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Meet Janet Lutz

"I have always tithed. Many years ago I decided to use that money to support only a few charities. I decided to give a major gift to Garrett-Evangelical to start a scholarship fund because I wanted to do something that would make a difference one student at a time."

Janet Lutz (GTS 1969) grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where the Methodist Church played an important part in her life. She attended church every Sunday with her family, was active in MYF, and attended church camp in junior and senior high. She was also active on the district and conference levels of the Wisconsin Annual Conference.

When she graduated from high school in 1961, opportunities for women seemed limited to being a nurse, teacher, secretary, or maybe a missionary. No one suggested other options, so Janet went to college and got a degree in elementary education. After one year of teaching, she knew it was not for her. That summer she worked at a church camp.  One night one of the other counselors asked her if she had ever considered going to seminary. It was as if a light had broken through the haze.  She suddenly knew that was what she wanted to do. The other counselor gave Janet the address and phone number for Garrett Theological Seminary (GTS).

Janet went home and told her parents she wanted to go to seminary. Her mother told her she had been praying that Janet would wind up doing something in the church, but had never said anything because she felt Janet had to come to that decision on her own. Neither Janet nor her mother was aware that a woman could be ordained.

“Going to Garrett was the best decision of my life,” Janet states. She originally planned to get a degree in Christian education, but after her first semester she knew she needed more theology and Biblical studies than was offered in that program, so she transferred into what was then the B.D. (today the M.Div.) program. 

“Garrett opened windows and doors in my life that I did not even know were there,” she notes. “There were only about 30 women there at the time, with around 300 men. I was challenged almost daily as all of us struggled to deal with seminary classes and with what was going on in the world around us—the civil rights struggle, the anti-war movement, the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.  My experiences at Garrett were filled with good friends, long intense discussions, as well as many challenges and opportunities for growth. For the first time I encountered women who had been ordained, and I began to think about ordination as well.”

When Janet graduated from Garrett, she was not sure what she wanted to do, so she taught third grade in Winnetka, Illinois for four years. At the end of the fourth year she began to think about ministry again.  During that time she had stayed active in Wheadon United Methodist Church in Evanston. In the sanctuary hung a banner that said, “The sign of God is that we will be led where we did not plan to go.” 

She quit her teaching job and took Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Children’s Memorial Hospital—kids and ministry—as a way to get back into thinking about and doing ministry. “I was there less than a week when I felt truly called to hospital ministry,” Janet exclaims. 

In those days, however, it was not possible to be ordained without serving a church. Janet was appointed to Worth United Methodist Church and served for three years. “I knew I wanted to be a hospital chaplain, but the church taught me about ministry and its day-to-dayness. Garrett was always in my mind because it was such an enriching experience. It helped me walk alongside the folks in the church and to learn from them.”

At the end of three years, Janet went to the University of Chicago Hospital to do a residency in CPE. Throughout that year she grew more certain that she wanted to be a CPE supervisor. She moved to St. Louis to finish her supervisory training at Barnes Hospital, and when the director of the program at Barnes retired, Janet was hired as the director and served for six years in that position. 

In 1990, Janet was invited to become the Director of Staff Support and CPE Supervisor at the Emory Center for Pastoral Services in Atlanta, Georgia.  For the next 16 years, she served in that capacity. Her work led to ministry with nurses, administrators, housekeepers, and pretty much everyone else in the hospital. “It was wonderful,” Janet declares. “I found Atlanta a great place to work and live.  I learned so much about diversity. I was active in a church and taught classes at several different churches in Atlanta.”

“The sign of God—who knew I would wind up in Atlanta and at Emory?  For me, it is the willingness to listen and look for the signs.” 

In 2006, Janet retired and moved back to Evanston. “I bought a condo that is on the 17th floor and overlooks Lake Michigan.  It is the perfect retirement spot for me.”

Even in retirement Janet continues to be in ministry.  In 2007, she supervised a unit of CPE at Africa University in Zimbabwe.  These days she works with a group of lay visitors in the church she attends, does some work for CPE, and enjoys being closer to family and a wonderful group of women friends.

Janet continues to remember and support her beloved Garrett-Evangelical. “When I was a child, I tithed,” she states. “I have always tithed. Many years ago I decided to use that money to support only a few charities. I decided to give a major gift to Garrett-Evangelical to start a scholarship fund because I wanted to do something that would make a difference one student at a time.” In additional to her annual leadership gifts, Janet has also remembered the seminary in her estate plans with a significant gift “so that others will have the powerful experience at Garrett-Evangelical that I had, even after I am gone.”