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“My job isn’t a job. It’s a ministry. And the GTU has given me community and allowed me to practice my ministry.”
That’s what Sharon-Gay Smith says of her 37 years of work at the Graduate Theological Union. In return, from 1971 when she worked the GTU’s PBX system (remember those?) and typed transcripts by hand, to 1989 when she became common registrar, to 2008, Smith has given the GTU her loyalty. Day in and day out, she has given students down-to-earth, day-to-day practical help, ranging from advice about where to find affordable housing to how to register for classes.
Smith says she saw the GTU change from being a small community in the 1970s to the much larger, more corporate-style organization of today, but she says, “Throughout all those years, my attitude has been that we are here to help the students.”
And despite, or because of organizational growth, Smith has seen much innovation at the GTU and hopes to see more of it. “This is a tough time for seminaries,” she says. “Can we continue to innovate with non-degree programs, and students -- such as the Newhall Scholars -- pairing up with faculty to teach other students? Elder hostels offering vibrant educational programs are booming. Could theological education appeal to that market?”
“Throughout all those years, my attitude has been that we are here to help the students.”
No doubt Smith will continue to contribute her ideas to the GTU after her “last day,” June 30. In addition to reading, crocheting, volunteering at her church, making a trip to New Zealand to learn more about the Maori people, and continuing to serve on the board of the School for Applied Theology, she may, in retirement, volunteer for Friends of the GTU Library and other tasks at the GTU.
The GTU has established a scholarship fund in Smith’s name, The Sharon-Gay Smith Scholarship Endowment. It will, in a sense, extend her ministry to help students. To contribute to Smith’s endowment, go to www.gtualumni.net/sgsscholarshipfund, or send a check payable to GTU with “Sharon-Gay Smith Scholarship” in the memo line, or call Christopher Cox at 510-649-2531 to use a credit card or give a gift of stock.