North Central College has named a new campus chaplain, the Rev. Eric Doolittle. He will assume the role from the Rev. Dr. Lynn Pries ’67, who retires in June after 20 years of service as campus chaplain at North Central College.
An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church (UMC), Doolittle has served as a pastor in three UMC congregations in Tennessee and as chaplain at Hiwasee College in Madisonville, Tenn. Most recently, he was interim Protestant chaplain at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.
Doolittle’s ministry passion is working with young, college-age adults. As chaplain at Georgetown, he led prayer groups, worship and retreats, promoted interfaith cooperation, and designed programs to promote social justice and advocacy. While a church pastor in Tennessee, he launched new ministries to undergraduate and graduate students at a nearby university and promoted cooperation between his congregation, the university and community.
“The college chaplain’s ministry centers around connections,” says Doolittle. “It’s about connecting individuals to their faith, connecting the college to the community and the world, and binding the college family together in respect and love. I can’t wait to start making those connections with North Central College students, staff, faculty and alumni who already make the school an amazing place.”
Kimberly Sluis, North Central’s vice president for student affairs and dean of students, says, “Rev. Doolittle joins a talented and well-established team in Campus Ministry. I am excited to see what this team will accomplish with the addition of a new perspective, new energy and new gifts. Rev. Doolittle also brings with him talents in music ministry that I think our students will respond to with enthusiasm.”
North Central College President Troy Hammond believes Doolittle will make an impact on the college community. “In addition to the important work of mentoring our students, Rev. Doolittle will be working to strengthen relationships between the College and UMC conferences in Illinois, Wisconsin and throughout the Midwest and with the churches within those conferences,” says Hammond. “Over the years, we’ve welcomed wonderful students through our church relationship and look forward to doing the same for years to come.”
An ordained elder in Tennessee’s Holston Conference of the UMC, Doolittle will serve in extension ministry in the Northern Illinois Conference in coming to Naperville. North Central College is the only United Methodist Church-related college in the Northern Illinois and Wisconsin Conferences.
In welcoming Doolittle to North Central, Northern Illinois Conference Bishop Sally Dyck says, “We give thanks for Rev. Lynn Pries’ 20 years of spiritual leadership as chaplain at North Central College. And we are looking forward to the ways in which Rev. Eric Doolittle will be able to strengthen and build on that foundation while reaching out to college students of all religious backgrounds, in addition to United Methodists. This ministry is vital to helping young people identify their calling in life as faithful Christians in all forms of work and service throughout the world.”
North Central’s first chaplain was appointed in 1955 when the Rev. George St. Angelo, a 1943 alumnus, took charge of the chapel program. He invited engaging speakers, such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who challenged students to act on their Christian beliefs. St. Angelo is remembered for “making religious life among students a big thing.”
The tradition of a strong spiritual life on campus has continued over the decades. While a student at North Central College, the Rev. Dr. Tracy S. Malone was greatly influenced by ministry opportunities on campus. After graduating in 1990, she went on to seminary and served in associate, pastor and senior pastor positions. Today she serves as the Chicago Southern District Superintendent of the UMC Northern Illinois Conference.
Malone says, “Campus ministry provides a unique opportunity for students to be nurtured, transformed and challenged as they explore how faith intersects with life and career. Rev. Eric Doolittle brings a myriad of gifts, ministry experience, and a passion and commitment to supporting students as they discern their vocation and how they can be ‘difference makers’ in the world.”
Doolittle earned his bachelor’s degree in sacred music at Illinois Wesleyan University and a master of divinity degree at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. He will relocate from suburban Baltimore with his wife Ann and their children, Matthew and Sophia, and begin his new assignment July 1.