Story by Hope
Photo by Daniel Sheehan

Question: What's the common denominator in the following events? High tea — in Seattle and in London. Mentoring students and providing internships. Mariners Spring Training Camp in Arizona. On-campus academic forums with internationally renowned speakers. Four-wheeling in the Cascade Mountains.

Answer: SPU's Society of Fellows.

An organization founded in 1968 under President David McKenna, the Seattle Pacific University Society of Fellows has grown over the years to include 2,800 members. A kinship of SPU supporters — including alumni, parents, business leaders, community members, parents, faculty, staff and others — these members share an important goal. "We're trying to build a 'commitment community' of people who identify with the SPU mission of engaging the culture and changing the world," says Sig Swanstrom, a Fellow since 1982 and the Society's director since 1999.

A 1973 graduate of Seattle Pacific, Swanstrom and other Fellows leaders have brought a new focus and vitality to the organization. "Originally, the Society was a way to raise money for the University," recalls longtime member Mike Macdonald, professor of European studies, German and philosophy. "Under President Eaton and Sig, it's tied in much more directly to the vision of SPU."

"I had a misconception of what the Fellows were," says Darlene Hartley, a 1965 graduate and retired elementary school principal who became a Fellow three years ago. Now president of the SPU Alumni Board, Hartley thought the Society was for an elite few. "It's actually a community of the mind and heart," she says, adding that her husband, a University of Puget Sound alumnus, is also a staunch member.

In the last several years, the Society has established new community-building, educational and outreach events for Fellows, even co-sponsoring the SPU C.S. Lewis Institute and the SPU Christian Writers Conference. The goal is to encourage Fellows to become friends, lifelong learners and world-changers.

Another important addition came recently when the Society created a new arm specifically for women Fellows. Its first event, a springtime high tea in downtown Seattle, was hosted by Sharon Eaton, wife of SPU President Philip Eaton, and Donna McIntosh, wife of Vice President for University Advancement Robert McIntosh. "We had a wonderful turnout of women and, in fact, had to hold two events because the interest was so great," says Sharon Eaton. In early October, the women met again, this time at Seattle's Canlis Restaurant, where Executive Chef Greg Atkinson gave a holiday cooking class.

The aim for all the events goes far beyond entertainment. "The purpose of these events is to provide women Fellows with a place to bring friends, not only to introduce them to SPU but also to expose those who may not be Christians to the Christian faith," says Eaton.

Besides having access to events like the Canlis cooking class, the November C.S. Lewis Institute conference on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and an upcoming barge tour in France, Fellows understand that they're part of an organization that supports Seattle Pacific in multiple ways. These include, among other things, mentoring students, consulting on University initiatives and financial gifts. "Lots of universities have donor clubs, but under President Eaton, the Society of Fellows has developed into something more," explains Swanstrom. "It's important to realize we're not a mercenary organization, but a community of like-minded people that believe in SPU's vision."

The financial investment of Fellows, says Hartley, serves a purpose. "It's an indication on another level that we're committed to Seattle Pacific," she points out, "and I think it's appropriate."

The premiere group of givers to SPU, Fellows give $1,000 per year or more, although young alumni (those who graduated less than five years ago) give $500 per year, as do faculty and staff.

Fellows on the Move
Each year, members of the Society of Fellows participate in a wide variety of events. Many are in the Seattle area; others are across the country — or the ocean. Here is a sampling of Fellows events in 2002:
  • January 17: C.S. Lewis Institute lecture. "Hope for the Whole Creation in C.S. Lewis" by Randy Maddox, SPU's Paul T. Walls Professor of Wesleyan Theology. On campus.
  • March 14-16: "Spring Zing." Golf and Mariners spring training game with President Philip Eaton. Phoenix, Arizona.
  • May 9: Women Fellows tour of Butchart Gardens. Victoria, B.C.
  • May 24-25: SPU Christian Writers Conference. On campus.
  • June 23-July 3: Canal barge tour. Burgundy, France.
  • July 12-14: Ashland Shakespeare Festival tour. Hosted by Professor Emerita Fan Gates. Ashland, Oregon.
For more information about these events and others, or to inquire about joining the Society of Fellows, call 206/281-2723, e-mail, or visit

Still, that's only part of the story. "We have a special responsibility as one of the largest Christian enterprises in the Northwest to be involved in the community," says Swanstrom. "As Fellows, we can't cloister ourselves on campus. We are a resource to the church and greater Seattle. We are a bridge to connect our people with the community and to bring the community here."

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