College chaplain Laurel Macaulay Jordan ’79 will retire from her position at the end of this June, the college announced on Monday.
Jordan, who goes by “Laurie,” first entered into her current role 22 years ago. She returned to the college after receiving her M.Div. from Notre Dame, and after working in churches in New York State.
Though Jordan has been in her current role for 22 years, and an alum for 39 years, her connection and journey to Middlebury began much earlier.
“Originally from the town of Oneida, N.Y., Jordan was in eighth grade on a family camping trip when she first set eyes on Middlebury College. In a social studies class one year later, she had to select three career paths and choose where she might attend college to pursue those goals. Naturally, she picked Middlebury,” writes the college news room. “Jordan requested a catalog and received a bonus, the college calendar that has adorned her wall ever since.”
Since then, she has left her mark on the college. In her second year as chaplain, Jordan implemented the Religious Life Council, which “brings together the leaders of all student religious groups on campus for shared programming, conversation, and friendship.”
It was Jordan who first proposed the hiring of a rabbi to serve as an associate chaplain at the college in 2001. She also helped champion the hiring of the college’s first Muslim chaplain in 2014.
In 2012, after a two-year effort by Jordan and others, the Dalai Lama visited Middlebury, where he delivered two lectures in Nelson Arena and gathered in Mead Chapel with about 200 members of Vermont’s Tibetan community.
Jordan was also involved in the planning of service trips, including a three-week trip to flood-stricken areas of Mozambique and Zimbabwe to deliver clothing and medical supplies. She also taught a winter-term course entitled Voices of Nonviolence, during which she taught the works of authors like Tolstoy, Gandhi, Ghaffar Khan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., César Chavez and Thich Nhat Hanh.
“Laurie has a unique ability to deeply sense and respond to people’s needs,” Devon Parish ’05 told the college news room. “She knows when something isn’t right, and she listens well and makes space for those around her to open their hearts and confront life’s challenges.”
In their announcement of Jordan’s retirement, the news room collected several quotes from alumni and colleagues.
“My mom and I went to the local Methodist church on Sunday morning. After the service, Laurie scooped us up and took us home for Easter lunch,” said Hallie Gammon ’10. “That experience went a long way toward making my mom comfortable with sending her daughter [from Texas] all the way across the country… The study group Laurie hosted was the first time I felt comfortable asking tough questions about sexuality, sin, and the existence of heaven and hell.”
“Laurie has shaped spiritual and religious life at Middlebury since her appointment in 1996,” said Mark Orten, the director of the Scott Center and dean of spiritual and religious life. “Our community has benefited from her calming presence in times of stress, her rich command of language during grand events such as Commencement and Convocation, and her dedication to supporting others in the quiet of her office.”