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Great Hero of Methodist Higher Education

Ireson Roger 160Rev. Dr. Roger W. Ireson
M. Div. ’66, Garrett Theological Seminary

Ireson is a cradle Methodist, whose father was a United Methodist pastor in New York and Vermont. He received a bachelor’s degree from DePauw University, a M.Div. from Garrett Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Manchester University (England) in 1974. Ireson was ordained a deacon in 1963 and an elder in 1966 in the Detroit Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. He served multiple parishes in that conference as a pastor until 1988 when he was elected as the General Secretary of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. It was in this position that Ireson’s love for Methodist higher education found its full voice.

As General Secretary, Ireson led the founding and development of Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. He also helped establish the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges, and Universities (IAMSCU), which links Methodist institutions of higher education around the world. For this, the IAMSCU honored him with the title, Founding President Emeritus, in 2005. Ireson has been given honorary doctorates from eight different institutions of higher education, and both DePauw University and Garrett-Evangelical have honored him as a distinguished alumnus. Currently, Ireson and his wife, Judith, live in Nashville, Tennessee, where he is the Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Martin Methodist College, and Visiting Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Green Mountain College in Vermont. Garrett-Evangelical is very pleased to acknowledge the incredible contribution Ireson has made to Methodist higher education and recognize him as one of our 160 Great Alumni.

*** A special thanks to Daniel Smith for his nomination of Dr. Ireson and the help he provided in gathering information for this profile.

Author, Clergyman, Scholar

Chandler Daniel 160 copyRev. Dr. Daniel Chandler

B. Div. ’68, Garrett Biblical Institute

Chandler is a well-known author, clergyman, and scholar in The United Methodist Church. He was ordained a deacon in the UMC in 1960 and an elder in 1968. Upon earning his Ph.D. from Ohio University, he was awarded a Masland (post-doctoral) Fellowship at Union Theological Seminary. He has held faculty positions at Central Michigan University, Rutgers University, Hofstra University, the New York Institute of Technology, DePaul University and was a visiting scholar here at Garrett-Evangelical and Northwestern University.

Chandler is best known for his work as an author and his involvement with the 1993 World Parliament of Religions. As an author, he has completed many books and monographs. Most notably, he composed Toward Universal Religion: Voices of American and Indian Spirituality and the Official, Authorized Biography of the Reverend Dr. Preston Bradley. In 1993, Chandler was on the Planning Board Committee for the World Parliament of Religions in that year and wrote the introduction for the official compilation of the speeches from the Parliament.



Smith Robert 160Rev. Dr. Robert Charles Smith
B. Div. ’46, Garrett Biblical Institute

Smith was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and attended Garrett Biblical Institute (GBI) after graduating from the University of Grand Rapids. Upon graduation from GBI, he completed graduate study at Boston University School of Theology and Union Theological Seminary. He was also ordained in The Methodist Church. Many years later, Adrian College honored Smith with a Doctorate of Divinity.

After pastoring multiple congregations in Michigan, Smith was appointed the District Superintendent of the Grand Rapids District. He served in that position for several years, and then he worked for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), where he earned the title “Mr. UMCOR.” In his work for UMCOR, Smith made multiple trips to Africa and Haiti to see that the funds raised were appropriated properly and correctly. Smith, now 93, is still volunteering at his local congregation, and raising money to worthy causes around the world.

Pastor, Author, and Baseball Enthusiast

Rev. Dr. John Robert McFarland

B. Div. ’64, Garrett Biblical Institute

McFarland John 160McFarland is a pastor, author, and speaker who is known as a wise and humorous communicate. McFarland was ordain in 1964 and has served UMC congregations in Illinois and Indiana for over 40 years. He has written three books: An Ordinary Man, The Strange Calling: Stories of Ministry, and Now That I Have Cancer, I Am Whole: Meditations for Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them. The aforementioned book about cancer was written in response to McFarland’s own struggle with his diagnosis, and his meditations on the topic have brought hope and healing to thousands.

McFarland also has a passion for America’s favorite pastime, baseball. He wrote the biography of Edd Roush, a hall of fame baseball player, for the Scribner’s Dictionary of Biography. Even more interesting, McFarland was given the opportunity to sign an honorary contract with the Cincinnati Reds.

Prominent UMC Scholar and Theologian of Ethics

ogletree thomas 160
Rev. Dr. Thomas Ogletree

B. Div. ’59, Garrett Biblical Institute

Ogletree is a prominent scholar and theologian of ethics in The United Methodist Church. After earning his degree from Garrett Biblical Institute, he earned a doctorate from Vanderbilt University. He has held pastoral positions in Alabama, Wisconsin, and Tennessee. Further, Ogletree has held faculty positions at the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University, Birmingham-Southern College, Chicago Theological Seminary, Drew University, and Yale Divinity School. He also served as academic dean at both Drew University and Yale Divinity School.

Ogletree has authored many scholarly works and monographs, as well as numerous journal articles in scholarly publications.  Most notably, he was a member of the Episcopal committee that drafted “The Discipline of the United Methodist Church” that was accepted by the 1988 General Conference of the UMC. Ogletree has served his community by advocating for better schools for students in Nashville, Tennessee; as a founding member of Operation Breadbasket in Chicago; and as a member of the Student Non-Violent Committee.

Champion of Rural Ministry

Huff Harold 160Rev. Dr. Harold Huff

B. Div. ’45, Garrett Biblical Institute

Harold Huff was a tremendous leader in the rural ministry of The United Methodist Church. After service in World War II and graduation from Garrett, he continued to serve his country as a chaplain in the United States Navy. Upon his honorable discharge, Harold committed his life to the mission of ministry to rural churches in america beginning in North Dakota. He was instrumental in training and educating pastors in the Dakotas area so that it might be recognized by The United Methodist Church as an official Episcopal area. Soon after, Harold was appointed District Superintendent to the Northern District of North Dakota where he supervised 50 UMC pastors and congregations. The great distance between these churches enticed him to take private flying lessons and purchased a small airplane to fly to as many as six churches on a Sunday for worship and meetings.

His work in the Dakotas attracted the attention of the UMC Department of Town and Country Ministries of the National Board of Missions in Philadelphia and New York City. Harold worked with every Annual Conference in the United States supporting rural churches all across America. After 12 years Harold left the National Board of Missions and was warmly welcomed back to the local church ministry in the PNW Conference with an exciting opportunity of ministry in Sandpoint, Idaho, and the four churches of the Greater Clark Fork Parish. So great was his involvement in those churches and communities, that Harold was elected Mayor of Sandpoint for two terms during his ministry there.

Harold Huff was an extraordinary example of a pastor who loved the rural church and their communities and dedicated his life to serving them faithfully for 44 years.

If you would like to read a full biography of Rev. Dr. Harold Huff, please click here.

Champion for Youth in Evanston

Baker Don 160 copy
Rev. Don Baker
M.Div. '71, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Don Baker began his work in 1968 with alienated and disenfranchised youth in Evanston. His ministry was supported for a time by the Evanston cluster of Methodist churches. In 1971, a board chaired by Dr. James Babbitt, a Garrett faculty member, established Youth Organizations Umbrella, Inc., and hired Don as director. Y.O.U. always sought to identify and serve young people on the margins who were overlooked by or resistant to participate in the rich resources of Evanston. Learn more.

Norwegian Immigrant and College President

Thoralf Otmann Firing
Rev. Dr. Thoralf Otmann Firing

D.D. ’14, Garrett Biblical Institute/Northwestern University

Firing was born in Horten, Norway and was an avid sailor in his native Norway. After immigrating to the United States, Firing earned degrees from Northwestern University and Norwegian-Danish Theological Seminary before receiving his Doctorate of Divinity from Garrett Biblical Institute. Upon graduation, Firing was asked to teach at Norwegian-Danish Theological Seminary, which was also located in Evanston.

Soon after his appointment to teach, he was asked to be acting principal of Norwegian-Danish Theological Seminary. In 1934, Firing presided over the merger of the Wesley Academy and Theological Seminary with the Norwegian-Danish Theological Seminary into what is know now as Kendall College. Firing was the first President of the new formed college and held that title until 1954. After his retirement, he continued to represent Kendall College in ceremonial functions and was an editor for The Fellowship News Bulletin.

Pastor, Author, Church Consultant

Schaller Lyle 160
Rev. Lyle E. Schaller

B. Div. ’57, Garrett Biblical Institute

Schaller is a published author and leading church planner/consultant to congregations, pastors, and denominational officials. Schaller has written many articles and is the author of 36 books related to religion in America and how to effectively minister to laypersons. He is ordained in The United Methodist Church and is associated with the Yokefellow Institute in Richmond, Indiana. Following graduation from seminary, he served a local parish in Wisconsin.

In 1969, he became the first director of The Center for Parish Development in Northern Ohio. Schaller also received a bachelor of science in 1948 from the University of Wisconsin. He went on to earn three separate master of science degrees, including one in City Planning. Schaller is a man of deep faith, now equipping churches to be healthy and successful, while also possessing the rare ability to apply social science concepts meaningfully within ministry contexts.

Champion for Youth Ministry

matthookRev. Matthew J. Hook
M.Div. ’91, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Matthew Hook is known as a champion for youth programs. In 1995, Hook was appointed to Birmingham UMC in Birmingham, Michigan. During his time there, he re-envisioned the youth program and it greatly increased the depth and breadth of the program. He accomplished this by creating leadership opportunities for the youth including mission trips and a new conformation program.

In 2003, he was appointed the lead pastor at Dexter UMC. At this new appointment, he opened a teen center, assured that the church had a solid youth ministry program, and added a third worship service. His work continues to thrive at Dexter UMC as he maintains a reputation as an innovator for youth and adult programs in The United Methodist Church.

Compassionate Doctor

Gess Lowell 160Dr. Lowell Gess
B.Div. ’45, Garrett Biblical Institute

The life of Dr. Lowell Gess could be described as one of compassion. Upon his graduation from seminary, Gess served as a pastor for two years before deciding to attend medical school.  After receiving his medical training, Gess served as a medical missionary in Africa from 1952-1960 and saw an urgent need in Africa for specialty care in ophthalmology. He then returned to the United States to become an ophthalmologist.

Gess spent much of his life dedicated to helping establish eye clinics in West Africa.  He was able to recruit many other doctors to make trips with him and would collect medical supplies from local churches to help provide for the clinics. Gess established the Kissy United Methodist Church Eye Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone, which is one of the only eye clinics in West Africa and has served millions of people.  Gess “saw” a need in the world and worked to remedy the problem.

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The United Methodist Church, welcomes
students from a wide range of faith traditions.