Methodist Theological School in Ohio has presented Judy Alston, Barbara Fant and Colleen Ogle with the John and Ruth Mount Alumni Awards for Distinguished Service, the school’s highest honor for graduates. MTSO President Jay Rundell presented the awards Oct. 26 during an Alumni Day luncheon in the recipients’ honor.
“At commencement, I tend to send people forth by imploring them to do something that surprises us,” Rundell said. “I’m always happy to know when that has happened. Today we have three people who have gone in very different directions.”
Alston, who earned a Master of Divinity degree from MTSO in 2016, is chair of the Department of Educational Leadership at Miami University and the associate pastor of Woodland Christian Church in Columbus.
“When she came here, she already had a Ph.D. from Penn State and was already leading a doctoral program at Ashland University,” Rundell said of Alston. Addressing her, he said, “I’m so very grateful that you stepped aside from that a day or two a week to do another degree with us.”
Said Alston, “I’ve been teaching for 36 years – 27 years at the university level. And there’s not a day that I step in a classroom when I am teaching that God is not present and standing all around me as I’m speaking the words that God gives me to give to the people.”
“This place really is special to me,” she said. “It bookended my education and was what I needed when God said, ‘It’s your time.’”
Fant is a renowned poet, voice-over talent, host, and corporate and nonprofit storyteller. She graduated from MTSO with a Master of Theological Studies degree in 2012.
Rundell told Fant, “You were a big presence when you were here, including as a student trustee. I remember one of the times you did the opening prayer, and it was poetry. It was wonderful.”
“You wrote once, ‘My art is and has always been ministry for me.’ That’s moving. Ministry for some of us has felt so contained. But you help us understand how broad it can be.”
Fant said that as a young poet, “I felt too spiritual sometimes for the open mic and too edgy for the church.”
“But MTSO embraced me,” she said. “And they not only embraced me – they affirmed me and they affirmed the call on my life. I came here originally to be a prison chaplain. I didn’t end up becoming a chaplain; God would have me take a different path. But I’m still in the work of prison abolition, I’m still in the work of freedom, and I’m still in the work of healing.”
Ogle earned two degrees from MTSO: a Master of Theological Studies in 1985 and a Master of Divinity in 1987. She serves as lead pastor at Bexley United Methodist Church, where she was appointed in 2021 after serving as associate pastor of King Avenue UMC.
“I want to say thank you to you for something you may not know we realize here,” Rundell told Ogle. “During the time you were at King Avenue, nine students matriculated at MTSO. What really inspires me about that is in that congregation, you were asking the questions that led to people wanting to blend their fledgling sense of call with intellectual curiosity that they certainly heard in your, in your preaching.”
Ogle drew laughs reminiscing about her early days at MTSO: “They kept using the term ‘exegesis.’ And I thought I was hearing, ‘Exit Jesus.’ I’m like, ‘I did not come to seminary to exit Jesus.’”
Praising MTSO for the founding of Seminary Hill Farm, she said, “They made a statement to everyone who comes here that the church needs to look at the future and not only at the past. And that statement, just in and of itself, for every student who comes here, frees people up to work in their own context and see what the future looks like in that place.”
The Mount Alumni Awards were created in 1990 to recognize graduates of MTSO who have achieved vocational distinction. The award program was created by the late John Mount, a founding MTSO Board of Trustees member, and his late wife, Ruth.
Methodist Theological School in Ohio provides theological education and leadership in pursuit of a just, sustainable and generative world. In addition to the Master of Divinity degree, the school offers master’s degrees in public theology, social justice and theological studies, along with a Doctor of Ministry degree.
Danny Russell, communications director