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President Lallene J. Rector to Transition Out of the Office of the President by August 1, 2020

February 3, 2020
President Lallene J. Rector

Mr. Jerre Stead, chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, announced today that Dr. Lallene J. Rector has expressed her intention to transition out of her leadership role in the Office of the President, effective August 1, 2020. An esteemed faculty member of Garrett-Evangelical since 1986, she served as academic dean and vice president of academic affairs from 2006-2013, and as president beginning January 1, 2014. The decision to transition out of this role in the next six months stems from personal commitments to care for loved ones with serious health matters.

When the Board of Trustees named her president in May of 2013, she made history as both the first layperson and first woman to be appointed president. Since then, President Rector has brought imagination and a tireless commitment to theological education at the seminary, the church, and the public sphere. Among the significant achievements during her presidency, she worked with many others to help complete the $100 million Forging Our Future capital campaign in May 2017, and in 2019, helped to secure the seminary’s accreditation for an additional ten years from three differing accrediting agencies. Programs launched during her time as president include: the master of arts in public ministry; the Garrett-Evanston Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools program; a revised and expanded certificates program with an ecumenical focus; and a robust continuing education program named Connectional Learning—all this in addition to a new curriculum that was launched in the fall of 2017.

Throughout President Rector’s 34 years of service to Garrett-Evangelical, she has had an unwavering commitment to elevate those voices most often on the margins. To this day, alumni often refer to her course, “The Psychology of Whiteness,” as instrumental to their own understanding of self and how they minister with and for others. As both a therapist and an educator, she has championed countless members of the LGBTQIA community who have struggled to reconcile their sexuality with their faith. As academic dean, she was instrumental in securing the seminary as a charter member of the Hispanic Theological Initiative, a mentoring and support program for Hispanic scholars pursing their doctor of philosophy in theological studies. As president, she has worked diligently to diversify the faculty and student bodies to better equip seminarians for today’s ministry. In addition, it was through her leadership that the seminary was able to create an inclusive and welcoming statement for members of the LGTBQIA community that was affirmed by the seminary’s Board of Trustees in the fall of 2019.

“Serving in the Office of the President at Garrett-Evangelical has been a profound privilege,” said President Rector. “I give thanks to God for the vision and largess of our founder, Eliza Garrett. She made possible the education and equipping of generations of faithful, Christian leaders who continue to ‘rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep,’ to seek justice for the least of these, and to bring the transforming love of Jesus Christ to all whom they encounter. I count it all joy to have been a part of this great, continuing mission.”

During her presidency, the seminary was named “A Seminary that Changes the World” by the Center for Faith and Service four years consecutively. In addition, the seminary secured multiple grants including four from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. totaling over $3.1 million. The seminary also joined the Green Seminary Initiative and signed a covenant agreement with other religious institutions called the Seminary Stewardship Alliance. New partnerships with Sioux Falls Seminary, the School of Theology at Methodist University of São Paulo, Brazil, and North Central College were also established.

President Rector’s influence has expanded far beyond her work at Garrett-Evangelical. At the local level, she has worked closely with the presidents and deans of the Association of Chicago Theological Schools. Nationally, she is an active member of the Association for Theological Schools (ATS), supporting the Chief Academic Officers, Women’s Leadership, and New Presidents’ programs. She has also served as a member or chair of several ATS re-accreditation teams since 2005. Her background as a United Methodist and a seminary faculty member has brought expertise in pastoral psychotherapy and has made her an invaluable asset on the Ministerial Assessment Specialists Advisory Committee on Candidacy and Clergy Assessment for the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM). She has additionally served as a member of the Association of United Methodist Theological Schools, the GBHEM University Senate, and on the Board of Directors of GBHEM, and she has regularly represented the seminary at denominational conferences throughout the nation.

In 2015, President Rector was named distinguished alumna from her alma mater, the Boston University School of Theology. This past December, she received the outstanding service in higher education award from the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) Evanston/North Shore Branch.

President Rector will retain her faculty status with Garrett-Evangelical in the area of psychology of religion and pastoral psychotherapy and plans to do some research and writing in the near future. She has also indicated her commitment to the seminary during this time of transition and is prepared to assist however needed.

The Board of Trustees will immediately begin the search for the seminary’s next president. Garrett-Evangelical trustees Bishop Sally Dyck, bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church, and Ms. Anne Driscoll, partner at McCarthy Bertschy & Associates, will co-chair the search committee. Following a national search, the committee will recommend a candidate to Chairperson Jerre Stead, who with the Board of Trustees, will then select and appoint the next president of the seminary.