Singing the McCormick song in a foreign land

By Carol Wehrheim (M.A., 1964)

When you live in New Jersey, within walking distance of another Presbyterian seminary, and know that one important way alums help McCormick is to encourage prospective students to check it out, figuring out how to show support for our alma mater is a bit tricky. Just for the record, I carry my McCormick tote bag when I go to the library at this other seminary, a bag with very large letters so you can’t miss it.

Yes, financial gifts are always appreciated, and much needed, but I have always wanted to do more than write a check to an institution that so significantly shaped my ministry and life. The more I reflect on those long-ago seminary days the more I realize what formative years they were. Just being in Chicago would have been enough for this southern Illinois, small-town girl, but to be awakened to the role of Christian witness in the politics of the city and in all of life continues to shape my theology and life decisions.

Looking for other ways to serve McCormick, I didn’t hesitate for a nanosecond when Grayson Van Camp invited me to serve as the Alumni/nae Association representative on the Board of Trustees. Having just completed two terms, I can assure you that the seminary is in good hands, whether you are talking about the faculty and administration or the board members. The times are not easy for smaller educational institutions and the Board has had to make difficult decisions. But their care and attention to the future of McCormick comes from their love of the institution and all that it embodies. Just when I thought my trips to Chicago were ending, I was tapped to be the president of the Alumni/nae Association because the in-coming president was leaving for a ministry outside the country. This also means that I will represent the association on the Board of Trustees for one more year.

As I was pondering what I thought would be the end of regular visits to McCormick, I decided that I wanted to do something more than send an annual check.

While there for the board meeting last spring, I spoke to Craig Howard, Senior Development Officer, and offered to come to Chicago for a week and volunteer in the Seminary Relations and Development office. I said I would do whatever needed to be done, from filing to anything they could think of. (And held my breath that I would not be asked to make phone calls, something I really hate to do.) Craig took me up on my offer.

In June I spent a week at McCormick. My tasks ranged from devising the plans for alum regional parties to roll out the new website to searching for lost alums via the Internet. I worked with competent staff in the Seminary Relations and Development office and even gained some new computer skills. It was a blast (and I got to visit family besides).

When I return to the campus (so different from the one I knew as a student), I find that same energy for urban ministries, but now it is infused with a multicultural awareness and presence in the student body and faculty that was unknown in my student days. McCormick is very much alive and I hope that you will join me in celebrating its ministry today and supporting it in every way that you can.