In the first event of its kind, alumni of Princeton Theological Seminary donated hundreds of clergy robes, stoles, and vestments to current students.
After a few robes and stoles were found in storage and included in a clothing swap last year, Student Life Resident Daniel Heath had an idea: What if there was a formal process for Princeton Seminary alumni to donate clergy garments to students?
Heath worked with Director of Alumni Relations Ann-Henley Nicholson to put out a call for donations in early September, and just a few weeks later, over 200 stoles and almost 50 robes had arrived. “Our alumni answered the call beyond our expectations,” Nicholson says. The response was so great that Heath and Nicholson eventually had to start asking potential donors to wait for next year’s giveaway, since the event will now be held annually. “Now another generation of pastors will wear their robes, stoles, and vestments with thanksgiving, remembering our alumni and all the lives their ministries touched,” Nicholson shares.
The donated garments came from generations of Princeton Seminary alumni and their families. One set of robes and stoles belonged to the Rev. Dr. Virginia Sullivan, DMin ’81, the first woman to earn a Doctor of Ministry from the Seminary. “I know that Mom would be thrilled to share them with colleagues who need them for ministry,” wrote her son, Tom Sullivan, MDiv ’81.
“I am grateful to Princeton for the training and knowledge it provided me,” wrote another donor, John Muntz, MDiv ’68, “and grateful for this opportunity to pass these treasures along.”
While many alumni support the Seminary with financial gifts, the garment giveaway offered another way to make a difference in current students’ lives. Clergy garments can cost hundreds of dollars, so receiving these gifts was both a spiritual encouragement and a financial relief for the student recipients.
First-year MDiv candidate Isabel Gallegos contrasted the joyful
atmosphere at the giveaway with her negative experience of shopping for a
stole: “Right before coming to Princeton Seminary I wanted to purchase a
stole, but it was made clear to me by the vendor that it was ‘odd’ for
me to be a woman and want to wear one. I left that shop discouraged and
embarrassed. In light of that experience, it was a liberating sight to
see so many women trying them on together and laughing. Thank you to all
who donated to make this experience possible.”
For Heath, seeing these garments passed from alumni to students was a powerful example of ministry across generations.
“Think about all of the baptisms, all of the sermons, all of the
memorial services and weddings, all of the stories that go along with
those stoles,” Heath says. Giving them new homes with Seminary students
was like a “quasi–laying on of hands.”