Five named 2021 LSTC Distinguished Alumni

August 5, 2021

The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) has named five 2021 Distinguished Alumni. They will receive their awards Oct. 14, during LSTC’s Homecoming celebration. Through their varied ministries they have been witnesses to the good news of Jesus Christ in the public sphere. The presentation will be featured via Zoom and livestreamed on LSTC’s Facebook at 6 p.m. CST. If mid-October COVID safety protocols allow, local alumni, friends and the campus community are invited to LSTC to experience the event together.

2021 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients 

The Rev. Kara Baylor (2000, MDiv) will receive the Witness to the World Award. Baylor has served as campus pastor at Carthage College, Kenosha, Wis., since 2014. She also leads the Center for Faith and Spirituality there, drawing on her more than 20 years of experience in youth ministry. She develops spiritual programs for campus ministry and assists with crisis intervention and grief support. Social justice has always been part of her ministry while serving congregations in Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. Baylor claimed her public voice in a new way when she started her blog, Pissed Off Pastor – Righteous Anger Pushing for Reformation, in June 2020. She speaks her truth as a person of color she “believes in calling what is evil – evil, and calling what is good – good (theology of the cross). The evil of slavery and dehumanization of black and brown people is a deep wound in America.” 

The Rev. Ronald Glusenkamp (Christ Seminary-Seminex, 1980, MDiv), who recently celebrated 40 years of ordained ministry, will receive the Called to Lead Award. He has faithfully served successful, healthy congregations in Wichita, Kan., Kansas City, Mo., St. Louis, Mo., and Denver, Colo. with growing ministries and outreach. He has served the greater church with positions at the Board of Pensions in Minneapolis and at the ELCA Churchwide Office in Chicago. Under his leadership as director, The Campaign for the ELCA: Always Being Made New, focused on congregations, hunger and poverty, global church, and leadership, exceeded its campaign goal of $198 million by more than $50 million. Glusenkamp is an outstanding communicator of the gospel and is a frequent guest preacher and speaker at synod assemblies and other gatherings. He excels at connecting the national church to individual congregations.

The Rev. Dr. David L. Hedlin (1978, MDiv) will receive the Excellence in Parish Ministry Award. As pastor of Peace Lutheran Church, New Lenox, Ill., Hedlin has ministered to children and youth in the congregation and in the surrounding community. Following the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, he worked with schools to bring the asset building program, Teach Everyone that Assets Matter (TEAM), to the community. In 2019 he received the New Lenox Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year award for his work through the parish and in the high school district. In 2013 Hedlin and members of the congregation published a kids coloring book, Questions Kids Ask about God, based on questions from children at Peace Lutheran. Proceeds from the sale of the book support two organizations that help children: Lutheran World Relief and Feed My Starving Children.

The Rev. John Kotovsky (1998, MDiv) will receive the Specialized Ministry Award. Kotovsky served as chief mission officer for Lutheran Senior Services (LSS), St. Louis, Mo., until his retirement in June 2021. He focused on the faith-inspired and Christian core values of LSS through the pastoral care team and the Christ Care Fund. He also built relationships with partner churches and other organizations. He previously served as chief executive officer of LSS from Sept. 2007 through June 2020. He has served as pastor of administration and Christian education for Community Church of Joy and chief financial officer of their pre-school, The Joy Company, Phoenix, Ariz. Prior to attending LSTC, Kotovsky had a career in real estate development and management and in finance. He has shared his gifts for servant leadership through various professional and ministry boards.

The Rev. Dr. Gary M. Simpson (Christ Seminary-Seminex, 1976, MDiv; 1983, ThD) will receive the Faithful Servant Award. Simpson is professor emeritus of systematic theology at Luther Seminary. He served on the faculty of Luther Seminary from 1990 until his retirement in 2020. He has also taught for the Lay School of Ministry in the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin since 1993 teaching more than 500 participants over the decades. He is a widely published and active scholar whose most recent research and writing is in the areas of Lutheran confessional theology, congregational mission, the doctrine of the trinity and the theology of the cross. He is on the editorial board of dialog: A Journal of Theology. Prior to joining the Luther Seminary faculty, Simpson was a pastor for 14 years, serving congregations in California, Missouri and Oregon.


Jessica Houston

Alumni Service and Events Manager


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