Lindner named 2023 Distinguished Alumna

March 14, 2023 -  

Cynthia Gano Lindner, exemplary minister and mentor, has been selected as the next recipient of the Distinguished Alumna/us Award of the Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago. For the past twenty-one years as the Director of Ministry Studies and Clinical Faculty for Preaching and Pastoral Care in the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, she has nurtured, trained, and inspired generations of emerging religious leaders, including many DDH graduates and current students. Under her direction, the Divinity School’s ministry program has been transformed into a flourishing multi-religious program, including a new track in chaplaincy. The award will be presented on August 1 by the Alumni/ae Council in Louisville, Kentucky.

Ms. Lindner is the author of Varieties of Gifts: Multiplicity and the Well-Lived Pastoral Life (2016), and a frequent contributor to Sightings, a publication of the Martin Marty Center at the Divinity School. She directs the Chicago Commons Project, an early-career pastoral leadership development program funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc.  She also practices as a pastoral psychotherapist at the Center for Religion and Psychotherapy. Her teaching and research interests include contemporary ministerial identity and formation, multi-religious theological education, the practice and ethics of preaching and pastoral care in multicultural society, the role of religious communities in addressing communal violence and trauma, and the interface of corporate worship and public witness, and its impact on identity formation and congregational life.

An ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), she previously served three congregations, most notably, a creative long-term pastorate and co-pastorate at First Christian Church in Albany, Oregon. Ms. Lindner’s service to the wider church and community includes an advisory role to the General Commission on Ministry, membership on the General Board of the denomination, and featured preaching and speaking events. In 2001, she was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Disciples Divinity House and continues to serve; prior to that, she had served as a member of the Alumni/ae Council, including as its president. She entered the Divinity School as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar in 1978, after earning her BA from St. Olaf College. She earned AM and DMin degrees from the University of Chicago. In addition, she holds a Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.

Under her leadership, ministry students live and learn together at the intersections of praxis and theory, exploring the models and methods of preaching and pastoral care which are necessary in a multicultural society, and sharing in the wisdom that she has cultivated throughout her career. In her own acts of pastoral presence, she leads by example to help attune those around her to their own multiplicities and possibilities. Frequent speaking engagements--at ordination services, weddings, funerals, conferences, and all manner of other liminal and ritualistic gatherings--testify directly to her centering presence and timely insights in a diversity of contexts. Through her practice as a pastoral psychotherapist, and through her generosity of wisdom, insight, time, attention, curiosity, and care for students and colleagues, she has left an indelible mark upon the spiritual formation of not only the University but the wider Chicago community. She models grounded spiritual leadership, care for the health of religious communities and their leaders, and lifelong service.

The Distinguished Alumna/us Award, established in 1979, recognizes individuals who are exemplars of varied forms of ministry and service; in some sense, they have each defined these forms. Alums and friends are invited to gather on August 1 at the DDH Luncheon at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. The award will be presented and Cynthia Lindner will speak in response. 

Tickets can be purchased online through the General Assembly Registration Page or by contacting the Disciples Divinity House. 

For more information, please contact Jack Veatch, Director of Student and External Relations, at or 773.643.4411.