Reverend Catharine Grier Carlson of the Claremont University Consortium is retiring after 28 years of serving the spiritual, intellectual, and emotional needs of the Claremont Colleges as Protestant Chaplain. Reverend Grier Carlson graduated from Pomona College and is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).
Reverend Grier Carlson said that “it’s just time” to retire, and that she will be “taking a true sabbatical, a rest of mind and body, and then [she’ll] see what emerges as time goes by.” She will also continue to work on her PhD dissertation.
The Chaplaincy program experienced tremendous growth during Reverend Carlson’s time as Chaplain, and was able to reach out and support many more groups of students of all backgrounds and faiths.
“It’s been a beautiful thing to be able to both help and learn from,” Reverend Grier Carlson said. “I just think that it’s important for people to experience the Office of the Chaplains… It’s one of the few places on campus that true diversity and community come together, so people of all different backgrounds and all different belief systems, and even people of… no religious faith, come together because it’s a place where people are thinking about serving others and being involved in the world.”
She also added that she has loved overseeing and nurturing the community service work they did with students.
“She is a wonderful person and I think she has a real gift for helping give students spiritual insight…the depth of her wisdom is really amazing,” said Chase Laurelle Knowles, a graduate student at Claremont Graduate University’s the School of Religion.
Many other students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members expressed similar sentiments of love, admiration, and veneration for Reverend Grier Carlson’s character and work.
Tammi Schneider, Dean of the School of Religion at CGU, commented, “she’s wonderful and loving, and she’s also really fun… she has this sort of aura about her… the thing is there’s this just quality about her which is just very real.”
“She’s a person of tremendous heart, generosity, kindness, and welcoming,” added Steve Smith, a retired professor of Philosophy at CMC.
Rabbi Daveen Litwin commented that “her work as Chaplain exemplified commitment to student development, social justice, inter-faith cooperation, and wise counsel and compassion for all.”
Reverend Grier Carlson said, “The reason I was able to do the work that I did and the reason people could say the very kind things they did yesterday is because a lot of people helped me do my job and helped me learn to do things in a good and powerful way.”
“I certainly am going to miss the students whom I have loved deeply for so many years,” she added.
The reverend and her husband will be staying in Claremont, and plan to still be involved with her alma mater, Pomona College, and with the other colleges as well.
“I’ll be around and we’ll always be looking for ways to support the life of the individual Claremont Colleges and the students the best I can,” she said.
“[The Office of the Chaplains] is an essential and important aspect of the Claremont College Community, and there’s nothing more than I want it to thrive and to see the wonderful support that it deserves,” she added.
According to Rabbi Litwin, a search committee comprised of students, faculty, and staff from all seven colleges has already been appointed to hire a new Protestant Chaplain.
“Resumes are being reviewed… and the process is beginning to move forward,” she said.
“I will always be a friend and supporter of the chaplaincy,” said Reverend Grier Carlson, but she will certainly be missed. As Knowles put it: “someone will have big shoes to fill.”