Seminarians come from a plethora of backgrounds, job experiences, passions, and skillsets. Some attend seminary to launch a second, third, or even fourth career. For many students, their previous careers are not left behind when they begin their seminary studies; rather, they are a source of strength and knowledge.
Graduating MDiv/MACEF student Ron Dukes is a brilliant example of an individual whose service to the church and to others has been shaped by knowledge earned in his first career. Dukes spent several years as a certified public accountant (CPA) and has continued to use his passion for accounting and technology throughout his time at Princeton Theological Seminary.
Dukes entered college at Villanova University with the intent of becoming an accountant. He sought a degree that would be applicable post-graduation and the school of business courses he took were just that — grounded in technical and real-life applications. He enjoyed his accounting studies so much that, at the recommendation of one of his professors, he earned his master’s in accounting and his CPA certification.
Part of the motivation for Dukes’ work as an accountant is his deep zeal for service. During his college career he founded the Multicultural Business Association on Villanova’s campus to provide resources such as soft skills, interview preparation, and direct access to companies for underrepresented students. Dukes is motivated by a drive to ensure “everyone has equitable access to the resources for a good life — life, liberation, and happiness — and everyone has the ability to live and thrive.”
Dukes’ vigor for service is also evident in his role as a resident CPA, interim CFO, and church leader at his home church of Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton, New Jersey. With Shiloh Baptist Church and throughout his time in seminary, he has continued to utilize his accounting skillset both professionally and in service of his community. When working as a student assistant with the Institute for Youth Ministry, Dukes generated a budget for the Log College Project, a program that helps congregations develop intergenerational models of ministry.
When reflecting on his approach to ministry, he says “Ministry is not just Sundays and Wednesdays; it is a daily call. When I’m preaching and when I’m teaching, it’s a daily calling because you’re engrained not just in the ministry of it, you know the pastoral care, preaching, and teaching, but you’re also involved with what is going on in the local community and how can the church in its position do something about this. How can we work with state and local government officials? How can we work with local organizations and national organizations to help our communities better achieve the goals they have set forth as a community?”
Dukes has partnered with his community to identify and tend to various needs such as working with the New Jersey Department of Health and the American Heart Association to make COVID-19 vaccines accessible in his community. He also has helped Shiloh Baptist Church in its work of partnering with some of Trenton’s Latinx communities and a plethora of others to provide free financial help and wellness advice as well as cash and credit management. The grounded, real-life application degree Dukes sought was not just an inroad to a successful career and a way to provide for his family; it is continuously a resource he taps into to meet the needs of those around him and answer God’s call.
After graduation, Dukes has accepted a position as the manager of finance and administration at New Jersey Future, a nonprofit organization in Trenton. Dukes be serving there as well as an associate minister at Shiloh Baptist Church of Trenton while he pursues ordination with the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey (ABCNJ).