The Life of the Spirit at Eckerd College

The Life of the Spirit at Eckerd CollegeWhen it was founded in 1958, Florida Presbyterian College was the first Presbyterian college established in the United States in 65 years. The church members who made it happen envisioned a top-flight institution of higher learning whose graduates would be vocationally qualified and loyal to the highest ideals as evidenced by Christian revelation.

When the founding faculty developed the initial curriculum, they talked about offering students a "lively encounter with Christianity" to help students not only learn "how to do" and "how to know" but "how to be." But they cautioned against indoctrination and refused to require students to attend chapel services or Bible classes. Jack Bevan, founding Dean of Faculty, believed that if a college wanted to help students develop both competence and concern and to discover convictions they could defend critically and live with emotionally, they must have the opportunity to explore all ideas and positions of thought.

Billy O.Wireman, the College's second president, recalled that the College talked about being Christian in ways relevant to our time. In a sermon given on Christian College Sunday, he spoke about "a great spiritual longing - a great spiritual questing on the part of the young . . .They are asking for meaning and purpose and a sense of philosophic cohesiveness.They are searching for the genuine, the real, the honest, the substantive, the enduring, the authentic . . . Because man must have a sense of unity - some organizing principle upon which to order his life - there is a seamless connection between religion and education. At Florida Presbyterian, we have attempted from the beginning to emphasize that connection by involving the student in the agonizing and perplexing search for answers to the Big Questions: Right. Wrong. God. Life. Meaning. Destiny. We confront the student with the conflicts of his culture and ask him to formulate a set of values which are meaningful to him. Discipline, self-imposed, is the most lasting and effective discipline.Values, carefully thought out and personally accepted, are the only values which will endure in times of crisis and challenge."

FPC's first full-time Chaplain, Alan Carlsten, also emphasized the religious value of the students' quest for why, who, and what they are.While he nurtured more than 50 young men and women into careers as theologians, he also provided draft counseling to over 500 young men and allowed students to hold peace vigils in the Chapel during the Vietnam War.

Another long-serving Chaplain, David Cozad '68, explored the connection between religion and education at Eckerd College in the 1970s and 1980s.Through a quest for meaning and purpose, belief in a transcendent reality, and attention to intellectual integrity and personal character, students developed ethical sensitivity, hope, and an awareness that they can be - or already are - persons of faith.

Lloyd Chapin, Dean of Faculty from 1978-2010, claimed in 1986, "To encounter the Eckerd faculty in the classroom in any discipline is to encounter serious thinking about the moral implications of decisions." In the 1980s, the College began to link Christian ideals and values education to opportunities for service to the community. Service projects in courses, international service experiences, and support for extracurricular service learning continue to this day.

In this new millennium, the College and its students must think broadly and deeply about what it means to be persons of faith and children of God in a global community. The College still holds sacred its ongoing covenant with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the guidance for a life of purpose provided by Christian ideals; however, it recognizes that the College community holds diverse beliefs and interpretations of the spiritual life. In 2002, the Center for Spiritual Life was established to serve the founding vision of church leaders by fostering education about the various dimensions and forms of religious experience and by encouraging all members of the campus community to take their spiritual lives seriously, as a vital dimension of a well-rounded human life.

The Center for Spiritual Life at Eckerd College

Through a range of programs, campus and service ministries, and counseling, the Center for Spiritual Life helps people bring the best insights of their faith traditions to the challenges of the contemporary world and empowers people to put their faith into action that will heal people, communities, and nations.

The Center for Spiritual Life helps students and the larger community to address matters of faith and life both intellectually and viscerally. A public lecture series, a variety of student-oriented events, publications, and service opportunities bring human spirituality into a personal and communal context.

Believing that any expression of faith, any issue of religion, any spiritual experience, and any question about God is worth serious examination in a church-related liberal education, we strive to make the College a safe haven for all such examination. The programs of the Center are designed to nurture the spirit, engage the mind, and develop the talents of the Eckerd College family, the church and religious communities of the region, and the pilgrims who come this way.

The College's Spiritual Leaders Past and Present

Chaplains of Florida Presbyterian College/ Eckerd College

Mr.William Creighton Peden
(Seminarian/Intern from Chicago Theological Seminary)

The Rev. Alan W. Carlsten

The Rev. Moses Stith

The Rev. David B. Cozad

The Rev.Walter Fitz-James H. Conner

The Rev. Clover Beal

The Rev. Mandy Lape-Freeberg (Acting Chaplain)

The Rev. Mona Bagasao

The Rev. Douglas H. McMahon, Jr.

Church Relations Administrative Staff at Florida Presbyterian College/Eckerd College

Dr. Alton H. Glasure
Director, Church and Community Relations

Mr. Melvin H. Dillon
Associate Director, Church Relations and Deferred Giving

Dr. Joe McClure
Director, Church Relations

Mr. Clifford A. McKay
Assistant to the President, Church Relations

Dr.William H. Kadel
Assistant to the President, Church Relations

The Rev. Dr. Donald T. DeBevoise
Special Assistant to the President, Church Relations

The Rev. Dr. John C. Laske
Director, Church Relations

The Rev. Bruce L. Robertson
Vice President, Church Relations

The Rev. David B. Cozad
Director, Church Relations

The Rev. Benjamin J. Jacobson
Vice President, Church Relations