$10,000 gift from St. Luke, Devon enables continued growth of Irma and Grover Wright Fund

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Gifts totaling $10,000 to the Grover and Irma Wright Scholarship Fund for African American Lutheran students at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) have been pledged and largely remitted by St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church, Devon, Pennsylvania.

St. Luke Devon GiftThe congregation’s Social Ministry Committee crafted a multi-year partnership agreement to support the fund. Since 2011, St. Luke has given $7,875 to the fund, according to Yvonne Jones, the LTSP Philanthropic Advisor who has related to the congregation. “Beyond that,” Jones noted, “the congregation has been working to build a holistic relationship between St. Luke, LTSP, and others involved with the Grover and Irma Wright Fund.”

Jones explained she met members of the Social Ministry Committee in 2011 while she was completing studies for an MDiv at the seminary and was also in her first year of full-time employment with the school’s Office for Philanthropy. “Pastor Dan Shook, a longtime friend of Irma Wright and her late husband Grover,, recommended that I get in touch with the Rev. Sue Ericsson at St. Luke about supporting the fund because of Pastor Ericsson’s connection with Grover Wright. Sue referred me to Susan Saxer and Thelma Jacks (TJ), who serve on the congregation’s Social Ministry team. We met for breakfast and hit it off right way.

“I shared the story of Grover’s work to recruit exemplary African American leaders to come to seminary, and Irma Wright’s wonderful gift to establish the fund after her husband died,” Jones said. “I asked them if St. Luke could help to support the fund. They went back to their committee and the congregation council and worked out the agreement. It has meant so much!”

Saxer recalls the meeting with Jones and explained, “She is an outstanding representative [of LTSP]. She told us all about her studies and the scholarship fund. After our meeting, we indicated our desire to support the fund with several annual contributions from our budget to enable its growth. We keep in touch with Yvonne and the progress the fund is making. We are thrilled that St. Luke has participated in enabling the fund to reach the initial goals that Yvonne shared with us.”

Pastor Ericsson, lead pastor at St. Luke, explained she first met Grover Wright in 1981 when she was serving an internship at the former Messiah Lutheran Church in Philadelphia. “I don’t remember if Grover talked to all the seminary interns or if we were taken to a meeting where he was speaking,” Ericsson said. “But I remember him as wise, funny, and passionate about the Lutheran Church and the role of African Americans in it. When I was a pastor in Detroit, his name continued to surface in the African American community as a mentor and leader. I crossed paths with Grover a few times over the years during my work in urban ministry. When I came to Philadelphia to serve on synod staff in 1993, I made it a point to talk with Grover and get his read on what was happening in Philadelphia churches. He was as passionate, wise, and committed to Christ, the church, and the ELCA as I had remembered. He was present at so many meetings until his advancing age began to slow him down.

“When I heard about the scholarship from Yvonne, I happily sent the idea on to Susan and TJ, urging them to check it out, and  they did!” Ericsson said. ‘They are the ones who took the ball and ran with it.”

In the photo, from left, Yvonne Jones, Susan Saxer, Irma Wright, and Thelma Jacks celebrate the commitment of St. Luke, Devon, to the Grover and Irma Wright Scholarship Fund. The photo was taken during the African Descent Lutheran Association’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemoration Service at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Northeast Philadelphia. (Photo by the Rev. Jesse Brown)

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