As an undergraduate at then-Findlay College, Chaplain (Brigadier General) Kenneth “Ed” Brandt ‘81 remembers sitting under a tree on campus and attempting to have a big conversation that neither he nor the friends with whom he was sitting were sure of how to handle. “It was one of those conversations about God,” he said. “I was sitting with some international friends, and remember the ‘My God is a little bigger than what you think’ discussion passing between us. None of us were too sure how to handle conflict quite yet.” It was a moment of growth that has obviously stuck with Brandt.
It goes without much debate that UF students, with different levels of degree, will grow from their freshman year to the time of their graduation. How they are prepared to take that growth out into the world after they’ve completed their time on campus is something that UF takes very seriously. According to Brandt, his time at Findlay got him ready to merge into a world outside of college that is filled with many different personalities and preferences. As a Chief Chaplain for the Army National Guard, he said, he’s been many places throughout the world, and has needed the “wider view” that Findlay College provided for him so many years ago–a view that University of Findlay deems equally as important now. “All of the world religion courses I took with [Dr. Raeburn Glenn] Wallen back then prepared me, to this day, to engage with Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, and many other folks I’ve encountered in my travels as Chaplain. Findlay broadened my understanding of what the world is,” he said.
Coming from Lancaster county, Pennsylvania in the mid and late-70s, Brandt didn’t know much in the way of diversity when he arrived on UF’s campus. Lancaster was more conservative back then, and coming from there to a college campus, even one that isn’t overly large like Findlay’s, Brandt explained, was jarring. “It’s almost like ‘we have arrived in the big city of Findlay,’” he said. “And I was also the first one of five to go to college. My parents didn’t go, so it was all a pretty big deal.”
Being raised in the Churches of God, Brandt said his pastor had a connection with the University and its campus. The pastor was traveling out for a meeting and took Brandt along to see what it was like. He dropped Brandt off on campus to check it out, and, as Brandt recalled, he liked it almost immediately. “I knew I was going to be away from home for a long time, and to have a college that was church-related was a comfort to me and my parents,” he said. “I felt the certain call to become a pastor when I was twelve and my grandfather died. I found refuge from mourning in the church, so having it as a part of college was a huge plus.”
There were many good experiences for Brandt at Findlay, as he was able to feel so comfortable early on. There were mixers and events, and he already knew some fellow students from church camps he had attended previously. He participated in rush week and became a member of the TKE fraternity, but the one jewel, he said, for him and other “small town” students, was the thriving international population that the University enjoys. He made a friend in Sadaki Yamasaki, a young man from Japan, with whom Brandt still regularly keeps in touch. “He came home with me for Thanksgiving break and Christmas,” Brandt said. “He was my little brother in the fraternity. He moved back to Japan after graduation, but has been a great friend for all this time.”
Brandt was told that if he wanted to be a pastor in the Churches of God, he needed to go to Winebrenner Theological Seminary upon graduation, and since he knew that was what he wanted to do, he did just that. “It was not easy,” he remembered. “The entire time I was taking courses at Winebrenner, I drove bus for Van Buren schools, was an aid in Dr. Wallen’s office, did tours in admission, and was a student pastor in a small Church of God in Hamler, Ohio. It was like bubble gum or paper clips to pay the bills, but it was great.”
Brandt then got accepted to Princeton Seminary in New Jersey, graduated, and went to his first church in Newport, Pennsylvania. Sometime during his second year at the church in Newport, he was told that the Pennsylvania National Guard needed chaplains, and he has been proudly involved with that part of his life ever since.
For Brandt, he said, it all comes back to his time as an Oiler, and that’s why he’ll be back on October 16th to present at Lifelong Learning Connections at UF. “I appreciate [Vice President for University Advancement] Marcia Latta, [Lifelong Learning organizer] Kay Hoane, and [Assistant Director of Admissions] Dee Dee Spraw reconnecting me,” Brandt said. “It’s nice to be in a position in life to be able to give back. I’ve had lots of colleges around me, but I went to Findlay. It’s the college that prepared me.”
Brandt said that he wants students and participants in UF events alike to have the life skills needed to lead a meaningful life and productive career. “As an alumnus coming back, for me, it’s about making sure we have the best prepared people to participate as citizens in society and become leaders in communities to truly make a difference.”