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Sanders Scholar Named

Meadville Lombard is pleased to announce that Robert LaVallee was named the 2013 Sanders Scholar. This scholarship is made possible through the generosity of Ms. Betty Sanders.

Robert (Bob) LaVallee, is currently living in Afghanistan with his wife Eleanor, a former Buddhist Monk, and working as a field service manager for Sustainment Solutions. Bob has a diverse background that has helped lead him to seminary. Growing up as a Catholic, Bob experienced the good and the bad of the tradition, crediting Catholicism for teaching him principles he still carries today: humility, faith, devotion, and service.

In the mid-80s Bob became a member of the U.S. Marine Corps as an artillery officer. In his time with the U.S. Marine Crops, Bob experienced a strong spiritual growth, calling his time in the service “an unconventional seminary.” Leaders of the Marine Corps focused on instilling the principles of integrity, justice, selflessness, courage, and loyalty. The Marine Corps was also Bob’s first experience with diversity, and gave him hope for a world that celebrates multiculturalism. After he left the Marine Corps, he brought these teaching to his professional career.

During his service, Bob developed another skill – meditation. After completed his time with the Marine Corps, Bob explored meditation more deeply – he now meditates every day. Additionally, Bob also maintains his practice of yoga to express his spirituality. Beginning at 16, Bob employed his practice as a tool to survive one of the hardest experiences of his life, the death of his mother. Now, Bob has his teaching certificate and teaches a class in Afghanistan.  Meditation and yoga is a large part of his life, which he shares with his wife, as well as alone.

Finally, Bob discovered Unitarian Universalism in the mid-nineties when he attended Sunday service at First Unitarian Universalist in Jamaica Plain. He immediately felt at home. His congregation became like a family to him. In First UU, he found himself. There was a group of people who shared his same philosophies and welcomed and encouraged questions, developing a personal theology, and difference. Bob found a faith that “challenges, guides, consoles, and inspires” him. Today, Bob works with a small church in Afghanistan where he is very active in his congregation.

Bob is eager to start his schooling at Meadville Lombard. He has a lot of questions and he knows the Meadville Lombard will be a place where he will be nurtured, supported, challenged, and encouraged to dig deeper into his questions. Aware that it may not be easy, he welcomes the challenge – knowing it is essential for his growth and future. Bob would like to develop his skill in pastoral care and become a more patient, compassionate, selfless, and self-aware person.