By Amar Kapadia
For many years, there has been a professor at Rider University who has not only taught and guided her students, but has also served as the university’s chaplain and continues to be active when most of her contemporaries would be enjoying retirement.
Rev. Nancy H. Schluter, who also holds a doctorate, teaches Race, Class, and Gender, Issues in Multicultural Studies, and now a course on world religions. In her capacity as an ordained reverend, she ran the university’s chapel for 25 years and is also the recipient of the 2001 prestigious Nancy Gray award as well. In addition, Schluter has organized trips to Jamaica and is also involved with Midnight Run, a program which helps the homeless in New York City.
Schluter can be described as an average-sized woman who is energetic for a woman in her early eighties. She grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., which she describes as having a lot of snow. Later, she went to Smith College (an all women’s school) in Massachusetts, but had to leave her senior year because of illness. During those years after leaving Smith College, she got married, had six children and become a stay at home mom. After going back to work part-time for a non-profit government agency, Schluter was able to obtain her undergraduate degree from Smith College, using a long distance process she describes as “difficult.”
She later obtained her master’s degree in theology at Princeton Theological Seminary so she could “be at a church and do some of the more specific sacred type things.”
“I had been chaplain for a dozen years at a community college, which I loved, and then they asked me if I would start here at Rider University as a chaplain because the Protestant Chaplain said it was such a mess,” she said.
The Catholic and Jewish ministries were strong, she said, but the Protestant Chaplaincy had just fallen by the wayside. However, after being a chaplain for both campuses, she decided to leave the other campus and focus solely on Rider.
“I came to Rider full time, said I would never be involved with two campuses again and immediately we got Westminster campus,” she said.
Again Schluter was on the run between two campuses, since Rider’s main campus in Lawrenceville and its Westminster campus in Princeton are two very “different” locales.
Though Schluter is now retired as Rider’s Protestant Chaplain, she continues to teach, possibly now more than before, which she enjoys. She has 17 grandchildren (“Not many people have that!”), and a 2-year-old rescue dog named Clyde.
Colleagues describe her as a very caring person.
“Nancy is the ultimate caring person and would go way above the call of duty in terms of dealing with students,” said Karen Crowell of the Department of Continuing Studies.
Schluter would meet with students from the Protestant student group that would meet late at night and would also meet with homeless people as well as participate in the Midnight Run in New York City, Crowell said. She also met with students who were having personal problems.
“I know so often she met with students who were troubled, students who got into crisis situations, I think even on this campus,” Crowell said, also mentioning that Schluter would meet with students after a crisis, such as after September 11th, when several of Rider’s alumni died. She would also counsel students who were having personal problems and provide them with a place to stay, oftentimes in her own home.
“I can’t just think over the years the myriad of times that she was here not only when people sort of expected her as the chaplain to be here but way beyond — her time seem to have no bounds and her ability to give had no bounds,” Crowell said.
Schluter would agree that she makes time for students who are desperately in need, but the need doesn’t necessarily have to be of a spiritual nature.
“I’ve had a faculty person come — this was the week before Christmas holiday break — who was very suicidal. It’s a time when suicides rise and so people would seek us out,” Schluter said.
Dr. Don Brown, a longtime friend and colleague who also works at Rider, said that Schluter is “one of the few folks I know who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk.” Her work on issues of diversity, he continued, is reflected in her personal life with her 17 grandchildren.
Schluter also has a love for nature. According to Brown, “one of the things Nancy does is she values nature completely. Every now and then to get away from all the nonsense that makes up what we call Rider University and civilization, I knew that Nancy will spend a weekend or a few days up in the Adirondacks.”
Dr. Bosah Ebo, a professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism, has also known Schluter for many years. He describes her as “a wonderful person, good chaplain, a good minister.”
Schluter doesn’t have any plans to slow down. She said that she’ll keep working as long as she’s able and healthy. Brown doesn’t think she’ll truly retire anytime soon.
“We had a retirement dinner for Nancy two years ago and you’ve seen her around campus,” he said. “Nancy will always work. Now where and how she does it, I don’t know.”