Retirement simply another beginning for Royalton seminary student
Nursing, education and seminary make life an adventure for Kay Campbell
The saying “It’s all Greek to me” has new meaning for Kay Campbell, seminary student. She was executive director of Mid-State Education District for 10 years, before retiring in June and she had purposely waited until then before taking Greek, a required class for her seminary studies.
“A number of people told me it would be hard,” she said. “So I thought, ‘sure it’ll be hard — but how hard can it be?’”
Her studies have turned into a singular focus on surviving Greek — on not getting off track. This year, Campbell is taking only seminary classes, something she does via her computer through the Institute of Lutheran Theology (ILT). In addition to Greek, she is taking pastoral care and history of Christianity up to the Reformation.
“I really like the classes, but Greek is a lot of work; I just have to walk away when I get frustrated,” she said.
Even though she studied German for four years in high school and college, Campbell has found Greek a whole other animal.
Campbell began her adult life with 24 consecutive months of nursing school, graduating with a diploma from St. Luke’s School of Nursing in Fargo.
“After working rotating shifts and too many weekends and holidays, I realized I wanted to do something else,” she said.
She earned a teaching degree while nursing and then taught home economics for four years. After moving and then working in group homes, Campbell decided to go back to school to earn her master’s degree in special education.
“I found while nursing that I had a special affinity for people with disabilities. When we had a special patient on the floor, I would take that patient,” she said.
After a move to Oslo in northwestern Minnesota, Campbell worked on her doctorate, driving 30 miles to Grand Forks for classes at the University of North Dakota.
She then accepted a position as the director of special education for Northwest Regional Interdistrict Council in Newfolden. The move to Little Falls and the position with Mid-State followed.
Starting in the fall of 2006, Campbell took a lay ministry course on tape, a two-year program that included some sessions on-site at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.
“I remember 15 or 16 years ago, the thought was in my mind after finishing my doctorate — when people asked what I was going to be doing next, that I might consider ministry,” said Campbell. “But there was some fear about what that would mean.”
A life of ministry was not a mystery to her, however. Her grandfather was a pastor, and an uncle and a second cousin are also ordained ministers. A first cousin is a lay minister.
Campbell’s father started at seminary but didn’t finish. Years later when Campbell asked him about it, he said that he just didn’t feel called.
After becoming a lay minister Campbell finally stopped to listen closely to the call she had heard. She took her first class through ILT in 2009. “I’m the equivalent of a second-year student,” she said, “but I have to pass Greek.”
“Most people, after having had other careers, wouldn’t consider attending seminary unless they felt called by the Holy Spirit,” said Campbell. “I wanted to go play like other retired people, but I know I have a different call on my life.”
Campbell fields questions from friend about what will follow seminary. Will she preach? Will she have a church?
“That is all up to God,” she said. “It’s a work of God; the Holy Spirit has moved me in this direction.”
Technology has definitely helped Campbell’s learning experience. She uses a hybrid online system with live classes. “People from all over North America are in the program,” she said.
Her instructors have been from Virginia, Michigan and Texas. The Greek instructor is a full-time pastor.
“None of them are lightweights; they have all authored books,” said Campbell.
Classes have an average of six to 12 students. All classes are recorded so they can be picked up and watched later. Some students’ schedules or connectivity problems interfere with a regular class schedule.
“I can’t imagine not doing it live and being able to ask the instructors questions,” Campbell said. “I do exchange e-mails with the instructors a lot. They are very open to listening to — and helping — students.”
“It’s really nice not to have to drive, and to be able to put my resources into class,” she said.
Campbell equates her seminary studies with earning a second doctorate, since she needs another 96 credits to finish.
“My brain has been wired for synthesizing information,” she said. “The capacity to memorize is not like it used to be.”
Being a history buff, Campbell has really enjoyed the history classes. She studied the history of the Reformation and is now taking the history of Christianity.
“It helps me understand the evolution of denominations, especially different Lutheran denominations — why people believe what they believe,” she said.