In an email sent out to the University of Richmond community on Tuesday, President Ronald Crutcher announced that the previous chaplain, Craig Kocher, was rehired to the position of chaplain after a year-long search for his replacement.
Kocher, who served as chaplain at UR from 2009 to 2016, reapplied to the position last year and was hired by Crutcher over three other finalists for the job. Kocher will be returning to work at the university on May 15, according to Crutcher’s email.
Kocher returned to campus last month as a finalist to give his speech before Richmond students, faculty and staff, during which he explained why he originally left campus.
He left Richmond to go work as the senior pastor at Oak Ridge United Methodist Church in Oak Ridge, North Carolina, so he would no longer have to commute to see his wife, who worked in North Carolina while he was in Richmond. However, Kocher eventually began to miss the diverse experiences he had serving at the university as opposed to his congregation and chose to apply for the position.
The university chose to rehire Kocher because of the positive feedback Kocher received from alumni, staff and students, said Steve Bisese, co-chair of the chaplain search committee and vice president of student development.
The qualities people saw in Kocher were his ability to cooperate with and include those from different faiths.
“He brought the chaplaincy to a new level while he was here,” Bisese said, citing Kocher's hiring of the chaplaincy’s first rabbi, first program coordinator for Muslim life and first director of Catholic ministries.
Kocher’s experience at the university was also a testament to how good a job he did. If Kocher had done a poor job as chaplain, there would not have been so much support for him as there was, Bisese said.
Kocher’s return allows for him to continue unfinished programming, such as a pilgrimage to the Middle East for students of various faiths. Bisese also said Kocher would excel at creating programs about spirituality and interfaith issues without excluding students that do not identify with a particular denomination.
Kocher, along with Bryn Taylor, who is currently serving as interim chaplain, will be responsible for hiring new chaplaincy staff as well.
A student member of the search committee and student assistant at the chaplaincy, senior Aisha Farooq, said she was not personally familiar with Kocher but acknowledged the good work he had done through pilgrimages and multifaith programming.
“It’s nice to see a familiar face back in the office,” Farooq said.
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