An English major with a mixed minor in drama and music, Janis Huggett’s activities as a student at the University of Redlands included singing in the University Choir and Chapel Singers, appearing as Bloody Mary in the musical South Pacific, and participating in honor societies SPURS and Mortar Board. She graduated with distinction in 1970.
“Everything I’ve accomplished in my life has something to do with the U of R,” she says, adding that she formed her principles of knowledge, ethics, social justice, and faith at Redlands.
Three mentors in particular had a great influence on her: University Chaplain George Graham; Professor J. William Jones (“who taught me everything I know about church music”); and Billie Cecil, residence director at Grossmont Hall (who “saved my life with her care and wisdom, and became a friend forever”).
It was at U of R, too, that she experienced a sense of calling to Christian ministry. But the church she was in at the time did not ordain women, so the call remained unfulfilled for almost 15 years. In the meantime, she completed a master’s in library science at San Jose State University in 1973 and worked in libraries in Northwest California.
After she had changed churches and was ready to answer her calling, Huggett worried about being able to afford to earn the necessary master’s in divinity. “I was pushing middle age, not Presbyterian, had ‘come out’ as a lesbian, and appeared to have only marginal prospects of church employment,” she says, “and yet I received a generous scholarship offer [from San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS)].”
SFTS proved to be “one of greatest blessings” of Huggett’s life. The institution continued and enhanced much of what she experienced at the U of R: academic excellence paired with support for personal growth. “Despite all my own dire predictions that I’d never attain ordination and a career in ministry, SFTS made it possible,” she says. “My experience there sustained me for 25 years of active ministry in the United States and Australia before my retirement in 2012.”
Huggett says she had always thought that the University of Redlands needed a theological seminary in order to be a complete university, so news of the merger between U of R and SFTS thrilled her.
“Redlands could have no better partner in the development of graduate theological studies than SFTS,” she says. “Likewise, I think theological seminaries need close ties with universities in order to enable a full and sustainable program for theological teaching and research; SFTS could have no better partner than the U of R.”