Lilly Endowment Grant
Executive Summary
for Gustavus Adolphus College

ST. PETER, Minn. (Oct. 30, 2000) – On Sept. 29, the Lilly Endowment informed Gustavus that it had been awarded a five-year grant of $1,964,425 as part of the Endowment's Theological Exploration of Vocation Program.  Gustavus was one of 20 church-related liberal arts college and universities from around the country to be recognized in this way and one of three in Minnesota, the other two being St. John's University and Macalester College.

The general concern motivating the Lilly Endowment to propose this new grant program was its observation that contemporary Americans tend to focus narrowly on their careers and matters of individual concern rather than on community needs.  The Endowment proposed to help colleges try to design programs that would encourage students to reflect more deeply on their "vocations" -- that is, their ongoing active concern for the welfare of the communities in which they live.   "Vocation" is broader than career.  It has to do with the whole of a person's life, including but not limited to parenting, political involvement, community service, and a job or career.  A primary goal of Lilly's grant program is to encourage the development of a new generation of talented, creative and committed lay and church leaders.

The award to Gustavus will support a comprehensive initiative to carry out more effectively some key aspects of the College's mission statement, and enhance the opportunities for students to reflect on their vocation -- i.e. to consider the challenge of living lives of commitment to the welfare of the whole community.  The purpose is not to coerce anyone to adopt a particular outlook -- only to provide opportunities for reflection about the issue of vocation and to encourage students to integrate their learning into their lives.  The funded program will build upon the ethos and climate of Gustavus by supporting existing programs, adding new ones, and creating a Center to coordinate and intensify those vocation-oriented activities.  In so doing, it will provide students with the foundational tools necessary for a lifelong exploration of their calling and a lifetime of community leadership and service to others.

Although some aspects of the proposed program will involve others, particularly high school students, the students of Gustavus Adolphus College are the primary beneficiaries of the funded program.  In order to reach as broad an array of students as possible, the program will target specific groups.  The coherence of the proposed program will stem from two sources:  (1) a focus on Gustavus students and (2) an idea of what factors stimulate and deepen a young person’s sense of vocation.  These factors include the following:

The proposed program has three primary categories of activities.  One set of initiatives will encourage reflection -- based on religious and humanistic traditions -- on life as vocation, and the challenge for all students to lead lives of commitment and service.  It will include the following, most of which build upon existing programs: A second set of programs will encourage theological reflection on the meaning of vocation and the importance of leadership positions in the church, both lay and ordained.  It will include the following, either enhancements to existing programs or new efforts: A third set of programs will help faculty and staff explore their own sense of calling and their ability to challenge, guide and support the faith, life and career journeys of their students.  It will include the following: A Center for Vocational Reflection will be created to help coordinate these many existing programs and activities, and to encourage others with the potential to foster an awareness and exploration of vocation.  This Center will work with the wide range of existing offices and programs on campus that could both inform and benefit from the funded initiatives.  A director will provide leadership for the Center and serve as project director of the Lilly Endowment grant program.  Until that position is filled, Bob Weisenfeld will serve as interim director.  Please feel free to contact him for more detailed information about any aspect of the Lilly program (507/933-7049;