The Rev. Dr. Deborah A. Block '74
2017 Recipient for P.E. MacAllister Distinguished Alumna Award for Service to Carroll
The Rev. Dr. Deborah Block recalls her years as a student at Carroll as a time when her professors said, "Yes" while others discouraged her pursuit of a non-traditional vocation for women. She enrolled in religious studies and looked toward a life of ministry in a world where she found support at Carroll. "It was in that 'equipping', along with everything I learned in the classroom, that I could continue to see positive, affirming hopefulness," she said in a 2016 interview with the Office of Alumni Engagement. "The message from Carroll was, 'We're here for tomorrow'."
She has been saying, "Yes" to her alma mater ever since those student days. She presently serves as a member on Carroll's Board of Trustees and has willingly given her time and talent as a member of numerous committees and provided her wisdom as keynote speaker for several university events through the years.
Dr. Block graduated from Carroll in 1974 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in religious studies. She was among a small group of women at the time that pursued ordained ministry. She received a master's degree from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 1977 and a doctorate from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago in 1989.
She is the pastor and head of staff at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Milwaukee. Her role at the church, she said, positioned her to be nominated to the Carroll Board of Trustees, a service that the senior pastor of Immanuel Church had traditionally rendered. Her terms on the board include 1998-2007 and 2008 to present. She served as a trustee on the Mission Statement Task Force and was instrumental in helping to re-write Carroll's current mission statement.
Dr. Block said she was proud to step into the role as board member but the experience has become more personal. "It became something that was really future-oriented and positive and affirming of Carroll's foundation in the Presbyterian tradition," she said of joining the board. "We educate the whole person. Part of the whole person is our spirituality and ethics." Not surprisingly, with Block expressing such sentiments, President Doug Hastad asked her to lead a review of spiritual life on campus and recommend ways to deepen spiritual engagement.
That led in 2009 to the creation of a 25-member Spiritual Life Advisory Board. Their work resulted in a resurgence in the ways Carroll's mission embodies service in our communities. Her work continued as head of a committee creating an Ethos statement, or code of ethics, for Carroll. As chair of the committee, which began its work in September 2015, Block navigated the group working towards the creation of core ideals such as respect, trust, and integrity on campus and how we strive to work together. The Carroll University Ethos was officially approved by the Board of Trustees in October 2016. "It's to say what it is we want to aspire to being as a community," she said. "Students learn not just in the classroom, in the laboratory, or from their computers and books. But they learn from what they are experiencing in campus life over four years and that's a big part of the takeaway."
Dr. Block was on the Presidential Search Committee as the university sought a successor for Dr. Hastad's tenure and served on the previous committee that brought Dr. Hastad to Carroll. Her many other contributions on campus include: serving as Director of Counseling Services (1977); teaching a course in women and religion; Founder's Day keynote speaker (2014); Commencement keynote speaker (2014); offering the Baccalaureate sermon (2016); serving on the search committee to fill faculty positions in the Religion and Philosophy department; and serving on the search committee to identify/select Carroll's new chaplain (2016).
Dr. Block is part of a Carroll legacy family. Both of her parents, Al and Carol, graduated from Carroll; and her brother, David, is a 1976 alumnus, and also professor emeritus of environmental science and geography. In 2011, Dr. Block and her brother traveled to Ribe, Kenya, to celebrate the Carroll Water Project and the dedication of a school built in their mother's memory.