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Three new chaplains arrive this semester


A biology major who did community health social work. A former high school hockey player who was a guide on archeological digs in Israel. A politics major at Princeton who taught at a prestigious prep school before joining the faculty at a community-built school in Kenya.

These three new chaplains followed diverse paths to their ministries and ultimately to their assignments on the MIT campus.

Johanna Kiefner, the Lutheran chaplain, studied biology as an undergraduate at Valparaiso University in Indiana and intended to pursue a career in environmental science or genetics.

Although my life path has taken me in a different direction, I've continued in my love for the physical world," said Rev. Kiefner, who received the M.Div. from Christ Seminary in St. Louis in 1980 and was ordained three years later following clinical training at Austin (Tex.) State Hospital.

"We live in this extraordinary universe and we have been given such gifts to explore and understand and marvel at this universe," said Rev. Kiefner, who has served in a parish, at a hospice, in a hospital and as a chaplain in the US Army Reserve. "The intersections between faith and living and science and technology and the ensuing conversations out of these intersections are exciting and profound. MIT certainly is a place where this can and does happen."

Rabbi Fred Benjamin, who lettered twice in hockey at West Hill High School in Stamford, Conn., studied psychology at Ohio State and received a master's degree in rabbinical literature from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York in 1987. He was ordained as a Conservative rabbi the same year.

After eight years term as associate rabbi to a congregation in Cherry Hill, N.J., he worked as a teacher and archeological guide in Israel from 1995-99, conducting tours and seminars in Jerusalem for followers of all religions, the Golan and the Negev. He returned to the United States in 1999 and became director of education at Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline. He joined the MIT chaplaincy last semester.

"There is a strong and varied Jewish population at MIT," said Rabbi Benjamin, who belonged to the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity as an undergraduate. "We are a vibrant culture. Jews today find a variety of ways to connect with that culture. I would hope MIT's Hillel can create an environment that helps people find the best way for them to connect."������

Amy McCreath, the new Episcopal chaplain, earned a master's degree in history after returning from Kenya and taught history, philosophy and ethics at an independent high school near Milwaukee for four years.

"I loved teaching history," she said. "My favorite moments were the ones when we got off topic and started talking about things that were really on the students' minds, like relationships, decision-making, their self-image and their search for meaning."

Rev. McCreath enrolled in the Seabury-Western Episcopal Seminary in Evanston, Ill., and was ordained in 1998. She was a parish priest in Milwaukee for three years and works with young adults during the summer at American Youth Foundation leadership conferences.

"When I read the advertisement for the job at MIT, my immediate reaction was, 'I would love that job!'" Rev. McCreath said. "It brings together everything I am interested in and passionate about: young adult spiritual growth, interfaith work, ethics in a technology-driven age, and being a witness to God's love and Christ's presence in a secular institution."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 12, 2001.

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