as President. The 1991 conference was held at a retreat center near Baltimore and dealt with the theme, "From Hostility to Hospitality: Seeking the Common Good." Edwin Friedman, Jennifer Casolo, and Jim Wallis were leaders. Again, a day spent in Washington D.C. at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Howard University, and other centers of education and reconciliation helped bring the conference theme to life. The 1992 conference was in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Scarritt-Bennett Center and dealt with "Faces of Diversity." Walter Harrelson, Randall Falk, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Will Campbell and Renita Weems provided leadership. Those attending found themselves wrestling with prejudice within.

In 1993 NACUC convened at a new place (Albuquerque) and engaged in an immersion in Native American spirituality. Archie and Ramona Mason from Tulsa, Oklahoma, provided leadership. Field trips to a Native American historic village and to Native American centers in Albuquerque made for an enriching and enlightening experience. The Madonna Retreat and Conference Center was the conference base (as it will be again in 1999!) "A Time for Understanding: Gay and Lesbian Concerns in Ministry" was the theme of the 1994 Conference at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. Gary Comstock, Rabbi Linda Holzman and Mark Bowman provided stimulating and controversial (for some) leadership. Those attending found the richness of the Jewish context for the meeting place, rewarding and many found new empathy for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Again, this conference demonstrated the keen relevance of NACUC's program life. In 1995 the association returned for a third time to Mercy Center in California.

Authenticity was a focal concern with Daniel O'Connor, Diana Akiyama and Deborah Streeter providing leadership. Long-time member and officer, Chaplain Larry Green of Berry College was elected a lifetime member. This was to be his last conference as his untimely death came in 1996. Hope and "marginality" were themes of the 1996 gathering in San Antonio, Texas. Meeting at the Mexican American Cultural Center, the conference was led by Rabbi Stahl, Sister Pearl Caesar and Jay Hillmer and Marilyn Hansfield who presented a dramatic portrayal of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman. A local Catholic church group led us in a lively "Mariachi Mass."

1997 saw the conference return to the Simpsonwood Conference and Retreat Center near Atlanta. The multi-faith community in which chaplains work was considered under the theme, "A Worthy Risk: Nurturing the Multi-faith Community." C. T. Vivian and Peter Laurence served as leaders. A student presentation by the Wellesley Multi-faith Council was stimulating. Special tribute needs to be paid to those chaplains who have worked to keep the multi-faith nature of the association alive and well: In particular, Yechiael Lander and Joshua Gutoff for the Jewish presence; and Alice Danaher, Daniel Nusbaum, Liz Carr and Sharon Kugler for the Roman Catholic presence. Without their devoted involvement the association well might have devolved into being simply a Protestant Christian Chaplains association. The historian would also like to recognize two colleagues who have faithfully served the association and who have traveled the longest distances to be involved: Jim Davis of the University of Puget Sound, and Charlie Wallace of Willamette. On behalf of the association thank you for your commitment.

A Look Ahead: (original text written in 1998)

  • NACUC is well prepared to provide a valuable association for chaplains in the next half century. Just as Clarence Shedd's dream required fiscal support from a Foundation, so will such support be necessary for the survival of a national organization that is currently financed by members' dues and conference registration fees.
  • While a number of chaplains recognize the great value of the national association, there are many chaplains who do not know what they are missing! A solid membership drive is needed. Moreover, it is important that the association not forget its elder members. Many veterans of the association have not been receiving mailings or any information from the association. Some of these are "Lifetime" or "Honorary" members for whom dues have been waived. They could become ambassadors and perhaps donors to the association if they were so approached.
  • NACUC has been at its best when its support has been forthcoming for chaplains who are struggling or under siege in their local settings. Issues of salary, status and freedom of vocational expression need the support of a solid professional organization.
  • The multi-faith nature of the association needs to be guarded and nurtured. The presence of an Islamic speaker at the Yale Conference this year may be a signal for expansion of our multi-faith constituency.
  • Ways need to be found to worship together with integrity at our gatherings. What language and forms of worship will both respect our distinctive traditions as well as bring us together in meaningful observances and practices?

1st Update on NACUC History (2005)

A major highlight in the history of NACUC was the 50th Anniversary of NACUC. This anniversary conference was held at the site of the first NACUC gathering, Yale University, from June 27-July 2, 1998. The theme of the conference, “Holy Wilderness: Professional Religious Work on Campus”, was offered collaboratively with the National Campus Ministry Association. Plenary speakers included President Diana Chapman Walsh of Wellesley College and Nancy Ammerman. Numerous workshops were offered by colleagues in chaplaincy and campus ministry dealing with a wide variety of topics germane to ministry in higher education.

Following the 50th anniversary of NACUC, we returned to annual meetings on our own, in various sites around the country. 1999 found NACUC back in Albuquerque, looking at the theme, "The Beggar at the Gate: Wounds and Blessings in the Presence of God." Edwina Gately (a Roman Catholic lay woman) was our keynote speaker, and Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb facilitated our "Wrestling with the Text."

NACUC voted to become a sponsoring association for the 1st Global Conference for College Chaplains, to be held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in 2000. This action was taken in response to an invitation from an international planning committee, organized by Johan Kijne of Denmark, the coordinator of the European Chaplains Conferences.

The 1990’s saw a significant addition to the association conferences. As members expressed the desire to hear colleagues present papers to share their practical experiences in chaplaincy, Chaplain Narratives were added and became a normative component of the professional conferences. Typically two colleagues were invited to make presentations, followed by discussion of the issues faced in their chaplaincies. This trend revisited the practice, to some degree, in the 1970’s of chaplains presenting position papers at the conferences.

In addition to Jewelnel Davis, presidents of the association in the 1990's were Gary Miller, Ron Flowers, Stuart Lord, Cynthia Jay Pendleton, John Colatch, Jan Fuller-Carruthers, Marty Cash-Burless, Sharon Kugler and Cynthia Terry.

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