By Daniel Jones, Contributing Writer
On Wednesday, Oct. 14, College Chaplain and Associate Dean of Religious & Spiritual Life Kristin Largen announced she would be stepping down from her position after serving the Gettysburg community for 14 years, both on the faculty at Gettysburg and as a theology teacher at the United Lutheran Seminary. The announcement came shortly after Largen’s alma mater, The Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, appointed her to the presidency. In light of Largen’s departure from Gettysburg, President of the Interfaith Student Council Daniel Jones offers reflections on her impact on the College:
Chaplain Largen is Gettysburg College’s preeminent leader in interfaith education and peace-building. She has committed herself to work with the Center for Religious & Spiritual Life by headlining projects such as the college’s first ever Interfaith Thanksgiving Service of Gratitude, interfaith services of peace and solidarity, and numerous others.
Chaplain Largen’s career at the College has been defined by her dedication and passion for encouraging productive interfaith dialogue both inside and outside the classroom. While at Gettysburg, Largen has been the leading force for many interfaith programs, demonstrations, panels, advocacies, and more.
Largen works to consistently put together student-led programs that promote a campus of interfaith diversity and appreciation. For example, last year, she put together multiple interfaith services for peace and remembrance on the anniversary of the Christ Church shootings and others, where campus religious leaders all presented short prayers to the campus. She has also worked with the Student Interfaith Council to build the college’s first ever Interfaith Student Fellowship, a group dedicated to bringing more interfaith education and representation throughout campus and beyond.
In everything she does, Chaplain Largen works diligently toward a more understanding and educated campus of interfaith peace work and education through programs where she always encourages students and faculty of diverse religious upbringings and backgrounds to share prayers, readings, and experiences with those around them. Chaplain Kristin Largen’s dedication to peace through kindness and compassion is both radical and infinite. She has an unparalleled presence, and she is a true proponent for peace, and equity, especially in the way of interfaith and intercultural dialogue and discourse.
Chaplain Largen has a rare and unique gift that allows her to “overwhelm the world,” as personal paragon and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu would say. Through her work, which stems from an unadulterated core of good altruism, Chaplain Largen shows a never ending dedication to helping those around her, including those she has never even met. Whether it is fully recognized or not, Chaplain Largen has continuously dedicated her entire being to the betterment of the greater Gettysburg College community, proving herself to be a true model of interfaith scholarship and advocacy.
In her excerpt from the Wartburg Theological Seminary Search Committee, Dr. René Johnson, Assistant Professor of Religion at Finlandia University wrote, “Kristin Johnston Largen is an expansive thinker and attentive listener. To me, these are the qualities of a great leader. Her enthusiasm for gospel-driven community is apparent and contagious. She will serve with her whole self for the whole community.” As their next president, Chaplain Largen will likely continue to serve with her entire self. Whether it is by way of her steadfast roots in the Lutheran Faith, or by way of her passion for productive interfaith discourse and peace education, Chaplain Largen’s drive is “contagious,” to say the very least. She promotes interfaith education by always ensuring that there are events going on throughout campus in which religious organizations have the opportunity to talk and learn together. She promotes future interfaith dialogue, and a thriving religious community.
In Jones’s Words
The loss of a truly treasured staff member is never an easy thing to cope with, especially when they are such crucial members of the community. In saying that, however, I could not think of someone more deserving of this opportunity than Dr. Largen, so let me first say a congratulations—not just from myself, but on behalf of all students whose lives and hearts she has touched during her time here.
Looking back to when I was a first-year at Gettysburg two years and some months ago, I remember meeting Chaplain Largen very early on. To be quite honest, after first meeting her, I could not believe the pure and lighthearted, yet still intense level of energy that she put into a simple introductory conversation. When we met for the second time, I remember quite clearly, that she did not remember my name, and yet she was able to know that I was “that one student” who was really interested in interfaith discourse/dialogue, and even what specifically had gotten me into that interest in the first place. After that second conversation, she asked me to come to one of the Interfaith Student Council meetings because I might be interested. Fast forward one year, and I was the president of the club, helping her to put together the first interfaith student fellowship the college has ever had, the largest interfaith “Thanksgiving” dinner and service the college has ever had, and again many different vigils/services for peace and remembrance, as well. She has inspired me more than anyone I know, and she is the primary reason I continue to work to be an outspoken leader and influence of interfaith education at Gettysburg College.
In this time of pandemic and social isolation, the news of Chaplain Largen’s departure shocked me. While I was and am incredibly excited for her, my always ‘realist’ mind sometimes focuses on the loss that Gettysburg College is to undergo this spring; the loss of pastor, professor, scholar, mentor, associate dean, seminary administrator, editor, friend, and more. Long after she is settled into her newfound presidential position, however, Dr. Largen’s work at Gettysburg will continue to shape the community for decades to come. Every student’s experience at Gettysburg College has been touched by the groundbreaking peace education and interfaith work achieved by Dr. Largen, whether they know it or not. She is one of the biggest proponents for social justice, and one of the kindest people that the Gettysburg College community has ever known, and in that, we, as a community, say thank you and good luck to Dr. Kristin Largen—not only in this adventure out west, but in all of her many future endeavors.