Gretchen Castle becomes the first female dean of the Earlham School of Religion (ESR) with the beginning of her term on August 2. She assumes the post in Richmond, Ind. after serving nine years as general secretary of Friends World Committee for Consultation in London, UK. Castle has also provided leadership development for Friends Services Alliance, served as development manager for Friends General Conference, and was presiding clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
“This is a pivotal time for Earlham School of Religion,” said Anne Houtman, president of Earlham College. “Gretchen’s global leadership experience and deep commitment to Quaker principles and practice will inspire new ways of approaching our work and strengthen ESR’s capacity to attract and educate the next generation of change-makers.”
Castle has deep connections to Earlham and to Richmond, Ind. She attended nursery school at Stout Meetinghouse on Earlham’s campus and also earned her undergraduate degree in human development and social relations from the college in 1979. Her father, David Castle, was a pastor at First Friends Meeting in Richmond.
Gretchen Castle replaces previous ESR Dean Matt Hisrich, who was dismissed in December 2020 after expressing concerns about the relationship between the seminary and the college.
ESR, founded in 1960 by Earlham College, is the oldest graduate seminary associated with the Religious Society of Friends.
“I feel very called to this,” Castle says, “because I think some of the gifts that I have will be useful to ESR in its healing. And I think some of the gifts I bring will help me really engage with both faculty and students and alumni, everyone connected to the community.
“ESR serves a critically important role in the global Quaker community, preparing people for ministry, whatever form it takes, and I am thrilled to be joining ESR as its next dean,” she adds.