A farewell to Jan Boden
Jan Boden has worn a lot of hats at LSTC, but she will tell you her primary hat has been storyteller: “My favorite part of the job was to listen to and tell the stories.”
A steady staff presence for nearly 25 years, she retired May 1. She told stories of students and alumni, faculty and staff, supporters and friends, using a number of platforms. Perhaps most recognizable were her stories in 50 issues of this magazine and its little online sister, the e.pistle. But she also told stories with her camera. She attended chapel faithfully, rarely without the camera slung over her shoulder.
Boden also told LSTC’s stories by producing material for both admissions (prospective students) and advancement (donors), and on the website she led the effort to redesign in 2016, on social media, and in the eight catalogs she produced.
How it began
Boden joined the LSTC community in 1997 as assistant to the president, ajob she held for seven years. Coming to LSTC, a place she said she could never have imagined working, is “evidence of the Holy Spirit,” she said.
She was working at Ridge Lutheran Church in Chicago when her friend Dorothy Dominiak, then administrative assistant in admissions, told her about the opening.
“First she tried to recruit me as a student,” Boden said, laughing and recalling that at the time she’d had hopes of a career in Chicago’s environmental community.She has a BA in English from North Central College in Naperville, Ill., and worked at Chicago Recycling Coalition and Ridge Lutheran Church while earning a master’s in general studies from Roosevelt University in Chicago. She also worked in book publishing, including Loyola University Press.
Turns out Boden was familiar with LSTC, having attended a leadership conference here and audited a Monday evening Epic of Creation course. Ministry in Context students had also served at her congregation.
Life at LSTC
Though she didn’t pursue a career in it, Boden’s passion for the environment didn’t fade. She was pleased to discover the LSTC community is steeped in environmental awareness.
In July 2004 Boden was appointed director of communications and marketing, and through the years had a number of people join her on that small staff. In January 2020 she stepped back from that role and became the public relations manager.
She’s worked with five admissions directors since 2004 (seven since 1997) and three vice presidents for advancement (five since 1997).
“My approach was collaborative, assuming that colleagues in charge of admissions and fundraising knew what messages would attract students or donors and it was our job to help deliver the message in a compelling way,” she said.
Accomplishments & joys
Boden considers LSTC’s mission statement one of her biggest accomplishments. With a colleague, they guided the process for a statement that has stood the test of time.
“That’s why I can recite it in my sleep,” she quipped. She also attended more than 40 board of directors meetings, helped plan 24 commencement ceremonies, and was part of more strategic planning committees than she can count. She spearheaded the rebranding prior to the website redesign.
One of Boden’s greatest joys was being part of a small group that worked with the stained-glass artists on the iconic Augustana Chapel and photographing the Manz Organ installation.
Even this proud introvert identifies her true joy as the people, of course. “I’m grateful to have had the privilege of knowing and working with so many devoted and faithful people.
“…I’ll miss what I’ve been missing over the two years of pandemic restrictions and working from home: casual, crucial, impromptu conversations on campus. For me, that was heart work and ear-to-the ground community building. That’s how I got to know students and colleagues and felt connected to them.
“I’ve also missed the music we make together in worship—choral, instrumental, congregational—the harmonies and beauty of breathing together as we listen and sing.”
Ironically, one of Boden’s favorite tasks was taking colleagues who were retiring out for a final interview over lunch. They’d recount their path to and reminisce about their own years at LSTC.
Always working for inclusion
Certainly, significant changes have occurred over 25 years. For Boden, two of the most significant were welcoming LGBTQIA students and partners (since 2009) and the efforts to transform LSTC into an antiracism institution. She has served on the Antiracism Transformation Team, and intends to continue doing so until she’s fulfilled that commitment.
“The school needs to be able to deal with its own discomfort in becoming an antiracist institution,” she said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. But we need to own the process. Everyone in the school needs to be part of it… The ELCA has stated its own commitment and LSTC could be a leader in this area. It takes dedication, time, humility and being able to say ‘I was wrong about that.’”
As she moves into retirement— with time for family, friends, gardening and wherever else the spirit calls her—Boden marvels at the front row seat she’s had to watch how the seminary experience transforms students. Those who are attracted to and formed by LSTC are “students with a heart for social justice, equity and inclusion who are reshaped in this place, which starts out so unfamiliar to them. They take risks to get out of a comfortable place so they can be better leaders in the church they are aware is changing. They want to be part of that.”
Between the international students—many of them pastors, teachers and bishops in their own countries—and the master’s students who return from internships as improved preachers and leaders who are “excited and ready to go” she’s grateful for them all.
“It was a profound joy to be part of the formation of such fine pastors and scholars. I’ve seen so many wonderful students come through these doors. That’s what made the work important and gratifying.”
Original article published in the Summer 2022 Epistle Magazine; written by Julie Sevig