After eight years, the Office of Public Affairs says goodbye to one of its own: writer, editor, and now hospital chaplain and Episcopal clergywoman, the Rev. Kelly Sundberg Seaman.
Job title: Writer/editor, Office of Public Affairs
How long have you been at Dartmouth?
Since January 2007
What path brought you to your field?
A winding one. I was an English major, and headed straight to a PhD program (as a medievalist) after graduating from college. I left graduate school ABD and gardened professionally for a while. The gardening led to freelance writing, and that opened the door to the Public Affairs Office.
What’s at the heart of your role at Dartmouth?
Telling stories. I love getting the word out and helping people connect.
Favorite part of working here?
The people. At the top of that list is the team at 7 Lebanon St. This place has always been full of creative, smart people who care deeply about doing good work. There’s a powerful sense of humor around here, too. But there are so many amazing people—students, faculty, staff, visitors to Dartmouth—who I’ve had the opportunity to meet, talk to, and work with.
What surprised you about Dartmouth as you got to know the place?
How much the College is itself like a small town, entangled with the life of another small town (Hanover) and with a few dozen other towns. The ways in which people here are connected to each other are rich and complex. I’m still surprised by how far some people travel each day to work here. Sometimes, of course, that’s not by choice. Yet there’s also a way that a lot of people here are very good about balancing “work” and “life,” and heading out home to their gardens, or the river, or the woods.
What’s the most unusual project you’ve taken on here?
Tracking down the artist Christo for an interview before he was a Montgomery Fellow—a process that started with me faxing a sketch to his assistant—certainly makes the list. I’ve had the chance to talk with some amazing individuals: Joan Didion, Louise Erdrich ’76, Art Spiegelman, Junot Diaz, Richard Blanco, and more. I’d also have to mention being part of the team in 2012-13 that put together the current Dartmouth homesite, an assignment that brought new connections and new skills.
What energizes, intrigues, keeps you busy away from work?
Being outdoors in New England, appreciating those days winter and summer when I remind myself that people travel from all over the world to visit this place where we get to live. Having lived in the South most of my life, I was a bit apprehensive about the cold winters. Needn’t have worried. I’m the mother of three children, who were 7, 9, and 11 when we moved here at the end of 2006 (when Dartmouth hired my husband, David), so family life has been pretty busy.
I’ve also been very involved in the life of my parish, St. Thomas in Hanover, and in the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire. Since the summer of 2013, I’ve been training for the priesthood, and was ordained June 6 by the Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, Bishop of New Hampshire (and a Dartmouth ’83). Beginning in September, I’ll be working with the Episcopal parishes in New London and Newport, N.H., as they serve the people of the Sunapee region, and as a chaplain at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
That career change: slow or sudden?
Both, really. While I can point to one moment, in the fall of 2011, when it became clear to me that I needed to commit to the formal process of seeking ordination—discernment—the sense of a call to serve in the church was something I’ve been circling around at least since college, and probably even earlier.
Since last fall, I’ve been training in D-H’s Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program—an experiential curriculum for hospital chaplains. I’ve been inspired and moved by the resiliency of the human spirit in tough, heart-breaking situations. Some of the people I encounter at the hospital have a specifically articulated faith; others find meaning in other ways. But it feels like a tremendous gift to accompany people in their search for light, and life, and love, in some pretty dark places.