Susan Kaul and her classmates dubbed themselves the Access Pioneers. They were the first cohort of students to earn ESR degrees through the Access program that includes distance learning and participation in two-week, face-to-face intensive courses.
Susan, who is a member of Bethesda Friends Meeting, became a Quaker as a result of her volunteer involvement at the Quaker school her son attended. She knew that she wanted to pursue a master’s degree in religion but was not finding what she was looking for in the D.C. area when she came across an ad in Friends Journal for ESR.
From the start, Susan knew she was interested in serving older people so she incorporated relevant topics into her papers, research, and field education. In fact, she began working at a Quaker retirement community in 2005 for her ESR supervised ministry and has been there ever since. In her position as a Friendly Ear she facilitates roundtable discussions, informal coffee times and one on one visits. Susan credits her ESR education with broadening her understanding of religious experience which enables her to respond with empathy and compassion to people with a wide range of religious beliefs.
Susan’s philanthropic support of ESR began while she was still attending ESR. She realized that many of her fellow students had few financial resources but were nonetheless following a call to ministry. Susan began making anonymous donations to help provide financial assistance to other ESR students and asked that her family members make a contribution to ESR in honor of her graduation in lieu of gifts. Susan continues to make an annual, unrestricted contribution to ESR to allow the school to use the money where it is most needed.
Susan hastens to add that financial support is only one way that people contribute to ESR. “It is easy to recognize people who give checks, but some ask for nothing except to serve in their own way.” Susan’s own support extends to volunteering. She recently completed nine years of service on ESR’s Board of Advisors.