Unitarian Universalist and Mills alum Maud Steyaert, will replace long standing and highly respected Rev. Dr. Linda Moody as the Mills College “interim chaplain,” in her position which now falls under the duties of the Office of Student Life instead of the Office of the Provost.
Dean of Students Myrt Whitcomb, Assistant Dean of Students Liza Kuney, and Renee Jadushlever of Library and Academic Computing, along with a panel of hand picked students varied in their religious and political views, decided to hire Steyeart on Tuesday Oct. 10 after a lengthy series of interviews and meetings regarding the matter.
Moody, who accepted a position as provost at Antioch College in Los Angeles, resigned her position as chaplain at Mills during early August, leaving this year’s incoming student body confused and surprised at her sudden absence.
“It seemed her departure was abrupt,” said junior Erin Mandeson, president of last semester’s Jewish Student’s Association. “My first reaction was disappointment that I would never get to take one of Linda Moody women’s studies classes. She strode confidently through campus and she would always stop to talk to me. She had a big presence around here.”
Senior Doreen Anderson said she always felt included in Moody’s benedictions because they didn’t exclusively adhere to Judeo-Christian beliefs.
“She always left space in the chapel for alternative spiritual practices, such as Wicca or Buddhism,” said Anderson. “Sometimes she would e-mail the students information regarding pagan holidays.”
Steyaert, who graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in international studies from the college in 1988, will begin her role as interim chaplain on Oct. 22. Steyaert also studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science and entered the Harvard Divinity School to answer a calling to ministry. She said her decision to pursue a Master’s of Divinity was largely due to the theological and professional role Rev. Dr. Moody provided while she was a student at Mills.
“I know firsthand the diversity of life experiences and spiritual orientations that members of the Mills community bring,” said Steyaert. “I see this interim position as an opportunity to serve Mills, to offer back to the college some of the skills and gifts which Mills
helped me to discover.”
Although Steyaert moved on from Harvard Divinity School several credits short of her Masters of Divinity for reasons of personal health that have since been resolved, she plans on finishing her degree through the School of Theology at Seattle University.
Mills Provost Susan Steele, whose duty it is to replace Moody’s role as both women’s studies and religious studies professor, said the role of chaplain would be better served under the Office of Student Life.
“It was fortuitous that Dr. Moody could serve as both Mills chaplain and women’s studies professor,” said Steele, ” but my job as a provost is to tend to the academic community of Mills. I don’t know anything about hiring a new chaplain.”
Steele said that history Professor Blair Newcomb, although teaching a class subject similar to that of Moody, in no way replaces the loss of her as a professor in the women’s studies dept. Steele explained, however, that the provost’s office needs to examine their budget before they can decide whether hiring another women’s studies professor is their money best spent.