Donald F. Beisswenger ’52

2002 Distinguished Citizen Award

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The ministry of the Rev. Donald Beisswenger has taken place in the pulpit, in the halls of academia, and with the poor in factories and shelters. He earned his divinity degree at Yale where he met his wife Joyce, and for seven years he pastored churches. In 1962 Beisswenger moved to Chicago, where using the worker-priest model, he worked on assembly lines and developed a business/industrial ministry. There, as he describes it, "I put my shoulder to the plow of overcoming racism and economic injustice," including traveling south to register black voters. The Beisswengers’ six children joined in the family mission of caring for eight foster children. Sons Thomas and Philip later attended Macalester.

In 1968 Beisswenger joined the faculty of Vanderbilt’s Divinity School and became a professor and director of field education, a program that places students in parish settings and social service agencies, adding spiritual and social sensitivity to their intellectual pursuits. A respected authority on the subject, Beisswenger has co-edited five volumes of Theological Field Education: Key Resources, and has been active with the Association of Theological Field Education, including a term as president. Believing in the necessity of a strong interior life, Donald and Joyce Beisswenger founded the Penuel Ridge Contemplative Retreat Center in Tennessee. Donald never ceases to be involved with the poor and marginalized, whether as a Witness to Peace in Central America, or with the homeless in Atlanta or Nashville.

As classmate Robert Ringold says: "He has lived the life that Macalester and his heart invited him to live. He has been on the cutting edge of peace and justice issues and has done concrete work to enhance the lives of our most disadvantaged people."