Distinguished Alums 2015
Franz S. Rigert
Franz S. Rigert grew up the son of a United Church of Christ pastor. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 1989 where he studied pre-law and religion. After receiving a master of divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 1992, Rigert served as associate pastor at Kingswood United Methodist Church in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. In 1995, he received a call to Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Grafton, Wisconsin, where he served until being called to be conference minister for the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ in January 2015.
The pastoral, spiritual, and relational gifts that Rigert brings to ministry empower laity to take seriously their call from God to be Christian leaders. He encourages members to take ownership and lead many ministries within the church. Under his leadership, the Pilgrim congregation grew from 300 to more than 700 active members. The members undertook 25 mission trips, participated in several Habitat for Humanity projects, and sponsored a refugee resettlement family. The congregation also passed an “Open and Affirming” resolution stating that all people will be welcomed at Pilgrim. Rigert was also instrumental in founding Common Ground, a group of 40,000 members dedicated to identifying pressing social problems and responding with creative solutions.
Samuel Phillips graduated from Garrett Biblical Institute with a master of divinity degree and was ordained an elder in the Northwest Indiana Conference in 1958. Prior to studying for the ministry, he worked in business and industry and served in the U.S. Army in World War II. Phillips has served as a pastor to numerous congregations including LaPorte Methodist Church; Lakeville Methodist Church; Monticello Methodist Church; and senior pastor to Methodist Temple United Methodist Church. Phillips was among the first in the 1960s and 1970s in Indiana to publicly endorse and support civil rights, gay rights, women’s rights, and the peace movement.
He served as a district superintendent and director of missions and church extension for the South Indiana Conference. He has also been a board member on the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the General Board of Global Ministries, Committee on the Status and Role of Women, the United Methodist Children’s Home, and DePauw University Board of Trustees, among many others. Phillips embodies the work of the church in his various mission and outreach efforts, which have taken place both at home and abroad. He organized a “Mission Motorcycle” tour group for motorcycle enthusiasts to tour regional United Methodist mission sites. Internationally, Phillips has spent decades leading outreach and relief work in numerous countries including: Bolivia, Zimbabwe, Belize, the Soviet Union, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo, Philippines, Nepal, Honduras, Vietnam, and Bosnia.
Although Phillips retired from professional ministry in 1993, he never stopped his love of and commitment to missions, justice, and peace. After moving to San Francisco following the passing of his beloved wife, Marie in 1998, Phillips joined Glide Memorial United Methodist Church and became very active in local causes. In 1999, he mastered accounting and became, and still is, the Chief Financial Officer at his son’s law firm as well as spearheading the firm’s zeal for public service, which includes funding three minority scholarships at universities, funding for veteran’s organizations, providing scholarships for women in Africa, among others. He has never forgotten the reason behind his call to ministry, which is shaped by God’s justice and compassion.