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New Vice President for Advancement Excited to be Part of “Distinctive” Seminary

Dennis Trotter, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia’s (LTSP) new Vice President for Advancement, has worked 30 years in higher education. Why come to a seminary at this stage in his career?

“I think the biggest attraction to me is the opportunity to overlay a faith component to my new work,” explained Trotter. He noted that he met President David Lose eight years ago, had been following Lose’s career as Trotter, who was finishing up his PhD work in Southern California, was ready to enter a new career stage.

“I’ve liked President [David] Lose’s perspective on seminary education and the importance of reforming both the church and its leadership,” Trotter explained. “And when I found out there was an opening in the area of advancement at the seminary I contacted him.”

Trotter grew up as part of a community church and later became Lutheran. “I like the aspect of grace as opposed to a prosperity Gospel,” he noted. “And I like the challenge of bringing the idea of grace to our daily work. Grace is freely given. We don’t have to work for it, and so the tension comes in how to make sense of that, how we fulfill our calling and duty in the midst of a free gift.”

Trotter has held posts in enrollment and advancement elsewhere, serving at schools like Pitzer College and Franklin and Marshall. He’s also served for a time as president of Hastings College in Nebraska.

When it comes to talking with others about the opportunity for giving, Trotter said he has found a Henri Nouwen book called A Spirituality of Fundraising inspirational and has used it with previous members of his staff. “Nouwen wrote the book because he once found himself needing to be a fundraiser and was uncomfortable about it. The book talks about the importance of relationship and community when it comes to fundraising. I am a quick learner, and I plan to be a good listener and keen observer.” He sees himself as carrying forth President Lose’s vision for a school that is all at once a strong residential and immersive school and one that also encourages the aspect of distributive learning online to train leadership “no matter where people are located.”

“I want to listen to the story of people’s lives and how this school has affected them,” Trotter said. “We go back to Martin Luther as a Reformer. We are people of the Reformation. We have an opportunity to help seminary education redefine itself and remain relevant into the future.”

Trotter is also pleased to be part of a seminary “distinctive because it is so (culturally and ecumenically) diverse. It reflects the world in which we live, and so we prepare our students to live beyond the boundaries that are often a part of our culture.”

Trotter said he is excited to have the unique opportunity to work at the seminary alongside his spouse, the Rev. Trina Johnsten, who will be serving as Vice President for Formation and Student Vocation at the seminary. She is a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and has served in the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod.

“We are best friends and colleagues,” Trotter explained. “We’ve been married for 17 years. We are both oldest children with strong personalities. We look forward to being part of each other’s world 24/7. Our marriage is a way we manifest ministry, and that is a deep blessing.”

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