In his remarks to the 2018 graduating class of Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, Rev. Paul F. McCleary ('56) advised graduates to "take the opportunity to walk through any door that opens to you." McCleary, this year's recipient of the Distinguished Alum Award, said he lived that advice and had a fulfilling career that spanned more than 60 years.
Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary is one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries supported by the Ministerial Education Fund apportionment of the United Methodist Church.
Originally, McCleary said, he expected to become a local pastor in the Central Illinois Conference, where he was already serving two churches while attending Garrett, but fate intervened.
When he heard that a bishop serving in South America was going to speak to Garrett students, he decided to attend the lecture. Bishop Sante Barbieri spoke powerfully, telling the students about the poverty and dire needs of the indigenous people in Bolivia.
After the lecture, McCleary went home to his wife, Rachel, and said to her, "That is the kind of leader I could follow anywhere." When she replied, "I'll go with you," their future was decided.
The couple moved to Bolivia after McCleary graduated and served as Methodist missionaries from 1957 to 1968.
In 1972, he became assistant general secretary for Latin America of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. He then served as executive director of Church World Service in New York City from 1975 to 1984 and as associate general secretary of the General Council of Ministries of The United Methodist Church from 1984 to 1987, where he helped define the future direction of The United Methodist Church.
Starting in the late 1980's, McCleary built cooperative relations with nongovernmental organizations in countries around the world to meet human needs in emergency humanitarian situations, refugee resettlement, and long term-development. In 1987, he became the executive vice president of Save the Children in Westport, Connecticut. He also served as president of Christian Children's Fund from 1988 to 1995.
As founder and president for For Children, Inc. – a position he held since 1995 until recently – McCleary implemented the National Program Action goals set out at the United Nations' World Summit for Children and the Convention on the Rights of Children.
McCleary attributes his success to his education at Garrett. "The education I received at Garrett gave me a sound foundation for whatever was to come," he said. "When I say education, I mean that in the broadest sense – not just books and curriculum. It was the experience with the professors and the community and with peers and other students in the dormitories and the dining room that collectively gave me the feeling that I could take on the paths that came, regardless of what they might be."
AWARE magazine, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Ministerial Education Fund is at the heart of preparing people for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The 13 United Methodist seminaries help students to discover their calling through the challenging curriculum. The fund enables the church to increase financial support for recruiting and educating ordained and diaconal ministers and to equip annual conferences to meet increased demands. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Ministerial Education Fund apportionment at 100 percent.