During the annual reunion of Louisville Seminary alums and the nationally attended Festival of Theology, March 21-24, three graduates of the Seminary were recognized for their service to the Church. Since 1986, Louisville Seminary has presented Distinguished Alum Awards to 67 men and women for their vision, accomplishments, and leadership in their respective callings that have included pastoral, seminary, and denominational leadership, publishing, social and ethical activism, and teaching.
Dr. William Edward Farley (B.D. ’53)
Edward Farley was born and raised in Louisville, Ky. Like his father-in-law, The Rev. G. Dewey Kimbel (LPTS, B.D. ’26), Farley graduated from Centre College (B.A.), in Danville, Ky., and then enrolled at Louisville Seminary, where he was a member of the Seminary’s 100th graduating class in 1953. Unlike Rev. Kimble, however, Farley took a different journey—not through the pastorate. He pursued graduate study in philosophy and theology and earned his Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary in New York and Columbia University and later post-doctoral study abroad. From this journey Farley emerged as a world-recognized, contemporary theologian and educator.
In his earliest years of graduate work, Farley began a career in teaching at Centre College, the University of Louisville, as a graduate assistant at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary, in the fields of philosophy and religion at DePauw University, and as associate professor and professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (1962-1968). He has taught as professor of theology at Vanderbilt University since 1969 and, following retirement in 1997, is Drucilla Moore Buffington Professor Emeritus of the Divinity School at Vanderbilt.
During more than half a decade of research, writing and teaching, Dr. Farley has become one of best known and respected American theologians of our time. He is renowned for his prolific writing in systematic theology and his analysis of theological education. On the latter he has participated nationally in conversations about the state of theological education in the United States, particularly the internal, cultural, and religious challenges that besiege such institutions. His views on this subject have been captured in two books, Theologia: The Fragmentation and Unity of Theological Education (Fortress Press, 1983) and The Fragility of Knowledge: Theological Education in the Church and the University (Fortress Press, 1988).
As a theologian, Farley’s contributions are foundational in the course of study among seminarians and are often part of the permanent libraries of other theologians and pastors. His more recent publications include Good and Evil: Interpreting the Human Condition (Augsburg/Fortress, 1990), Divine Empathy: A Theology of God (Augsburg/Fortress, 1996), Faith and Beauty, A Theological Aesthetic (Ashgate, England, 2001), and Practicing Gospel: Unconventional Thoughts about the Church’s Ministry (Westminster/John Knox, 2003). He continues to write articles and collaborate with others on a variety of topics for the Church.
Among a lifetime of numerous honors, including the Fielding Lewis Walker Scholarship in Systematic Theology from LPTS, Farley was invited by LPTS to give the Caldwell Lectures, in 1989, which he entitled, “The Presbyterian Heritage as Modernism: Reaffirming a Forgotten Past in Hard Times.” In 1991, Vanderbilt awarded him the annual Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research. A prize ordinarily given to a faculty member in one of the pure science fields, Farley is the first winner from the School of Divinity. He received the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in Theology for Divine Empathy, as well as several Lilly Endowment grants and a Lilly Fellowship in Religion.
The Nashville, Tenn., Pittsburgh, Pa., and Vanderbilt communities also recognize Farley as an accomplished musician. Since the 1960s, he has played trumpet and flugel horn in jazz combos such as The Establishment, the John Bell Band, and Falcon Flight. He was a member of the Vanderbilt Symphony Orchestra. He has sung with the Pittsburgh’s Bach Choir and Opera Chorus and the Nashville Theatre. Currently he plays piano as a member of the Monday Night Jazz Band.
Edward is married to Doris Kimbel, and they have three children, Mark, Wendy, and Amy.
The Rev. Joseph L. Hunter (B.D. ’46)
Joseph Hunter grew up on a farm south of Washington, Pa. He remembers attending school in a one-room schoolhouse across the road from his church, Bethel Presbyterian Church. He was very active in the congregation, where the first signs of a ministerial calling became evident. As a youth, he taught Junior High, boys Sunday School and became involved with the Christian Endeavor Society, in which he served
on Gospel Team and preached his first sermon as a teenager.
In 1941, Hunter announced his intentions to follow a call to ministry by enrolling as a pre-ministerial student in Washington and Jefferson College, his father’s alma mater. He majored in Greek and minored in English. He entered Louisville Seminary in 1943 with a special interest in rural church ministry, and immediately he was placed as a student assistant in a yoked parish of three churches near his home in Pennsylvania. During his studies at LPTS, Hunter was selected to teach Beginning New Testament Greek to those who did not take it in college; he served another yoked parish in Indiana and earned the distinction of Best Senior Sermon. After graduation, Hunter was ordained by the Washington, Pa., Presbytery and he married Earlene Meckel, the sister of his seminary roommate, Stanley Meckel (B.D. ‘46).
In 35 years of full time pastoral ministry, Hunter served four pastorates, only one that was not a yoked parish, and helped to establish a chaplain’s ministry with the Presbyterian Association for the Aging. Though his ministry was always within rural communities, each call held its own unique charm.
At Edmonton and Marrowbone, Ky., close to the Tennessee State line, Hunter describes the yoked churches as “a small county seat and a village in the midst of a truly southern community.” His two-church field in Butler County, Pa., knew the hardship of living in a strip coal-mining area, where “church was vital to community life.” West Alexander Presbyterian Church in West Alexander, Pa., a stagecoach stop on National Route 40, near the West Virginia state line, thrived in the midst of Methodists and Campbellites. This church, which celebrated its 200th anniversary in 1990, was one of the oldest congregations along with the United Presbyterian Church nearby—so nearby, that “only a cemetery separated the two buildings.” During Hunter’s five-year ministry at West Alexander in the 1950s, the two Presbyterian churches worked closely sharing resources and pastoral leadership. In 1957, the churches united to become one. The merger was celebrated with a formal service, “in which both congregations walked together beside the cemetery to the United Presbyterian church for combined worship.” Parish Presbyterian Church in West Virginia was Hunter’s first call as pastor of one church, and he served for 13 years.
These four pastorates yield incredible statistics that demonstrate a collective contribution to the wider Church and illustrate the breadth and depth of a sustained pastoral ministry. In 28 years of congregational ministry, Hunter said he was “privileged” to perform 139 baptisms, 23 of whom were adults; 196 funerals and memorial services; and 125 weddings, of which the most memorable was a ninety-six-year-old lady who wanted to be married in the church; and 477 members were received into the fellowship of these congregations.
In 1974, he began a new chapter in his life when he joined the staff of the Presbyterian Association for the Aging, which necessitated a move to serve the residents of Oakmont Presbyterian Home a few miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Before his retirement in 1981, Hunter helped to develop the first ever chaplain’s program at Oakmont, which now includes an Alzheimer’s Unit.
He and Earlene retired where he started in Washington, Pa., where a new ministry as an interim pastor (to six churches) and pulpit supply flourished. Recent health challenges have slowed him down,
but only a little, as he still performs an occasional wedding, baptism, or funeral service, and, no doubt, ministers to the residents of their senior living community.
“I learned long ago that each of us must live his or her life as God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, guides us and as the apostle Paul wrote, ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.’ I am now learning how one living with physical handicaps can be used to share one’s faith in God through the Christ and the Holy Spirit,” Hunter says.
Joseph and Earlene Hunter have one daughter, Sandra, and two sons, David and Donald, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, whose homes stretch from New Jersey to Chicago.
The Rev. Walter C. Sutton (MDiv ’57; ThM ‘63)
Walter (Walt) Sutton’s roots followed the transient life of his father who worked in construction in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Yet, after earning a degree in psychology from Muskingam College (B.A.), Sutton sought to make a career out of his love of writing and telling stories. He landed a job as a United Press correspondent, covering the West Virginia Capitol, Federal Courts, and state Supreme Court in Charleston, W.Va. It was here that he attended First Presbyterian Church, where he met his wife Mary McMillan and was encouraged follow a call to ministry at Louisville Seminary. Sutton was drawn to LPTS by its dual support from both the northern and southern Presbyterian churches. He had always hoped for a reunion of the two branches. But others say he had no other choice since First Presbyterian Church was led by three LPTS alum ministers: The Rev. George H. Vick (B.D. ’36), pastor; Dean Bailey (B.D. ’51; ThM ’57), assistant pastor; and Ralph Kipp (B.D. ’48), Christian education. Interestingly, Sutton’s journalistic experience would become a foreshadowing of his ministerial contributions to the Church, which Sutton describes as, “a call that came together in very exciting ways.”
Following graduation from LPTS in 1957, Sutton was the pastor of three Kentucky congregations: First Presbyterian Church in Eminence, First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethtown, and First Presbyterian Church in Maysville. During 20 years of ministry with these churches, he also ministered through his skills in journalism and communications, teaching part time at the University of Kentucky and Elizabethtown Community College, serving part time as staff associate in communications with the Presbytery of Louisville (now Mid-Kentucky), and directing the newly established public relations office at Louisville Seminary.
In 1980, Sutton became managing editor and briefly served as interim editor and publisher of Presbyterian Survey, the southern Presbyterian church’s magazine that merged with the northern church’s A.D. to become the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Presbyterians Today. Then for ten years, prior to his retirement in 1992, he joined John Knox Press as editorial director and then associate editorial director for general and professional books, when the John Knox and Westminster publishing houses also merged.
In retirement, Sutton has continued his 40-year publishing career and ministry as a writer, editor, and developer of church related publications. For the Presbyterian Church (USA) he has written Church School curriculum material, served as interim coordinator and senior editor for Curriculum Development, edited the annual Bible reading guide, the best selling devotional aid, A Year With the Bible, and in 2004 will leave a 12-year post as editor of the Church Bulletin series with Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.
Sutton has abundant energy, which he has used to write A Little Treasury of Prayers (Geneva Press, 2000), to earn a Certificate in Mediation from Western Kentucky University (1997), and a diploma in management development from Georgia State University (1987). He teaches Sunday school and sings in the choir at Harvey Browne Memorial Presbyterian Church in Louisville, is a board member and construction supervisor for Louisville’s Habitat for Humanity, and has enjoyed membership in the Louisville Dulcimer Society.
Walter has been married 48 years to Edith (Edie) McMillan Sutton. They have two children, Harold and Stephanie, and two grandchildren.
View a list of Distinguished Alums since 1986