Maryville College receives nearly $2 million from Lilly Endowment

Maryville College receives nearly $2 million from Lilly Endowment

January 10, 2002

Award will fund the College's 'Initiative on Vocation'

Maryville College is one of 28 colleges and universities in the country to receive a $1 million-plus grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to create or enhance programs that enable young people to draw upon the resources of religious wisdom as they think through their vocational choices and to consider the ministry as a profession they might pursue.

Maryville received $1,999,906 for its implementation grant proposal written by Dr. Bill Meyer, Maryville College associate professor of religion and philosophy, entitled "The Maryville College Initiative on Vocation." The grant will support the College's Initiative on Vocation from January 2002 through August 2006.

"Since Sept. 11, young Americans have begun to look to their faith and to their futures with a greater seriousness and sense of purpose," Meyer said. "The Maryville College Initiative on Vocation will give students an integrated four-year opportunity to explore and consider their future lives and work in relation to a sense of calling and wider purpose - and how that purpose relates to their religious faith or existential convictions.

"The Initiative will help students discern whether their calling is into areas such as business, education, medicine, law or ministry by enabling them to examine their own interests and talents, as well as to listen and talk to people experienced in and dedicated to various callings and professions," he added.

The Initiative includes the establishment of a Center for Calling and Career and integrates into the Maryville experience and curriculum the concept of "calling" or vocation through advisor/mentor retreats, vocation dinners, summer internships, expanded service and diagnostic inventories.

Encouragement for students to consider ordained ministry and/or serious lay-leadership in the church is outlined in the Initiative. Funding will be available for Isaac Anderson Fellowships for Church Leadership, which are premier scholarships offered to attract and educate outstanding students who show interest in and promise for leadership in the church. With Endowment funding, students interested in church leadership will have learning experiences and interactive opportunities through a minister-in-residence program, retreats for vocational and spiritual discernment, summer church internships and seminary visits.

The Initiative will also make possible summer retreats for church youths and workshops for pastors that will focus on issues of leadership, vocation and ministry.

In the grant proposal, the College's House in the Woods was earmarked as a location for retreats, dinners and workshops. With outdated plumbing and inadequate wiring, the house has seen limited use in the last 10 years. Approximately 12 percent of the total award will go to renovate the House in the Woods, which was built in 1917 to serve as the campus minister's residence.

"I am deeply indebted to Dr. Bill Meyer for taking on the huge task of planning for this initiative on vocation, and to all those who participated in the 'Lilly Summit' that was part of that planning," said Dr. Gerald W. Gibson, president of Maryville College. "I have great confidence that their work, and the investment of Lilly Endowment, will prove to be nothing short of transformational for the Maryville College campus."

Craig Dykstra, vice president for religion at the Indianapolis-based foundation said: "These exciting grants directly address one of the major themes of the Endowment's grantmaking in religion, and that is to help identify, recruit, call and nurture into Christian ministry a new generation of talented pastors."

Totaling $55.3 million, the grants awarded by the Endowment will fund programs affecting students, faculty and staff at all the schools. Schools have planned activities such as student retreats, enhancing worship on campus, changing career-planning services, curricular changes, lecture series and conferences, special courses, semesters of study in seminaries and divinity schools, internships in congregations and faith-based organizations and mentoring projects.

"It is clear that these schools thought through their missions and strengths and that they were very intentional in devising these proposals," Dykstra said. "The caliber of proposals was outstanding, and it is obvious that all these schools thought seriously and productively about how to encourage young people to consider questions of faith and commitment as they choose their careers."

Founded in 1937, the Endowment is an Indianapolis-based private family foundation that follows its founders' wishes by supporting the causes of religion, community development and education.

Programs by Year

Year 1: Spring 2002-Fall 2002

  • Summer 02
    • Faculty Exploration of Vocation
  • Fall 02
    • Advisor/Mentor Retreats
    • Faculty Workshops (diagnostic testing & advising/mentoring)
    • Diagnostic Testing for Freshmen
    • Parent Workshop
    • Advocates for Ministry Dinner
    • Anderson Fellowships

Year 2: Spring 2003-Fall 2003

  • Spring 03
    • Ministers in Residence
    • Community Service and Professional Meetings
    • Vocation Dinner
  • Summer 03
    • Lilly Summer Internships
    • Summer Church Internships
    • Summer Retreats for Church Youth
  • Fall 03
    • Retreat for Vocational and Spiritual Discernment (students)
    • Theological Education Day

Year 3: Spring 2004-Fall 2004

  • Spring 2004
    • Seminary and Divinity School Visit
    • Pastor Workshop
    • Retreat for Vocational and Spiritual Discernment (alumni)


  • Diagnostic Testing for Freshmen - We believe that it is essential to start equipping students for a process of vocational exploration right away at the beginning of their freshman year. Yet, the concept of vocation entails not only a sense of calling and responsibility to contribute to the divine and common good, it also requires discernment of one's own particular interests, gifts, and talents. With this in mind, we will require all freshmen to take two or three selected diagnostic inventories (assessing personal and vocational interests, leadership and personal qualities, etc.) during the middle part of their first year before choosing their major in the spring.
  • Advisor/Mentor Retreats - The mentoring and advising relationship is perhaps the most natural and effective context in which to engage students in deep and ongoing reflection about the connection between their faith, their values, and their future lives and work. Building on this important relationship, the Initiative will sponsor a series of annual afternoon or evening retreats at the House in the Woods for faculty advisors and their own group of advisees and "mentorees" (approximately 5-25 students each).
  • Faculty Workshops on Diagnostic Inventory Interpretation and Advising and Mentoring - Proper training and preparation are essential for the success of any endeavor. This is especially true when it comes to the important and delicate task of informing and influencing the lives of young people as they seek to identify their path in life. To ensure this proper training and preparation, we will offer a series of workshops for faculty to deepen their attention to questions of faith and vocation in the curriculum, to assist them in their role as advisors and mentors, and to equip them to properly understand and interpret the results of the diagnostic inventories.
  • Workshop for Parents - There is potentially no greater ally for or barrier to engaging a student in serious reflection about vocation and the common good than the student's own parents. In order to educate parents about the meaning of vocation, about why we think it is important, about the journey of exploration that we will attempt to lead their sons and daughters on, and about the diagnostic tools that we will be using as part of that journey, we will offer a series of parent workshops during Family Week in the fall semester.
  • Isaac Anderson Fellowships for Church Leadership - In the spirit of our founder, Isaac Anderson, who started Maryville College in 1819 as a result of a lack of church leaders in the Southwest Territory, the Initiative will offer two premier fellowships of $16,500 each per year to attract and educated outstanding students who show interest in and promise for leadership in the church. To apply, students must demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities and have maintained at least a 3.5 GPA in high school and scored at least a 1200 on the SAT or a 27 on the ACT.
  • Advocates for Ministry Dinners - One of the most effective ways of exposing young people to the concept of calling is through the power of example and through the personal stories of people's own lives. We believe this is especially true in the case of ministry, since most young people have relatively little one-on-one interaction with pastors and scare knowledge of what they actually do. Hence, the Initiative will bring to campus dynamic and quality ministers and create formal and informal opportunities in which students can hear about their lives and work. One way we will do this is through a series of annual Advocates for Ministry Dinners. These dinners, held during the fall semester, will provide approximately 20 faculty-recommended students per year with the opportunity to spend an evening having dinner with two outstanding ministers who can vividly and engagingly describe the rewards and realities of a life devoted to ministry.
  • Ministers in Residence Program - Following up on the Advocates for Ministry Dinner each fall, the Initiative will bring dynamic and quality ministers to campus each spring for a more sustained set of conversations with students. Selected clergy (2 per year) will be invited to come to campus for a week or more each year of their continuing education, sabbatical, or direct leave time to engage in a series of arranged and informal conversations with approximated 10-20 students. Such interaction will give students a more in-depth exposure to the concrete calling of the ministry.
  • Summer Church Internships - Not only is it imperative to offer students reflective opportunities to contemplate a possible call to ordained or lay ministry, it is also important to provide them with practical opportunities to see and experience ministry up-close. Hence, the Initiative will offer 2 full-time summer internships in a parish or other appropriate ministry setting for students who are not Anderson Fellows.
  • Lilly Summer Internships - In the process of discerning one's calling, there is ultimately no substitute for hands-on experience. By doing, one begins to discover what activities or forms of work are or are not sources of "deep gladness." Furthermore, by actively reflecting on that doing, one begins to clarify not only whether a particular type of work is a genuine source of fulfillment, but also whether and how that work serves the real needs of the world. Given the importance of both doing and reflecting as part of the process of vocational discernment, the Initiative will offer up to ten internships each summer enabling Maryville students to get first-hand experience in quality professional, non-profit, or corporate work settings.
  • Student Retreat for Vocational and Spiritual Discernment - Following up on the Advocate Dinners and Ministers in Residence Program, the Initiative will offer interested students a guided and reflective opportunity to explore and contemplate a possible call to ordained or lay ministry. This annual day-long retreat at the House in the Woods will be devoted to contemplation and discernment of a possible call to ministry and will involve prayer, discussion, and spiritual exercises of various sorts.
  • Community Service and Professional Meetings - We believe that the act of performing community service or the experience of attending a professional meeting or conference in one's field of interest can often provide a revelatory moment in one's journey of vocational discernment. Therefore, the Initiative will fund approximately 15 students per year to participate in a service project or professional meeting or conference related to their area of interest.
  • Vocation Dinner - The power of story is well attested. This is particularly true when it comes to students listening to the life stories of older adults and how their various choices and attitudes have shaped who they are and what they do. Thus, the Initiative will host two Vocation Dinners per year (one per semester) in which a feature speaker tells students the particular story of his or her own life and sense of calling.
  • Theological Education Day - In order to elevate the visibility of theological and seminary education in general and in order to facilitate the exploration of interested students in particular, the Initiative will host an annual Theological Education Day. A group of seminaries and divinity schools representing the PCUSA and other denominations will be invited to send admissions representatives to the college on a common day to set up displays and meet with interested students. In the evening, we will host a dinner for approximately 30 interested students, faculty, and seminary representatives.
  • Summer Retreats for Church Youth - In order to introduce teens to the notion of vocation as it relates to the life of Christian faith and, in particular, to introduce them to a possible call to ministry, the Initiative will host an annual summer youth retreat devoted to "Faith, Leadership, and Vocation." The week-long retreat will be held at the House in the Woods and will involve approximately 25 youth plus their youth or senior pastors.
  • Seminary and Divinity School Visits - Following up on Theological Education Day and other exploratory opportunities, the Initiative will sponsor and annual trip for interested students to visit selected seminaries and divinity schools. Such an opportunity will give them valuable first-hand knowledge of potential schools as they contemplate and/or plan their post-college theological studies. These trips, led by the Campus Minister, will take approximately 5 interested students each year to a selected group of seminaries and divinity schools.
  • Workshop for Pastors - In order to further educate pastors on issues of faith, leadership and vocation so that they can more effectively nurture a sense of vocation among their own congregants, the Initiative will sponsor an annual one-day workshop. This annual workshop will be held at the House in the Woods and will involve approximately 20 pastors per year.
  • Alumni Retreat for Vocational and Spiritual Discernment - Like the annual day-retreat for Maryville College students, a similar retreat will be held for recent Maryville alumni and young adults from local churches. This annual day-long retreat will be held at the House in the Woods and will be devoted to assisting recent alumni and young adults to reflect on and contemplate their vocational callings, especially as they relate to a possible call to ordained or lay ministry.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is 1,197.