Barry McNamara  |   Published November 17, 2022

‘This Is a Dream Come True for Me’

Rev. John Huxtable ’04 excited to begin his time as Monmouth’s chaplain in January.

REV. DR. JOHN HUXTABLE: The 2004 Monmouth graduate is coming home to serve as the chaplain at the... REV. DR. JOHN HUXTABLE: The 2004 Monmouth graduate is coming home to serve as the chaplain at the school that changed his life.
MONMOUTH, Ill.
– The Rev. Dr. John Huxtable once nearly left Monmouth College without completing his degree.

Now, the College’s new chaplain says “it’s a dream come true” to be back.

A 2004 Monmouth graduate who has served the First Christian Church in Virden, Illinois, for 18 years, Huxtable will return to his alma mater the first week of January to begin his new role. Not counting the recent one-year stint of interim chaplain Brandon Ouellette ’14, Huxtable will be the first Monmouth alum to have the full-time chaplain role since the late Paul McClanahan, who retired in 1979.

“It is absolutely an honor,” said Huxtable.

One of the chaplains who preceded Huxtable was the Rev. Dr. Kathleen Fannin, who made a profound impact on the non-traditional college student. A graduate of Rockridge High School in Taylor Ridge, Illinois, Huxtable waited six years before pursuing higher education. During that gap, he served in the Navy and held a variety of odd jobs.

“She’s one of the most important people in my life,” said Huxtable. “Her campus ministry was my inspiration for looking into campus ministry. Her theological construct gave me the foundation to develop my own construct. Her theological understanding of God helped me to understand God in this amazing new light.”

After graduating from Monmouth, Huxtable studied at the Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis. He earned a master of divinity degree there in 2011 and a doctor of ministry degree in 2021. Earlier this year, he received Virden’s Citizen of the Year award.


Humble beginnings

When Huxtable enrolled at Monmouth in fall 1999 – where his new bride, Amanda, was employed at Hewes Library – understanding God was not his highest academic priority. Rather, he said, “I wanted to be the next voice of the Green Bay Packers. I would’ve settled for the Cubs or the Blackhawks.”

Soon, Huxtable found himself lagging behind in his classes.

“They could’ve easily let me go. I was OK with that, but because they weren’t, my life changed. It was that personal touch that you get at Monmouth. Now, I can look at students who might be having trouble, and I can honestly say, ‘I’ve been where you’re at. Let’s work through this together.’” John Huxtable


“I almost failed out of Monmouth,” he said. “(Faculty member) Carolyn Suda called me at home. She told me, ‘Don’t miss any more classes.’ She and (faculty colleague) Colleen Hazen (who was also the wife of a local Presbyterian minister at the time, the Rev. Jerry Hazen) took hours of their time to bring me along academically. By the time I was a senior, I won an award as the outstanding student in the religious studies department.”

Huxtable said their contributions to his success story were vital.

“They could’ve easily let me go,” he said. “I was OK with that, but because they weren’t, my life changed. It was that personal touch that you get at Monmouth. Now, I can look at students who might be having trouble, and I can honestly say, ‘I’ve been where you’re at. Let’s work through this together.’”


Teachable moments

Huxtable was also influenced by the late David Suda, the husband of Carolyn and a department colleague of Fannin.

“The best lesson he taught me was in his office,” said Huxtable, who regarded the distinguished Suda as one of the most brilliant people he’d ever met. “Here I am, this guy who almost failed out of Monmouth, and I’m talking to him about wanting a doctorate. We were looking at the diplomas on his wall, and when he got to his Ph.D., he said, ‘What I learned from that one is that I didn’t know anything. I had him way up here on a pedestal, and he knew where I put him. That was his way of saying to me, ‘You’ve always got to keep learning, always keep growing.’ Every time I start to think I’ve got it all figured out, I remember that, and I say, ‘Nope, we’ve still got a lot to learn.’”

Huxtable said another teachable moment came when he and his young daughter encountered three homeless men on a visit from Virden to nearby Springfield. It was a hot day, and the Huxtables were out bringing water to those in need, fulfilling a passion of the pastor to reach out to people who are “trashed and excluded – they’re part of God’s creation, too. I’m tired of bullying and how people are treating each other. I’m sick and tired of the negativity and the hate.”

Huxtable wound up having an hour-and-a-half conversation with the men.

“They thanked me and said, ‘No one ever does this. They might bring us something, but they quickly move on,’” said Huxtable. “I said, ‘No, thank you. I learned more from you about ministry today than you learned from me.’”

“I’m not exaggerating. This is a dream come true for me. I’ve always thought that this would be my dream job because of how much Monmouth College has meant to me.” John Huxtable


Huxtable said the experience was a real-life example of “the priesthood of all believers,” which means that all believers in Christ share in his priestly status.

“They taught me a perspective I hadn’t seen,” he said. “Their stories are just as valuable as anyone else’s.”

Huxtable will now share stories of the Bible, interspersed with his own personal experiences, with a new congregation, the Monmouth College community, and he’ll listen to their stories, too. For that, he is very grateful.

“I’m not exaggerating,” he said. “This is a dream come true for me. I’ve always thought that this would be my dream job because of how much Monmouth College has meant to me.”

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