Greetings friends. Well, we’re drawing to a close for the year. We’ll be taking a break this summer, but checking in every now and then. We might have a few surprises in store for you! Either way, we’ll start gearing up in August for our Fall 2012 semester. But before we start packing up the winter mittens and cuddleduds, I wanted to make sure that you all met Ryan Wallace. Nope, it’s not William Wallace like the movie, but I’m sure that he’s heard that one before.
A while back, you met Layla, Ryan’s faithful companion and his sitting model for his home-made ties (see below). So, now you’ll meet Ryan. As you will read, Ryan is very serious. He doesn’t take a joke well and he doesn’t wear his home-made clothes without a good starching them first (that is after the pre-starching). For you incoming students, you’ll meet him next year and for those of you that know him already, well, you know.
Well, Ryan, tell us a little about yourself.
I was born on the twenty-third of February in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-seven in Evanston, Illinois….though not without complication. You see, I was born with a dislocated hip. But not to worry, it has since been located! Then, nothing important happened for about 18 years…except for that time I got my head stuck between two cinder blocks underneath our back deck for like 3 hours. Then I was all growed up and I went off to college at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. It was there that I was apparently infected with a slight southern twang. During college, I also spent a semester studying at la Universitat de les Illes Balears in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. I lived in a homestay with a crazy 61 year old Spanish woman named Rosa with a passion for staying out all night partying at the discotecas. I had planned to head straight to seminary after my undergrad, but instead I took a youth ministry job at First Pres. Nashville. It’s a good thing I did because I met my future wife (Amanda) not long after! We met in the most romantic of places…a dive Irish bar named McFaddens. When I decided to start myat McCormick, I asked Amanda to come with and she did! She works as a recruiter at a staffing agency downtown and pays for me to eat.
So Ryan, you bought a sewing machine that you keep in a large camping backpack (which is possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever seen). Tell us about your sewing endeavors…
Do you know how to sew?!? Cause I do! Well, let’s qualify that remark. I know how to sew one thing….neckties. As many of you know, I’ll be getting married in August. And I thought to myself, “What could be a better gift to my groomsmen and ushers than ties to wear on the big day?” Tie-making is going great (thanks to Lib and Abby for teaching me!), but it turns out that 15 ties is a lot to make. After I finish those ties, I plan to move onto bigger projects. So if I show up to class one day with a hideous and poorly-made shirt or pair of pants, just smile and say, “That looks really great, Ryan! Did you make that all by yourself?”
What brought you to McCormick?
Mostly its reputation as the #1 party seminary in the continental United States.
What is something that surprised you about McCormick?
The professors seem just as ready to learn as they are to teach. I love that! Not that I really have anything to teach them, but they listen to me anyway! I like that McCormick is not just a place where you come to memorize bible verses, regurgitate church doctrine, and learn that orthodox theology is the only theology. Instead, you’re encouraged to critically engage everything and, more importantly, figure out how it all fits into living the gospel.
What is one thing that has been most challenging to/for you?
Owning who I am. McCormick is a community full of cool people that I wish I could be more like. But the truth is that I’m not any of those people. I’m me. And sometimes it’s hard for me to be okay with being me. That is, white, American, male, straight, and from a wealthy family….sounds more like I should join the Young Republicans and play croquet in a white cardigan. But the great thing about McCormick is that everyone (yes, even people like me) are welcomed and accepted. And slowly but surely I am learning to accept who I am while at the same time being aware of the amazing diversity of social locations all around me.
What are some of the things you are or want to be involved in on campus? In the Chicago community?
I’ve been involved with the eco-justice group at McCormick this year as well as some other eco-justice-related projects around Chicago. I am also planning to be involved with the peacemaking group next year. I will be doing an internship at Wicker Park Grace this summer, which I’m pumped about. And next year I’ll be doing my field education at Protestants for the Common Good. As such, I’d really like to get the McCormick community involved in political advocacy and public policy reform over the next couple years.
What’s one thing that you hope for McCormick in the future?
McCormick is multicultural, which is terrific. But I hope that McCormick becomes more cross-cultural. What I mean is that I hope McCormick finds a way to be more intentional about teaching its students how understand their own social location, listen to the social locations of others, and learn to be respectful and effective communicators with one another. Oh, and I’d also love to see more opportunities for interfaith dialogue in which McCormick students hang out with students studying and practicing other faith traditions.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to folks looking at coming to McCormick or to new students just beginning?
To those who are considering coming to McCormick, visit! Come spend a couple of days in classes, stay with students, and talk to people in our community. Honestly, McCormick is not the place for everyone. If you’re not willing to listen to perspectives much different than your own and then reconsider your theology, then you probably shouldn’t come to McCormick. But for a unique experience full of people from all walks of life, McCormick is an outstanding place to be. To new students, invest in people at McCormick. Not literally of course…I don’t even know how that would work. But put yourself out there, try new things, make new friends, and be a part of the community.
What’s an interesting fact about yourself?
I’ll give you three! 1) I have a secret obsession with History Channel, PBS, and NOVA documentaries. 2) I once took part in a cabinet fast with my roommate where we agreed not to buy any food until we finished everything in our cupboards, fridge, and freezer…it lasted 27 days. 3) I was raised by wolves.
Until next time!
Peace – Shelley D.