Published on March 29, 2024 by Neal Embry  
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After six years of teaching at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, Mike Pasquarello announced he will retire at the end of the 2023-24 academic year.

Pasquarello established the school’s Robert Smith Jr. Preaching Institute in 2018, oversaw the Doctor of Ministry program and served as the school’s Methodist chair of divinity.

“In six short years at Beeson, Mike Pasquarello has served as our first Methodist chair, the founder of our program in Wesleyan studies, and the pioneering head of our Preaching Institute,” said Douglas A. Sweeney, dean of Beeson Divinity School. “What a blessing he has been. We will miss his warm smile, hearty laugh, and great teaching.”

While Pasquarello comes from a Methodist background and founded the school’s Wesleyan certificate program, he said he benefited from being at an interdenominational school.

“It’s easier to be Methodist when you’re at a school where you’re the minority,” Pasquarello said. “You benefit from other traditions, and it also brings out the best of your own.”

In his time at Beeson, Pasquarello taught history and doctrine, ecclesiology and worship, spiritual formation and other classes. He often joked about being the school’s “utility professor.” His training, he said, taught him to cut across the disciplines.

“Whatever I teach, it will always emphasize the importance of Scripture as well as Christian tradition,” Pasquarello said. “We need the wisdom of the past.”

Pasquarello said he’s proud of Beeson’s history and doctrine sequence, setting the school apart from other seminaries and divinity schools. There is an effort to treat history not just as a past event, but as something to learn from, to connect to pastoral ministry, he said.

“I’ve always seen myself as a pastor with a PhD,” Pasquarello said. “The work I do is to serve the church.”

Pasquarello felt the call to ministry following five years in the United States Marine Corps, where he served as an officer. After initially believing he’d be a career officer, he had a “significant spiritual transformation,” and realized the skills he was using in the Marine Corps were congruent with church leadership.

After graduating from Duke Divinity School, he was ordained in the United Methodist Church, serving in pastoral ministry for 18 years in North Carolina with congregations in urban, suburban and small-town settings that were diverse in size, missional vision and commitment.

Pasquarello went back to school to earn his PhD in church history from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, focusing on preaching and the retrieval and recovery of preaching tradition. Years before Beeson would establish a PhD program to train pastor-theologians, Pasquarello found himself drawn to the field, wanting to know more about how they integrated different disciplines in service to the church.

“I believe in mentoring people to ministry,” Pasquarello said. “I thoroughly loved it.”

For 25 years, Pasquarello taught preaching, in addition to preaching on a weekly basis for almost 20 years. His first teaching job was at Asbury Theological Seminary, where he taught from 2001-15 as the Anna A. and Granger E. Fisher professor of preaching, followed by three years at Fuller Theological Seminary from 2015-18 as the Lloyd J. Ogilvie professor of preaching, prior to his arrival at Beeson.

In 2018, Beeson’s founding dean, Timothy George, invited Pasquarello to deliver the Conger Preaching Lectures, an annual lecture series held at the school. The invitation followed the publication of Pasquarello’s book, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Theology of a Preaching Life.”

Bonhoeffer plays a vital role at Beeson, serving as an inspiration and model for Beeson’s commitment to in-person learning in a community of faith, as well as occupying a place in Hodges Chapel. So, when then-associate dean Grant Taylor reached out to ask Pasquarello if he’d be interested in interviewing for a faculty position, Pasquarello happily agreed. One thing led to another, and Pasquarello joined the Beeson faculty ahead of the 2018-19 academic year, agreeing not only to teach, but to establish the Robert Smith Jr. Preaching Institute.

The first six years of the institute allowed preachers in the community to begin peer groups, attend conferences, attend on-campus events and take advantage of resources and retreats offered by Beeson. Moving forward, the institute will serve as the home of Samford’s Spirit and Power Project, which will offer robust learning and mentoring opportunities for both aspiring and established preachers.

“The events we have done through the Preaching Institute have tried to bring together and integrate how learning, formation and practice are necessary to be a faithful minister of the Word,” Pasquarello said. “You continue to be a lifelong learner.”

During his time at Beeson, Pasquarello navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, and was able to connect with small-church pastors via Zoom, encouraging them and learning from them. He also recalled fondly events with other faculty members, Beeson staff and students.

“I felt welcomed and appreciated for what I brought with me and what I had to contribute,” Pasquarello said. “Theologically, I immediately felt at home here.”

Being small in size and in-person makes Beeson unique in the field of theological education, he said.

“At Beeson, there’s time to get to know students and be accessible,” Pasquarello said.

Spending time with students has been a blessing, he said.

“The delight in teaching Beeson students is they are very passionate about reading and interpreting Scripture, and they know how to think theologically, especially the way I teach preaching out of the (Christian) tradition,” Pasquarello said.

Pasquarello and his wife, Patti, will be moving to Lexington, Kentucky, where he lived when he taught at Asbury. They’ll join three of their four adult children and their families, along with many friends. Pasquarello said he’s looking forward to joining Smith, who is also retiring at the end of this academic year, in Cincinnati to watch Reds baseball games.

“I am filled with gratitude for all I have been enabled to do by the grace of God,” Pasquarello said.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.