Meet Rev. Dr. Margaret Zee Jones
What do you do to continue growing after a successful 30-year career in academic medicine?
For Rev. Dr. Margaret Zee Jones, the answer was clear-you pursue your dream of going to seminary!
Dr. Jones, trained as a neuropathologist, had taught nearly 5,000 medical students, had published approximately 100 peer reviewed articles, and had received numerous awards over the years, including college and state-level teaching awards, a Weil Award for the best paper in experimental neuropathology, and Michigan State University's Distinguished Faculty Award. She and her husband, Jack, (a geriatrician) had also raised three children, and been active in their church and community.
While Margaret regarded her work in medicine as a calling, she also experienced another calling over the years. "For many years I wanted to spend a year in seminary for my own spiritual growth," she says. While on sabbatical in Australia in 1997, she realized that, at age 62, it was time to act upon this longing, and work toward becoming a retired minister, like Jack's and her most valued role models.
She came home from her sabbatical, sent away for some seminary catalogs, and promptly immersed herself in her work. Some time later she received a note from Garrett-Evangelical telling her she had missed the application deadline, but could still get in if her application was received within ten days. That gave her the impetus she needed to move forward. She cut back her work at Michigan State to half time, signed up for a full load at Garrett-Evangelical, became a candidate for ordination as an Elder, and began commuting weekly between East Lansing, Michigan and Evanston, Illinois.
"I told myself I was intending to spend just a year at seminary," she notes with amusement, "but I found the coursework so exciting and dramatic that I had to stay on." The transitions from faculty member to student and from a mission in medicine to ministry were challenging, but Margaret had a superb mentor (the Rev. Deb Johnson, G-ETS '75), supportive family, church friends, and District Committee, and found the seminary community-faculty, staff, and students-to be incredibly helpful and hospitable. "Academic excellence was important to me, and I really appreciated the excellent faculty," she states. Margaret graduated from Garrett-Evangelical with her MDiv degree in 2001 at age 65. In the process she collected another award-the Outstanding Student Award in Theology and Interpretation, awarded by Garrett-Evangelical faculty.
"I had a great experience at seminary, and when time came for an appointment it was interesting how doors opened. The Holy Spirit seemed very much in evidence." Margaret didn't know it at the time, but her field education experience at Garrett-Evangelical (as chaplain intern at the Presbyterian Homes and Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Hospital) helped prepare her for her appointment as a hospice chaplain.
Arduous work continued with more CPE at Duke University Medical Center, ordination as an Elder and board certification as chaplain in 2005. Mandatory retirement from the West Michigan Conference in 2006 didn't disrupt hospice chaplaincy.
In 2007, living her dream as one of the retired ministers she always admired, Margaret completed her fifth year as Chaplain and Bereavement Coordinator for Visiting Nurse Services of Michigan Hospice, in Lansing, Michigan. "I believe in a merciful and loving God who suffers and rejoices with us through the trials, traumas, and joys of our challenging, transient lives on earth. One way this happens is, incarnationally, through us as God's hands, minds, strength, and hearts in this world. The intrinsically incarnational nature of hospice ministry excites me."
Reflecting on her journey, Margaret comments, "I feel blessed to have followed my dream. To minister from both sides of the bed, so to speak, has been a wonderful experience." Then she makes a confession: "If I were younger I probably would have gone on for my doctorate in theology. But the practice of ministry as chaplain was my call."
So Margaret created the Margaret Zee Jones Endowed PhD Scholarship at the seminary instead. "If I'm not pursuing a degree myself, I can vicariously experience others getting degrees and hearing about their journeys," she states. "Because academic excellence is so important to me, part of my rationale for this scholarship is to support excellence in theological education and help ensure that the seminary is always training future outstanding professors."
Her endowed scholarship is already helping a student each year, and through thoughtful estate planning it will someday be one of Garrett-Evangelical's leadership scholarships.
"People tell me what I've done with my life is an inspiration to them," Margaret says with some surprise in her voice. Indeed, her life has been an inspiration to many, and her scholarship will be an inspiration to doctoral students for generations to come. Garrett-Evangelical is blessed that Margaret followed her dream.
If you share Margaret's commitment to help train future leaders for our churches, seminaries, and communities, we invite your support. For further information, visit our website, PlannedGiving.Garrett.edu, or contact David Heetland at 847.866.3970. One-time gifts, pledges over a five-year period, and planned gift commitments are all welcome.