New Chaplain, Bob Whittet, Ready to Go the Distance

Little did Gordon undergraduate Bob Whittet ’78 know when he sat in Prince Chapel pews for services that one day, he’d be serving his alma mater as chaplain. “I would have lost my house on a bet if someone had said that back when I was a student,” says Whittet.

What young Whittet did know at that time was that he loved working with students and helping them to connect with each other. Upon graduating, he went on to earn a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and work as an associate pastor of a church in Maryland. Eventually, he returned to the North Shore after receiving an offer to pastor large church in Rye, NH, close to where his wife, Jean Carpenter Whittet ’81, grew up. There at Bethany Church, he led the youth ministry and Christian education division for 12 years.

His career in youth ministry helped him to see that young Christians needed more opportunities to learn about leadership and realize the impact they can have on others, so he launched The Center for Student Leadership, a nonprofit that would provide leadership conferences, trips and team-building experiences for youth living in New Hampshire and Maine.

Now 21 years later, Whittet has served on Gordon’s faculty and staff as a professor of Christian ministries, director of church relations and interim chaplain. After the search committee reviewed the applications of over 200 chaplain candidates from around the globe, Whittet’s among them, the committee realized that the person they needed was already here. In April, President Lindsay announced that the search was over, and that Bob Whittet had been selected as Gordon’s next chaplain.

Although Whittet had years of familiarity with the school and a strong rapport with students, he and the search committee wanted to make sure he was the right person for the position. “I didn’t want them to them to hire me because I was convenient,” says Whittet. “I wanted them to hire me because they thought I was doing a great job.” When the global search reached its end, Whittet emerged as the obvious choice for Gordon’s future.

“The search committee, which included staff, faculty, administrators and student representatives, unanimously selected Bob for a combination of reasons,” says Will Hagen ‘15, deputy chief of staff, who spearheaded the hiring process. “We were looking for a candidate who had pastoral sensitivity, relevant ministry experience, the ability to serve well amidst Gordon’s increasingly diverse student body and proven ability as a community relations builder. . . Bob was the clear standout when all of these areas (and several more) were considered.”

Whittet’s warmth and attention to building community comes to Gordon at a vital moment when the College’s students, faculty and staff are now scattered across the world because of COVID-19. Whittet’s goal, for this season of pandemic and also for the upcoming semesters, is for the Chapel team meet students where they are.

“I don’t want us to be ever in a situation where we just are saying, ‘Hey, we’re here when you need us. Come see us,” says Whittet. “I have a remarkably talented staff and I want us to be able to go out and be a blessing to the campus.”

Right now, Whittet and the Chapel staff are connecting individually with nearly 100 students each week to meet them where they’re at—sharing devotional reflections every Monday morning, creating new episodes of the Contemplative Tuesday podcast every Tuesday, live streaming a Chapel service every Wednesday and praying through all of the prayer requests that the Gordon community submits online.

Article by Veronica Andreades ’20, English language and literature