|With this issue, In Trust inaugurates an occasional series of profiles of seminary trustees. Contributing editor Melinda R. Heppe spoke to Anne van den Berg to find out how she became a trustee at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York.
Occupation: Stay-at-home mom since 1989, after three years practicing law
Family: Husband Egerton, children Sophia, 5; Karl, 6; Olivia, 11; King, 12; David, 15; and Michael, 17
Faith journey: "I was born Orthodox, but more or less fell away during college. I met my husband when I was a junior -- he was Episcopalian. We agreed to belong to the same church and began church shopping.
"The only Orthodox church in Durham, North Carolina, was Greek, which was strange to him, although he followed along on the English side of the page. We both felt something missing in every other church, though. And once the strangeness wore off for him, he decided to join the Orthodox church. While he was in the process of becoming Orthodox (which involves learning a lot), I was so embarrassed that I didn't know anything. So I learned with him."
Path to board involvement: "It's the power of the ask. When we lived in Dallas in the mid '80s, we went to church every week and left right away. But then a woman asked, 'Why not stay for coffee hour?' That, of course, opened the door to more involvement.
"While we were there, a member of the parish had a get-together and introduced us to the seminary's development director. My husband and I were very impressed.
"We moved to Florida in '89. Development officer Father Anthony Scott called to say he was in town and he'd like to meet us. He talked about the seminary press, which was publishing books to help make theology more accessible to lay people. We were very excited and wanted to help immediately.
"The board was going through a board development process. They needed to expand their geographic representation as well as their (almost) exclusively male membership. Father Scott was very candid with me about wanting someone from the South and wanting a woman on the board. I thought that was pretty funny; I wasn't at all offended.
"So in the early '90s, I visited the seminary for the first time for my first board meeting. I was so impressed with the school -- so much work in so little space! And I was impressed with the board -- how involved everyone was, how lively the interaction was. I've served ever since -- there are no term limits -- on committees including trusteeship, academic affairs, statutes, and advancement."
Committees and other boards: At St. Vladimir's, she has been on the trusteeship and academic affairs committees and has lately taken up a new responsibility. "I have just recently begun serving on the advancement committee, largely because I am co-chair of our current capital campaign for $20 million."
In 2005 she joined the board of In Trust Inc., but she also contributes to education closer to home. "I serve on the board of a local prep school, and although I faithfully attend meetings, I don't make a difference there the way I do at St. Vladimir's. Why? A lot of it has to do with issues of governance."
Most proud of: Starting a summer internship for St. Vladimir's students. "It may have been as early as my second board meeting. I was talking to seminarians from the South and asked, 'What are you doing this summer?'"
Surprised that none were heading for internships, she put one together at her parish. "It took about two weeks and not much time or money." Others followed, and a few years later the idea was presented at the church's national meeting. At that meeting the church endorsed supporting this program through donations and making it more widely available.
What she would like to change about her board: "We have a lot of written information for new board members, but we don't formally assign more experienced members to newer ones. It would be good to hook people up with someone who could whisper in their ear, 'That's what's going on here,' and help them through the layers of meaning, someone who can fill them in."