STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 12/07/2012

Disciple, Scholar, Friend: 1950 Alumna Wore Many Hats

By Ann Smith

S. Eunice Wenstrom graduated from Gordon College in 1950, but never felt very far from it. She attended as many reunions as she could, well into retirement. Her younger brother David ’70 recalls that she “always said that Gordon College was ‘number one’ with her.”

When Eunice passed away at her Newton, Massachusetts home in December 2011 at the age of 85, the papers she left included her Gordon transcript, her Princeton Theological Seminary transcript, and her Gordon Alumni Association membership card issued in May, 1950.

As a Christian Education director in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in the 1950s, she was a trailblazer. In 1953 she was the first woman the Boston Presbytery commissioned as a Church Worker. While she had hoped to become a minister after earning her M.Div. from Princeton, that door was not yet open to women in her denomination; the Boston Presbytery would not ordain its first female minister until 1969. So she embraced the role that was within reach.

A tireless student of Scripture who studied the entire Bible three times every year for decades, she crafted study series for churches she served in Manhattan, Pennsylvania and upstate New York, and later for her home church in Newton. But “she was never high-fallutin’ about it, and was just as happy teaching a small child the children’s song, ‘Only a Boy Named David,’” her brother says.

“She represents all those women, many unsung, of the mid-century Protestant churches,” he observes, “and the Gordon scene and the influence Gordon College had on them.”

Even as a girl, Eunice was the go-to expert for her brother and four sisters about the “big questions” about God and existence. She commuted from her family’s Newtonville home to Gordon’s Fenway campus, where she was a cheerleader and worked on the Hypernikon. During her college years she also taught Sunday School in her home church, in Roxbury. And after Gordon, seminary.

After 10 years in Christian education, she returned to Newton and took jobs in higher education and in business, and earned a second master's degree. Later she co-owned a business. She loved Christmas, her pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and summer visits to a Cape Breton farm in Nova Scotia. She enjoyed travel of all kinds, and once set off on short notice on a cross-country trip with family, looping west across the U.S. and back through Canada, camping en route.

She participated in the National Institute of Health’s Women’s Health Initiative, a 15-year national study of aging processes in women.

Through it all, Eunice was Christ-centered. She welcomed strangers as visitors, and circulated lovingly typed collections of quotations to fellow Christians who needed encouragement. “With new friends, she was always welcoming, and never ceased to inquire if they had a church home, and whether they’d like to attend services at her church,” her family wrote in her obituary. “She was able to convey her love of Jesus Christ to whomever she met on her life’s journey.”

Ann Smith joined the Gordon College staff this year as copy editor in the Office of College Communications.

NEXT: Women with a Mission