Barry McNamara  |   Published March 31, 2015

$200,000 gift

Rinehart ’57 fully endows Lux Center’s Presbyterian Leadership Program
Monmouth College alumna Marlyn Whitsitt Rinehart knew that she wanted to give back to her alma mater, but she wasn’t quite sure about the best way to do it. She ultimately decided to place her money where her faith was – in a relatively new spiritual life initiative.
After initially considering funding a scholarship, the 1957 graduate has made a $200,000 gift to create the Marlyn Whitsitt Rinehart Presbyterian Leadership Program Fund, which will directly support the Lux Center for Church and Religious Leadership, co-founded by the college’s chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Teri Ott, and her husband, the Rev. Dr. Dan Ott, assistant professor of religious studies.
A distinctive program developed by Monmouth College to nurture and equip students to be servant leaders, the Lux Center prepares them through internships, ministry experiences, service opportunities, educational trips and retreats.
“Marlyn’s gift will fully endow the Presbyterian Leadership Program, within the Lux Center,” said Teri Ott, who derived the name of the ambitious spiritual life initiative from the motto “Sit Lux,” which is inscribed over the Dahl Chapel stage. Translated from Latin, it means “let there be light.”
“After meeting with Teri Ott, I was impressed with how motivated she was to carry out her ideas that Monmouth should have more of an identity with its roots,” said Rinehart, who attended regular chapel and Vespers services as a Monmouth student, adding “I always thought they were worthwhile and a good way for the campus to come together.”
When the college established the Lux Center in 2013, Rinehart provided an initial gift of $50,000.
“Marlyn has always understood what we were trying to do with the Lux Center and how it could be of benefit not only to students involved in religious life, but also to the whole campus and the community,” said Ott, who noted that Rinehart has attended many Lux Center events, including interfaith leader Eboo Patel’s visit to campus.
Growing up, Rinehart was familiar with Monmouth because of its proximity to her hometown of Preemption and because her father had briefly attended before the Great Depression changed his plans. Her sister, Patricia Whitsitt Overbeck ’54, made the short trek south to Monmouth in 1950, and Rinehart followed three years later, studying English and Latin.
Following graduation, she attended the University of Illinois, where she earned a master’s degree in English. Subsequently, she taught high school English in Hinsdale. She then returned to Champaign-Urbana to live after marrying Kenneth Rinehart, a professor of organic chemistry at the U of I. They lived there together with their three sons until his death in 2005. Rinehart still resides in Urbana and continues to be an involved member of McKinley Memorial Presbyterian Church and Foundation on campus, which the Rineharts joined in 1962 soon after their marriage.
“Marlyn also thought enough of our recent interfaith immersion trip to Chicago to share the idea of it and the book we used for the trip with her church in Champaign,” added Ott. “Her interest and engagement with our program gives me so much energy, and her support means the world to me.”
“What Teri is doing is a way to really strengthen the college,” concluded Rinehart. “She’s very dynamic and can have so much influence. I’m excited about the thought of how her programming will foster diversity on campus.”
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