Distinguished Alums 1997
February 24, 1997
Edsel A. Ammons
Edsel Ammons received his undergraduate degree from Roosevelt University, Chicago, and the Bachelor of Divinity degree from Garrett Biblical Institute in 1957. he received the Doctor of Ministry degree from Chicago Theological Seminary in 1974 and has received honorary doctorates from several colleges.
Edsel grew up in a family of professional jazz musicians who also were devoted members of Christian congregations. His family generated in him a lasting appreciation of music, an early interest in the church and pastoral ministry, and a love of learning. He was the valedictorian and president of his high school class in Chicago.
Years served as pastor followed his ordination in the Black Methodist tradition in 1949. Upon his transfer into the now United Methodist denomination in 1957, he became the first African American in his annual conference. His new congregation of forty-six members, suffering the effects of racial transition, grew into a congregation of seven hundred members in less than seven years.
His subsequent appointments included district and staff assignments. He launched the Rockford District Urban Ministry program, which is still functioning thirty-three years later. He then joined the faculty at Garrett as professor of urban church ministry in 1968.
In 1970, he conceived a new educational emphasis to enable the seminary to prepare itself and its students for leadership in a rapidly changing racial context and climate. The Church and the Black Experience was born.
Bishop Ammons remained at Garrett-Evangelical until his election as bishop in 1976. He was the first African American bishop elected by the North Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. He served in Michigan and West Ohio for sixteen years intil his retirement in 1992. He then became bishop-in-residence at Garrett-Evangelical, an assignment that concluded June 30, 1997. His wife, Helen Fannings Ammons, served as director of student life at Garrett-Evangelical for twenty years.
Thomas E. Babler
Thomas Babler graduated from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois and from Evangelical Theological Seminary in 1973.
Thomas served the Northern Illinois Conference in several different kinds of pastorates. His first church was in La Moille, Illinois, a small farming community. He was involved in the challenges of merging a Methodist congregation with an Evangelical United Brethren congregation. The sensitivity and caring he exhibited as he handled this endeavor would become hallmarks of his ministry.
For ten years his role was pastor of the newly formed parish, Bethany of Fox Valley, a consolidation of two churches. Shepherding a diverse congregation, he honored the needs of every member.
He is currently serving as the senior pastor of Community United Methodist Church in Naperville. His supportive and encouraging style brings a sense of loyalty and team spirit to the church staff.
He traveled with Bishop Duecker’s study tour in southern Africa in 1989 and for two quadrennia chaired the Northern Illinois Conference Task Force on Africa University. Thomas also chaired the District Committee on Church Location and Building.
Thomas has tended faithfully to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary from its beginning. As the student body president of Evangelical Theological Seminary, he served as student trustee during the merger with Garrett Theological Seminary. As a member of the Garrett-Evangelical Board of Trustees since the school was founded in 1974, Thomas has helped the school hold true to its mission and purpose. Thomas currently chairs the Student Affairs Committee and is a member of the Executive Committee.