2021 Commencement Speaker
For 2021 Commencement, our speaker will be The Reverend Dr. Willie James Jennings.

Dr. Jennings is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at Yale University Divinity School. A Calvin College graduate, Dr. Jennings received his M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. in religion and ethics from Duke.

As a systematic theologian, Dr. Jennings teaches in the areas of theology, black church, and Africana studies, as well as post-colonial and race theory. Writing in the areas of liberation theologies, cultural identities, and anthropology, Dr. Jennings has authored more than 40 scholarly essays and nearly two-dozen reviews, as well as essays on academic administration and blog posts.

He is the author of The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race published by Yale University Press (2010). This work won the American Academy of Religion Award of Excellence in the Study of Religion in the Constructive-Reflective category the year after it appeared and, in 2015, the Grawemeyer Award in Religion, the largest prize for a theological work in North America.

Dr. Jennings examines the problems of theological education within western education with his book entitled After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging, which has already become an instant classic, winning the 2020 Book of the Year award from Publisher’s Weekly.

An ordained Baptist minister, Dr. Jennings has served along with his wife, the Reverend Joanne L. Browne Jennings, as associate ministers at the Mount Level Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina. For many years, they served together as interim pastors for several Presbyterian and Baptist churches in North Carolina. They are the parents of two wonderful daughters, Njeri and Safiya Jennings.

Dr. Jennings’ commencement address is entitled “To Become a Place.”
Renewal – Join us online Monday, June 14
Comparative Religion & Justice
Monday, June 14, 2021 | 1 to 2:30 p.m. MST

Dr. Jacob Kinnard,
Professor of Comparative Religion at Iliff

Dr. Girim Jung,
Visiting Assistant Professor of Comparative Religion and Contextual Theologies; Louisville Institute Post-Doctoral Fellow

Registration Fee: 
$5 | Free for all students and Iliff faculty and staff
An additional donation is welcome. 

A link to participate in the virtual event will be sent to all registrants via email a week prior to the event.
Continuing Education Units: Attending the six Renewal sessions will total nine contact hours which could be used for CEUs.
Faculty and Staff News
Sandy Harkovich, who has served as the controller and, for many years, as the Human Resources leader for the school, will be retiring on June 4th, 2021, ending 23 years of service to the institution. Her time at Iliff has been marked by many unique achievements, including moving the institution to its first integrated accounting system and supervising the conversion to the Jenzabar platform. Her impact will continue to be felt at Iliff in the coming years. Her much deserved retirement will allow her to spend more time in Colorado's mountains and, COVID permitting, fulfill her dream of living abroad for a year.

Dr. Samantha 'Sam' Joo, Iliff's Academic Advisor, will be hosing the final session of the "Own It" Virtual Spring Workshop, "Intersectionality," on Thursday, May 20th, from 5:00 to 6:30 pm MDT. This session will feature América Ramírez and Maria Ignacia Miranda Santis discussing how to "define, analyze, and apply an intersectional framework to societal oppression so that we can work toward collective liberation." Cost to join the session is $25. Learn more and register here.
After 26 years of dedicated service to the Iliff School of Theology, the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Mahan, Ralph E. and Norma E. Peck Professor of Religion & Public Communication, is setting his sights on a well-deserved retirement and spending more time with his family, particularly his granddaughter, at the end of this academic year.

Dr. Mahan began his teaching career as a theological educator in 1989 and came to Iliff in 1995. For the last twenty-five years, Dr. Mahan taught in the areas of ministry, media and culture for both master’s and doctoral students. He also helped Iliff’s internship and ministry practice program become an example for other theological schools through his vision and leadership for the Office of Professional Formation. Between 2005 and 2009, he also served as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty. His leadership, scholarship and presence will be missed at Iliff.
To join the celebration for Carmen, contact Betsy Lay, blay@iliff.edu.
An Iliff Love Story
In Memory of Sandy Essinger-Hileman
Provided by The Rev. Doug Essinger-Hileman (MA Religion '81):

I spent my first year at Iliff in one of the student apartments of Schlessman Hall. Official policy was that all the apartments were furnished identically and none of the furnishings could be moved. Reality was that one piece or another was often missing. For me, it was the broom closet, a tall, narrow, movable cupboard which suited nicely to store broom, dustpan and other cleaning equipment and supplies.

When the apartment a couple of doors down became empty at the end of spring quarter, I saw an opportunity to get a broom closet of my very own. When I asked Dottie, the housing manager, if I could please move the one in that now-empty apartment, she reiterated the official policy. Sigh. The next day, when I happened to pass her on campus, I asked again. I got the same answer. I asked for a third day in a row, and then a fourth. Both of us kept up our end of this little dance for twenty-one straight days. But on the twenty-second day, Dottie brought the dance to a pleasant end—she told me that if I could convince the woman moving into the apartment to give up the broom closet, I could have it.

I began regular surveillance. On Fourth of July weekend, when a woman began moving boxes from her car up the stairs, I quickly offered my assistance. And when the last box and a 13-inch black-and-white television were moved into the apartment, I asked if she had any plans for the broom closet. She didn't. She hated it. And she helped move it to my apartment.

Later that night, I finagled an invitation to watch the M*A*S*H rerun, which began immediately following the nightly news. That began a summer routine of watching M*A*S*H, together. Which began a whirlwind courtship, a nine-month engagement, and marriage.

We spent our first year of marriage in another apartment in Schlessman as I finished my studies at Iliff.

More than 40 years later, the circle was completed. The morning Sandy died, we watched a rerun of M*A*S*H together.

To view Sandy's obituary, please see the link in the 'In Memoriam' section of this newsletter.

Do you have a memory of Iliff that you would like to share with the community? We would love to hear from you via alumni@iliff.edu.
Alumni/ae Updates
Amanda Udis-Kessler (Certificate '12)
Ms. Udis-Kessler won the 2021 UCC Musicians Association Hymn Writing Competition with her worship song "Brave Spirit, Make Us Brave." The song will be performed at this summer's UCCMA conference. In addition, her worship song "Rooted and Grounded in Love" was chosen for closing worship at the 2021 UCC General Synod.

Roger Garcia (MTS '19)
Mr. Garcia is currently completing his doctoral research delving into the religious trends and spiritual practices and preferences of 1.5 and 2nd generation Latinx. He would appreciate your participation in this IRB-approved study, if you fit the parameters. To learn more and participate, please visit his website here.

Packard Brown (MDiv '76)
Mr. Brown's article "Preparing to Launch: Helping students to see the intrinsic value in their education can open new vistas of employment" was featured in the Spring issue of InTrust Magazine. View the article here.

Nicholas Pronsolino (MTS '16)
Mr. Pronsolino and his partner have spent the past four years operating a woman-owned Renegade Farm in Humboldt County, CA, cultivating mixed vegetables and flowers. They partner with Kiss the Ground, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. They operate a barrier-free delivery for rural families as well as partner with BIPOC and women-owned food groups across the country as part of their program focused on forming connections with BIPOC communities in and around Humboldt County.
Share Your News!

If there is something going on in your world that you would like us to share with your colleagues, you are welcome to submit your news.
In Memoriam
Paul K Scheibner, BA Div '62
The Reverend Paul K. Sheibner passed away on December 10, 2020, in Roscommon, Michigan. Sheibner served the United Methodist Church in parishes across Michigan with a focus on mission work and youth ministry. Along with his work in churches and his time as an employee of Oldsmobile, he founded Camp Onkoi Benek, a week-long residential camp for children with Cystic Fibrosis. Paul is survived by his wife Elain, son John Sheibner, daughter Karen Trubitt, sister Grace Rosen, and many nieces, nephews and grandchildren. View Sheibner's full obituary here.

Sandra 'Sandy' Essinger-Hileman, MDiv '80
The Reverend Sandra 'Sandy' Essinger-Hileman pass away on February 24, 2021, in Glenn Mills, Pennsylvania. Essenger-Hileman served communities in the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, and the United Church of Christ in Pennsylvania and Ohio. She passed on her love of cooking, reading, making music and serving others to her family as well as her congregations. Sandy is survived by her husband, Doug, whom she met while both were students at Iliff, as well as her parents, three children, three grandchildren, three siblings, and numerous nieces and nephews. View the family's memorial page here.
Dr. Dana W. Wilbanks, Professor Emeritus of Christian Ethics
Dr. Dana W. Wilbanks Wednesday evening, May 12th, with his wife Linda at his side in the care of the Denver Hospice Center. Dana Wilbanks was known for the integrity of his teaching and activism. He was beloved for the quality of his presence, whether in a one to one conversation or in a group discussion. Dr. Wilbanks holds the distinction of being the longest serving faculty member in Iliff's history (more than 40 years). His ethical work was frequently collaborative and expressly grounded in his own tradition, which allowed him to simultaneously have an independent voice and remain in dialog with very different views. His published work includes Re-creating America: the ethics of U.S. immigration and refugee policy in Christian Perspective (1996) and Decision Making and the Bible (with Iliff colleague Ed Everding, 1975). He left a significant body of work and an indelible influence on colleagues, students, and the Denver community. If you would like to share a memory of Dr. Wilbanks, or send condolences to his family, please send them to Dr. Cathie Kelsey (ckelsey@iliff.edu) to be forwarded. Linda has indicated that services will be held later.
Iliff's Professional Information Network (PIFN)
Iliff hosts an online list of available positions for the community. You can sign up to submit positions directly, too!

To visit PIFN, click here.
Something You'd Like to Share?
Have you been recently ordained or promoted? Or, have you started something new or celebrated a personal milestone?

Connect with us using this online form if you have news you would like us to share in future issues of this alumni/ae newsletter.