David and Ann Harsh
Tell us about your call to ministry.
For some the call to ministry is a vivid and dramatic one. For me it was rather the quiet power of nurturing parents, pastors, and a local Methodist Church in Milwaukee. Two pastors were formative in my spiritual growth. As a child, I experienced the caring ministry of Rev. Stan Strosahl—a Garrett grad, by the way—which led me to think this was a life worth emulating in some way. My relationship with Stan continues in an uninterrupted way from that childhood experience to the present as we both share leadership on a conference board.
A second pastor, Dr. Fred Poole, helped me in my youth to become aware of the wider world in which the Methodist Church was involved. The concept of “the world as my parish” became a part of my faith development. The opportunity in my high school senior year to serve as a conference youth officer also put me in relationship with some very solid thinking youth leaders. Not only could I learn about conference events, but more importantly the discussions and worship provided for personal spiritual growth. With that, the call to ministry was sharpened.
How did you decide to attend Garrett?
Attending Garrett was not my original goal. I thought it would be neat to get out of the Midwest and experience another area of the United States. Having researched ten of our Methodist seminaries, however, I decided Garrett fit me best. So, having been married on the day we graduated from Cornell College, my wife, Ann, and I arrived in Evanston.
Some years later I entered the D.Min. program. This time I was determined to find a program in another seminary location for balance in my education. Sensing some rust in my pastoral skills I wanted a program that would strengthen local church ministry at many levels in a hands-on approach. Since the Garrett-Evangelical program intentionally did this with full faculty involvement, once again I found myself choosing Garrett-Evangelical. The local church application of this program clearly enhanced my pastoral skills.
What are your most vivid memories of your time at seminary?
Upon arrival, the seminary offered me a custodial position at $1.25 an hour. It was a position I held until graduation, and included such profound tasks as scrubbing and polishing the classroom floors, replacing the classroom ceiling light fixtures, and cleaning the bathrooms. Perhaps not surprisingly, it enabled me to relate well to every church custodian I have known since.
At a more important level, memories of faculty stand out. Their openness and approachability made learning very personal. Of course the quality of their teaching ability was also appreciated.
Finally, there are the memories of the intensive preparation for the comprehensive exams in our final year as we all faced four faculty members who thought any question related to any of our classes was fair game during the oral exam. One benefit during this year-long preparation was the closeness that developed among study partners. For me this involved four of us who would unmercifully grill each other—which made the final oral exam with the faculty seem almost friendly.
You have been leadership donors for many years. You have also taken out an annuity with the seminary, and have remembered the seminary in your will. Tell us about your decisions to help Garrett-Evangelical in these ways.
Those who preceded me at Garrett celebrated their learning by making gifts so others could receive scholarships when their turn came to attend seminary. I was the recipient of their thoughtfulness, which gave me the financial encouragement to continue toward ministry. Gifts such as this are to be perpetuated. With our gifts we can dream of future students being encouraged toward ministry because of financial support they will receive.
I was also blessed to serve a congregation (Bethany United Methodist Church in Madison) that in their thoughtfulness created the David and Ann Harsh Scholarship Fund at Garrett-Evangelical. That scholarship is already providing assistance annually to a deserving student. Someday, at the settlement of our estate, further funding will be added to this scholarship, enabling even more students to receive a quality education.
While our children and grandchildren are also remembered in our estate planning, it is important to demonstrate a larger sense of stewardship that includes gifts beyond ourselves and our immediate family. They have seen how we have lived our lives and they know that death will not change our commitment to stewardship.
Tell us about your current interests and involvements.
Retirement does not mean the end of ministry. My passion continues for the global expression of the Gospel. This takes many forms. I serve as a volunteer Mission Interpreter for the General Board of Global Ministries. They can send me anywhere to speak on their behalf.
I have been blessed to experience 63 different countries, in most cases representing The United Methodist Church in some form or other. While these were service oriented, most often I am the one who feels the blessing.
Other personal interests include music, photography, ornithology, and following a disciplined exercise program at the YMCA. Many of my photos have found their way into the pages of New World Outlook and Response magazines and mission-related web sites.