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College Chaplain Laurie Jordan will retire on June 30, 2018.

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College Chaplain Laurie Jordan '79 Announces Plan to Step Down

March 5, 2018

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – After 22 years of service as the College chaplain, Laurel Macaulay Jordan ’79 will retire on June 30, 2018. A religious mentor and spiritual guide, Jordan – known to everyone on campus as Laurie – has also been a loyal friend and confidant to generations of Middlebury students.

“Laurie has a unique ability to deeply sense and respond to people’s needs,” said Devon Parish ’05. “She knows when something isn’t right, and she listens well and makes space for those around her to open their hearts and confront life’s challenges.”

Hallie Gammon, a 2010 graduate, remembered meeting Jordan on her first trip to Vermont. It was Preview Days and Easter weekend, and “my mom and I went to the local Methodist church on Sunday morning. After the service, Laurie scooped us up and took us home for Easter lunch. That experience went a long way toward making my mom comfortable with sending her daughter [from Texas] all the way across the country… The study group Laurie hosted was the first time I felt comfortable asking tough questions about sexuality, sin, and the existence of heaven and hell.”

Former students use terms like wisdom, warmth, caring, compassion, encouragement, approachable, tireless, intuitive, and empathy in describing Middlebury’s chaplain. They appreciate her support for honest engagement between people of different faiths or none at all.

Jordan and the Dalai Lama forged a special bond in 2012 when His Holiness visited Middlebury College. 

Reflecting on his friendship with Jordan, Owais Gilani ’08 wrote, “Her sense of openness and coexistence helped me learn from and develop lifelong friendships with people from different faiths… I have sought her help and counsel on numerous occasions since leaving Middlebury almost 10 years ago, which is a testament to the genuine care she fostered towards an 18-year-old student from Pakistan who practiced a faith different than her's.”

Similarly, Jordan’s frequent winter-term course Voices of Nonviolence highlighted the world-changing significance that arises from a free and un-corerced individual conscience. One alumna who studied with Jordan, Kya Adetoro ’13, said, “As a teacher, I saw her brilliance and was privileged to glean from it.”

Originally from the town of Oneida, N.Y., Jordan was in eighth grade on a family camping trip when she first set eyes on Middlebury College. In a social studies class one year later, she had to select three career paths and choose where she might attend college to pursue those goals. Naturally, she picked Middlebury. Jordan requested a catalog and received a bonus, the college calendar that has adorned her wall ever since. 

During her first semester at Middlebury, thinking she was headed into politics, Jordan was faced with questions that are still explored in Introduction to Political Philosophy: What is justice? What is the good life? By her sophomore year, that line of investigation brought her back to her core beliefs and she started to feel the pull of the ministry.

In a religion course with Professor Robert Ferm, she wrote a paper about women who had been ordained in the Episcopal Church. She even interviewed one of them. “Up to that point,” she said sipping a cup of mint tea in Wilson Café, “I had hardly ever seen any women at all in the ministry. That’s when I decided what to do with the rest of my life."

Jordan, a Methodist, also admired the late Chaplain Charles P. Scott, for whom the Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life is named. And just like Scott, she will miss the day-to-day contact with Middlebury students. “Chaplain Scott always wore his blue and white seersucker jacket and we could easily pick him out of a crowd. I need to find something distinctive like that so the alumni can find me at reunions.”

With the encouragement of Prof. Ferm and Middlebury’s 15th president, John M. McCardell Jr., Jordan returned to Middlebury as College chaplain in 1996 after she had earned her M.Div. from Yale in 1983, served churches in New York State, and done advanced graduate work at Notre Dame

It can be difficult to select a few highlights of your career when you have touched the lives of so many people during times of joy, grief, contemplation, questioning, or wonderment. For Jordan, she points to the success of the Religious Life Council, the interfaith student leadership council she formed just one year after her appointment that has met continuously for more than two decades. She proposed the hiring of a College rabbi to serve as associate chaplain, a post that she filled in 2001 with Ira Schiffer. Planning the three-week student trip to flood-stricken areas of Mozambique and Zimbabwe to deliver clothing and medical supplies was another highpoint of her career.

The 2004 opening of the Scott Center in the former Hathaway House gave students from multiple faiths a dedicated space for meetings, meditation, lectures, meals, and social gatherings. Two years of effort by Jordan and others culminated in the 2012 visit by the Dalai Lama to Middlebury, a landmark occurrence that included two lectures in Nelson Arena (attended by an estimated 5,000 people) and a special audience in Mead Chapel for about 200 members of the Vermont Tibetan community.

The hiring of the College’s first Muslim chaplains in 2014, an advance championed by Jordan, was another important accomplishment during her tenure.

“Laurie has shaped spiritual and religious life at Middlebury since her appointment in 1996,” said Mark Orten, the director of the Scott Center and dean of spiritual and religious life. “Our community has benefited from her calming presence in times of stress, her rich command of language during grand events such as Commencement and Convocation, and her dedication to supporting others in the quiet of her office.”

Jordan, 60, and her husband, Gus, the executive director of health and counseling services at the College, recently built a new home in the South Ridge community of Middlebury where she expects to pursue her passion for gardening, family, and other interests. 

The youngest of the Jordans' three children is expecting her first child later this year. “I didn’t know Lindsay was pregnant when I made the decision to retire,” Jordan explains, “but now it is like God was saying to me, ‘Good plan, good plan.’ I feel good about the career I have had and know the time is right.”

– Written by Robert Keren

 

8 Comments

Reading the list of Laurie's accomplishments during her tenure as Chaplain comes as no surprise to me. I was a classmate of Laurie (and Gus) at Yale Divinity School in the early 1980's and discovered in her then a woman who is bright, accomplished, gentle and caring - all qualities that obviously have served her well at Middlebury. I commend her for her service and hope her retirement will bring her much satisfaction and joy - and rest!

by REV. GRANT F SONTAG (not verified)

Laurie was my college roommate for several years. I remember the paper she wrote on what was happening with women in the Episcopal Church! Laurie was always brilliant, curious, humble, and ebullient. Always sharp as a tack. I am so proud of all her accomplishments. I have so many fond memories of spending time with her, visiting Boston, camping in the Adirondacks, and driving around Vermont. In addition to getting to know her scholarly and pastoral sides, I had the privilege of getting to know her “fun” side. I and several friends wish her a hearty Congratulations. Bob Ferm, Chappy,
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and Steven would be SO proud! It is later than you think!
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by Susan McCafferty (not verified)

As another of Laurie’s Class of ‘79 buddies, I congratulate her on a brilliant career. We all are so proud of how she has represented and served Middlebury and each of her congregations for so many years. As undergraduates, she challenged and inspired me and always was a source of wisdom and fun; I know she pushed me to delve deeply into those same big questions she tackled. She is, indeed, exceptional - - hugely accomplished, full of life and laughter, giving and always there for others, whether students or friends. I cherish her friendship, which continues after all
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these years! I have no doubt that the Middlebury campus will be a bit less bright without her there each day. As Susan says, Laurie is surely the pride of our friends and mentors Bob Ferm, Steven Rockefeller and Chaplain Charles Scott, in whose footsteps she has so admirably followed, while forgoing ahead with her own new paths and ministries. Well done Grannie Jordan!
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by Cathy Senzel Hogg (not verified)

As another 79'er, I tip my hat to Laurie for all her contributions to the college. Echoing my classmates, she shined brightly in and outside the classroom during our student days which has only increased with time. She will not require any special clothing to be recognized on campus! I am also envious of both the retirement and the grandchildren. Congratulations

by Rick Legro (not verified)

Congratulations, Laurie! The Middlebury community has indeed been blessed by your tenure, and how proud we all are of you, our classmate, and your accomplishments and contributions. Retire well!

by Nancy Limbacher... (not verified)

Dear Laurie, Congratulations on your retirement from the role of College Chaplain. It was a role that you served well with your peaceful, warm, and loving demeanor. Thank you for sharing your gifts and graces with the college community. And thank you for your friendship. I always enjoyed your company when I spent time on campus in my various volunteer roles. Enjoy your retirement, especially the time with your family. Fondly, Paula Carr Cummings '82

by Paula Carr Cumm... (not verified)

My first thought was how can someone from my class be retiring! Didn't we just graduate? Of course it has been a little longer then that. In September I was at Middlebury to take part in an alumni cross country race. I stayed with Laurie and Gus and they helped nursed me back to health following Saturday's race which took place on a warm day. The race was fun and challenging but it was really wonderful to spend time with Laurie and Gus. Laurie's focus on humanity has long been apparent; her classmates, the College and many others have been
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the beneficiaries. I'm looking forward to the next race. Best wishes. Sincerely Henry
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by Henry Heyburn Jr (not verified)

I was lucky to be Laurie’s J.C. and then her friend. She helped make our floor a fun and lively place. There were a few pranks as I recall but nothing that made my job hard. Laurie and Sue’s room was often where we gathered in the evenings to chat and I can still smell the popcorn. I encouraged Laurie to take her first religion class with Mr. Rockefeller and after that she was unstoppable. Look at what you’ve accomplished, Laurie! Well done, good and faithful servant.

by Jody Reis Johnson (not verified)

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