ROCK ISLAND, ILLINOIS (August 4, 2020) — The Reverend Melinda Pupillo has accepted the position of Campus Chaplain and Director of Spiritual Life following Rev Richard Priggie’s retirement after 21 years at Augustana. She is currently ending her service as Pastor of Holden Village, a remote Lutheran Christian retreat center in Washington’s Cascade Mountains. She will begin at Augustana in January 2021.
“I am honored to join the Augustana community,” said Rev Pupillo. “I sense God’s spirit moving us to creatively renew expressions of faith, to deepen partnerships across the college and Quad Cities area, and to be more courageous in addressing today’s issues. Even amidst a pandemic, there are ways to stay committed to each other. May God richly bless our work together!”
Rev Pupillo will coordinate all religious and spiritual life on campus and supervise the worship-planning team and student-leadership team. She will work beside counselors and others within the Student Life team, with a particular focus on the spiritual health and growth of Augustana students. She also will act as one of the college’s primary liaisons with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American and the Northern Illinois Synod, and will advise the President’s Cabinet in matters of institutional values and mission.
“The campus chaplain is an important part of Augustana's mission to help students grow in mind, body and spirit,” said President Steve Bahls. “Pastor Pupillo will bring considerable talent and passion to Augustana in helping our students explore issues of faith, commit to justice and ascertain their calling in life.”
Rev Pupillo is passionate about mentoring students as they discern their vocations, welcoming community members into collaboration, and providing a holistic approach to ministry. She is committed to social justice and an inclusive form of ministry that reaches across religious, racial, and other lines of difference. At Holden, she developed daily worship rhythms that incorporated secular wisdom alongside the church’s practices so that everyone in the community — even the nonreligious — were both challenged and comforted. She has creative plans to develop such safe and brave spaces at Augustana as well.
Music professors Dr Jon and Sonja Hurty, who lead Augustana’s music ministry, said that they were impressed with Rev Pupillo’s maturity and depth while she interviewed on campus over the course of two days. “Pastor Pupillo spent a great deal of time asking questions, trying to learn what was currently happening, providing ideas about what she thought could happen, and indicating an interest in finding creative ways to reach Augustana students both in worship and in activities,” they said.
“Pastor Melinda’s creative vision for ministry at Augustana is really striking,” says Dr Jason Mahn, Director of Augustana’s Presidential Center for Faith and Learning, who served as co-chair of the search committee. “She is deeply rooted in the Christian gospel, and yet wants to meet any and every student wherever they are in their understandings of God, themselves, and their purposeful work in the world.” Mahn adds that Pastor Melinda is also just plain fun. “I hope that she’ll join one of the Quad Cities roller derby teams (she has past experience!) and that Augie students can see her in action. Talk about breaking down the walls between sacred and secular!”
From 2018 to 2020, Rev Pupillo served as village pastor in Holden Village in Chelan, Washington, where she supported a religiously-diverse and non-religious community. Augustana students and faculty live, work, and study in Holden Village for a study-away program every winter.
Before arriving in Washington, Rev. Pupillo spent 13 years in La Crosse, Wisconsin, serving in various roles. As associate pastor, she led a congregation of 1,350 members at English Lutheran Church from 2005 to 2016. She also served as program and retreat coordinator at the Franciscan Spirituality Center (work that informs her commitments to vocational discernment), as well as interim pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church until August 2018.
Rev Pupillo received her bachelor’s in Spanish and theology from Valparaiso University and her Masters in Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. She first visited Augie as a prospective student. While she decided to go to another Lutheran liberal-arts college, she is excited to finally be at Augustana. She and her husband, Greg Pupillo, hope to live near campus so that they can fully immerse themselves into the life of the place.
Founded in 1860, Augustana College is a selective four-year residential college of the liberal arts and sciences. Augustana is recognized for the innovative program Augie Choice, which provides each student up to $2,000 to pursue a high-impact learning experience such as study abroad, an internship or research with a professor. Current students and alumni include 165 Academic All-Americans, two Nobel laureates, 13 college presidents, and other distinguished leaders. The college enrolls 2,500 students and is located along one of the world’s most-important waterways, the Mississippi River, in a community that reflects the diversity of the United States.