Rolland and Leverne Pfile honored
On October 7, 2012, at Downey Avenue Christian Church in Indianapolis, Angela Pfile and Dean Kris Culp, joined with Senior Minister Sue Shadburne Call and the congregation to honor Rolland and Leverne Pfile. The recognition had been set in motion a year before. Angela Pfile and Doug Job, who had met at the Disciples Divinity House when they were both Scholars and married in the Chapel of the Holy Grail, decided to establish a fund in her parents’ names at the Disciples Divinity House. (Mr. Job, who is starting a new congregation in Athens, Georgia, Evergreen Christian Church, was not able to join the October celebration.)
Leverne Barlow and Rolland Pfile likewise met at the University of Chicago Divinity School when they were both graduate students there. Rolland, who earned his B.D. in 1964, was a Disciples Divinity House Scholar; Leverne was not—at that time, women were not admitted to DDH or eligible for its scholarships. Throughout his ministry and during an era of significant social change in church and society, Rolland G. Pfile provided prophetic leadership and critical support for other prophets. After serving congregations in Pennsylvania, he was called to be Executive Secretary of the Department of Church in Society of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), where he served from 1974-91. Under his leadership and with a remarkable staff, Church in Society helped Disciples to address racial and economic justice, peace, refugee resettlement, divestment in South Africa, and other issues. Later, Mr. Pfile held several interim ministries. From 1993-95, he was the convener of DDH’s centennial celebration and campaign committee.
Leverne B. Pfile was elected to the DDH Board of Trustees in the mid-1970s—about the time that women became eligible to be Disciples House Scholars. For over 20 years, until 1999, she gave crucial leadership including as Vice President and on two dean search committees. She helped to shape both what the Board did and how it did its work. Women who were Scholars during those years remember her presence, leadership, and advocacy as vitally important. In 1985, Ms. Pfile earned a M.S. in counseling and, in partnership with Downey Avenue Christian Church, opened Hope Counseling. In her practice, she has assisted persons in establishing sustaining patterns of relationship and interdependence.
In the summer of 1944, a tall lanky seminarian named Jack Reeve met a petite but forceful recent graduate of the University of Colorado named June Varner. He was a native of Des Moines, Iowa, a graduate of Drake University, and a Disciples Divinity House Scholar; she was from Wichita, Kansas. The next summer, after he graduated from the University of Chicago, they were married. During the next sixty-two years, they would share many things: ministry in several places, the birth of four children and the tragic loss of one, commitment to family and to church, travel and service, and a love of music.
Stewardship was integral to how they understood the Christian faith and how they lived their lives. In 1958 Jack Reeve was called from congregational ministry and extensive work with youth conferences to the national staff as stewardship secretary. He continued to emphasize stewardship when he was called to regional ministry in the Christian Church in Illinois and Wisconsin in 1968 and, beginning in 1978, as Professor of the Practice of Ministry at Lexington Theological Seminary.
In 1968 he was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Disciples Divinity House. As its president from 1990-92 and as a longtime member of its development committee, Mr. Reeve provided both encouragement about and an example of generous giving. (Then, too, Board members knew how many Habitat for Humanity homes he helped to construct after “retirement”—so many that the Lexington paper dubbed him Habitat’s “energizer bunny.”) In 2005, Mr. Reeve was elected an Honorary Trustee for Life.
June Reeve worked side by side with her husband in these years of ministry and often attended Board of Trustee meetings with him. She was the first woman to be elected elder at First Christian Church in Bloomington, Illinois, and served for several years on the board of the Barton W. Stone Christian Home. She was an active member of the Christian Women’s Fellowship and attended all of the CWF quadrennial assemblies from 1957-2006.
As their children grew up and established their own lives and families, the Reeves reviewed their estate plan. They decided to think of sharing their accumulated resources in four equal portions, one for each of their children and another to be divided among two theological education institutions.
June Reeve on June 20, 2007. As Jack Reeve reviewed his situation, he realized that he could provide the gift (during his lifetime) that he and June had planned from their estate. And so, in a bold move, Life Trustee Jack V. Reeve has given the Disciples Divinity House $125,000 over the past few months. This gift caps a lifelong commitment to the Disciples Divinity House and a lifetime of generous stewardship. Jack Reeve died on February 25, 2012; he was 93.
“I am giving this gift out of my appreciation of the education received at DDH and the University of Chicago and the contribution it made to my many-faceted ministry,” Jack Reeve explained. “I have received more from DDH than my years on the board or my financial support can repay.”
Rolland and Laura Frances Sheafor were convinced that “the Disciples House and the University of Chicago are uniquely equipped to provide a horizon and quality of education that can lay the foundation for effective leadership at the local, denominational, and ecumenical levels.”
The Sheafors themselves were particularly equipped to make such a judgment and to match their judgment with action. Two gifts from their estate will help ensure that horizon of leadership now and into the future.
Rolland and Laura Frances Sheafor were associated with the Disciples Divinity House for more than seventy years, from 1936 when they were married and Rolland began his studies as a Disciples House Scholar, through his service as a trustee until his death in 1996, to her memorial service in the Chapel of the Holy Grail in May 2008.
Both were native Kansans. They met at Phillips University and planned to marry after graduation. Rolland had a nice fellowship from the Disciples Divinity House to pursue graduate study at the University of Chicago.
There was one big problem, though. Dean Ames would not extend the fellowship to married men (not to mention to any women); he believed they could not devote themselves fully to their studies. Not to be deterred, Rolland and Laura Frances eloped. That first year, she lived with her parents in Kansas and worked. The following year, Dr. Ames relented. The “newlyweds” Sheafor moved into a small walk up apartment near campus.
On Thursday nights, Rolland and the other “men of the House” gathered in the chapel to listen to the organ and then marched downstairs to dinner. Laura Frances took part in the weekly ritual by waiting tables.
The Sheafors developed a deep appreciation for the wisdom and guidance of Edward Scribner Ames as well as for the scholarship support that made their experience possible. When their first child was born, they named him Scribner. Their second child, Margaret, was born after Mr. Sheafor began law school at Ohio Northern University.
The Sheafors knew well what constituted “effective leadership” throughout the church. In the mid-1940s, Mr. Sheafor joined the Board of Church Extension where he shaped innovative investment and mortgage loan options. Named president in 1966, over the next thirteen years he led initiatives in supporting racial-ethnic churches and ecumenical ventures, in advancing technology and sound management practices among the Disciples, and with the New Church Establishment program.
“It is no stretch of the imagination to say that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) would be a far different denomination without Rolland Sheafor’s innovative leadership,” Dean Kris Culp commented. “The church owes a great debt of gratitude to him and to Laura Frances for the partnership that undergirded and guided that work.”
Mrs. Sheafor also knew about leadership from her own work. She pursued graduate studies in education at Butler and Indiana-Purdue University. For twenty-three years she taught in Indianapolis public schools; she was also an adjunct instructor at Indiana University. She was active in Christian religious education at Downey Avenue Christian Church and, when the Eastgate Christian Church was organized, she developed its children’s department.
Finally, the Sheafors knew how to plan for the gift they wanted to make. Understanding how bequests and other planned giving instruments could help individuals and churches further their commitments, Mr. Sheafor had helped to create the Christian Church Foundation. The Sheafors later worked with the CCF to provide their own planned gift.
Initially, Rolland and Laura Frances Sheafor planned for the creation of a scholarship fund through a bequest. In 1995, they discovered a way to increase their commitment. By creating a testamentary family trust, they were able to designate an immediate bequest and also set up a charitable trust with income benefitting their children during their lifetimes. Thereafter, a portion of the trust assets will provide significantly more scholarship funds.
The first Rolland and Laura Frances Sheafor award was granted to House Scholar Kristel Clayville in 2009. The Sheafors’ vision and action now stretch to the far horizon of leadership.