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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Otterbein's Chaplain looks back on career

Rev. Monty Bradley, set to retire in June, discusses his roots

Photo: Kristen Davis / Otterbein360

Rev. Monty Bradley has been at Otterbein for 30 years, fulfilling roles as a professor, advisor and chaplain.

Known around campus for his white beard, wool sweaters and always-present pipe, Bradley will officially retire from Otterbein University on June 30, 2013.

Bradley announced his decision to retire last semester on Sept. 25, but decided to finish out the school year.

Bradley delivered his final lecture Monday night as part of the Mortar Board lecture series.

Titled “It’s Been a Good Life,” his lecture included advice for students, a brief summary of his career and a glimpse of Bradley’s life in and out of this quiet, peaceful village.

The crowd of faculty and past and present students was all smiles through nearly the whole hour-long lecture, even during occasional moments of seriousness.

Bradley urged students not to try to be something they are not just because others may expect it of them.

“Even though you know you aren’t a round peg, people are trying to fit in a round hole,” Bradley said.

The reverend, who is ordained in the United Methodist Church, tied this message to his own experience of growing up in a family of gas and oil line workers from W.Va.

“I grew to consider the south as home, much more than Ohio,” Bradley said. “My people were blue-collar workers for the most part.”

Despite his family’s self-proclaimed blue-collar roots, Bradley’s father valued education.

Seeing the younger Bradley’s desire to help people through various experiences, his father decided Bradley needed to attend college.

“When I was 10, I questioned my dad about poverty in the coal-mining areas,” Bradley said. “He said, ‘You get your education, boy, and then you can help people.’”

While at college, Bradley said he loved the educational freedom afforded to him. It wasn’t until finishing his master’s degree in history that he decided he “needed” to go to seminary.

“I knew after my second quarter of grad school that I wasn’t going to go on in history,” he said. “It still wasn’t getting at helping people, and I had to move on to seminary.”

Bradley said that going to seminary was the wisest decision he ever made.

While at seminary, Bradley’s interest in social justice flourished, where he studied under educators who Bradley said were Freedom Riders and other civil rights activists.

Three years after his graduation and ordination in 1980, Bradley began his service at Otterbein College.

While at Otterbein, he has taught several classes in addition to his position as chaplain.

“A university is where I always wanted to be,” Bradley said, in an earlier interview that took place in January 2013. “I set out to do what I wanted to do and I did it. I like the intellectual life, the academic freedom that came with campus ministry.” Bradley shared how he
learned the ropes of what being a chaplain at a university was like.

“It took me about three years to figure out what my job was as chaplain; there wasn’t a handbook,” he said.

“There were little snippets of how to be a chaplain, but in my seminary there weren’t any courses on campus ministry. I feel very fortunate and blessed that I got to do what I set out to do.”

Bradley has encouraged activism and service throughout his thirty years, including working with Habitat for Humanity, Festival of Sharing and the Crop Walk.

With Habitat alone, Bradley has been on over 10 excursions to help communities nationwide.

Regarding the future of religious life at Otterbein, he said he thinks there will be a Muslim Student Association at some time down the road.

He also said that interfaith among religious groups might evolve.

During his lecture, he mentioned several times the ever growing importance of helping people and loving people unconditionally.

“Nowadays, life is set up on conditions, and it is a real shock to run into a person who practices unconditional love,” Bradley said with a rare look of seriousness on his white-bearded face.

“We need authentic human beings who are concerned whether we exist at all.”

Much of Bradley’s view on life seemed to tie back to his family and growing up.

For example, according to Bradley, his father had lived a very tough life, full of illness, hard work and the death of loved ones.

Despite this, just before his father entered a very risky heart operation, his father said, “It’s been a good life.” Bradley compared this to his experiences, both pre-Otterbein and beyond.

“I was lucky. I ended up doing exactly what I wanted to do in life,” said Bradley, who plans to continue volunteering and working with the church after he leaves Otterbein in June.

“After 30 years serving at Otterbein, I can answer, yes. It has been a good life.”

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