Elizabeth Brunton first staff recipient of Class of 2015 Award of Appreciation
Elizabeth Brunton, a recent MDiv graduate of the seminary who serves as the school’s Director of Financial Aid, was chosen as the first recipient of the Class of 2015 class gift. The modest grant was presented during an April chapel worship.
Explaining the purpose of the unusual gift, senior class president Mark David Johnson wrote these words to the seminary’s entire student body in February:
“In academic institutions, a significant number of people work behind the scenes. Unfortunately, sometimes their work goes unrecognized — even though they often have a very formative impact on the students. The LTSP Class of 2015 wishes to give back to the supportive staff of the seminary. In place of a traditional gift, this year’s senior class would like to announce the Class of 2015 Award! We are creating a fund, which will provide a modest award to one outstanding staff member each year for 10 years. We hope to reward a staff person who has gone above and beyond for the benefit of the students. Our goal of $3,000 cannot be met without the support of current students and alumni. Please help us reward those who help the LTSP community. “
Funds toward the $3,000 goal have been raised through a donation web site and sale of LTSP t shirts. Brunton was chosen from a list of names nominated for the prize this year.
In receiving the grant award, Brunton said, “I am deeply honored by being chosen for this inaugural award. I want to say first that this award is as much my colleagues’ as it is mine. I could not do the work I do without their incredible contributions to their respective areas. Thank you so much for creating this award. It means so much!
“This class means a lot to me in that you are the first class I actually had a hand in from the beginning of your admissions process to now. I am so incredibly proud of the future leaders you have become. When I came back to my alma mater to ply the trade (financial aid) I knew so well, it truly felt like the calling that had been in mind for me. Doing this work and helping you all make your way through ‘relatively unscathed’ is incredibly gratifying, and I am honored to have the opportunity to do it. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart, for this, and for all the wonderful good I know you will do in the world as you leave.”
Elizabeth “Liz” Brunton, a 2006 graduate of LTSP and recipient of an MDiv, grew up in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and was baptized and confirmed at Glenside United Church of Christ. After graduating in 1980 from Abington High School, Liz earned a BA in English from Beaver College (now Arcadia University) in 1984.
She embarked on a career in banking, discovering an aptitude for numbers “I didn’t know I had” and discovered a joy of working with the public. “Every day was different, and I got to interact with new people every day,” Brunton related. She progressed in the bank setting, “but as the environment moved from a service to a sales culture I found myself becoming unhappy and decided to start a new chapter.”
She began working at Eastern University in the Bursar’s Office, guiding adult learners in their degree completion program and Fast Track MBA through financing their education. “Working with the older population in a uniquely structured program taught me more than any two- to four-year school education could have,” she recalled. She says being in an academic setting “fed my soul. I even had the opportunity to begin graduate study in Clinical Counseling.”
Next, she received a call to work for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as an auditor for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), the state grant and Federal Student Loan guaranty agency. Through this work she met financial aid directors from the Southeastern Pennsylvania region, including Louis Bugno of LTSP. She gained deeper knowledge of financial aid regulations and many other aspects of higher education.
“It was a great eight years during which I was able to attend LTSP part time, fulfilling a life-long call,” she said. It took her five-plus years to earn her MDiv, studying evenings and during the summer. “I serve mostly in lay ministry for the United Church of Christ, but do not rule out ordination if that should come,” she said. “The bottom line is, working behind the scenes in financial aid did not satisfy my professional wishes. I missed the students!”
For a time she worked at Delaware County Community College, then received a call from Bugno (now retired), landing her back at LTSP. “It was at this last landing pad that I found my true call in professional vocation,” she noted. “The marriage of my skill set, my love of working with the public, and my deep appreciation for and identification WITH the student body at LTSP fulfills my sense of call in my soul. There is so much romance in the process of answering God’s call and entering seminary. It feels right for me to be able to sit with students and talk about very ‘real world’ issues, navigate the needs and worries, and walk with them as they fulfill this call in their lives.
“I feel very blessed to be able to call LTSP not just my employer,” Brunton said, “but also my home and my calling.”