The Rev. Jeremy Wilhelmi believes his diverse 13-year career in youth ministry has been the perfect precursor to his new position as the chaplain at University of the Ozarks.
A native of Hot Springs, Ark., Wilhelmi joined Ozarks in August 2016 after serving the previous three and a half years as associate pastor for youth ministry at Salisbury Presbyterian Church in Midlothian, Va. He has also served as a youth and family minister and camp director in North Carolina, Texas, and Arkansas, since graduating from Arkansas Tech with a degree in music in 2003 and from the Columbia Theological Seminary with a master of divinity degree in 2007.
The Rev. Jeremy Wilhelmi joined Ozarks as chaplain in August 2016.
"I’ve devoted my ministry career to be focused on youth and young adults," Wilhelmi said. "I know how formative these years are spiritually and how formative they were for me. Looking back, having strong faithful adults in my life as I was coming into adulthood was an essential part of my faith development. My sense of call has always desired to give back to that time in a person’s life; this significant time in their life when they are coming into their identity, discerning their gifts, and developing a passion for their vocation and calling."
Wilhelmi said he is looking forward to working with college students at Ozarks who come from diverse religious backgrounds.
"My Presbyterian faith background has taught me it is a fundamental practice of who we are as Christians to be in dialogue and engage people of all backgrounds and beliefs," he said. "As this campus grows and continues to be more diverse, I know how important it is to bridge the gaps of our religious diversity and bring together our common threads that connect us to one another. I want to begin quickly setting a tone and culture of welcome, hospitality and openness to all backgrounds of faith and initiate opportunities for our campus community to begin living into that culture."
Wilhelmi first became introduced to U of O as a teenager when he attended Presbytery meetings held on campus. He reconnected with the University in the fall of 2013 when he was selected for the week-long Struthers Visiting Pastor program.
"I’m excited to be here because when I first met the students I could see their passion for why they are here, their connection to one another, and their desire to have spiritual life a priority in their college experience," Wilhelmi said. "I’m excited about the supportive staff and faculty, and that there is a strong desire in the campus community to dream and think big on what spiritual life might look like on campus. We have amazing facilities and resources here to grow and expand this part of the campus’ identity and I’m excited to be part of that effort."
He hopes to bring a "consistent pastoral presence" to not only Ozarks students, faculty and staff, but to other University constituencies as well.
"It’s important that our community has safe spaces and people who they know truly cares about their spiritual health along with all other aspects of who they are," he said. "Engaging in a ministry of presence to our campus community will build trust and confidence that they have a pastor here who cares about their experience here at Ozarks whether they are students, faculty, staff or visitors."
Wilhelmi said he is excited about working with the various faith-based groups and organizations on campus.
"I think it’s important that my office supports our various campus ministries and that we work in collaboration with one another, not competition," he said. "I also hope that through the spiritual life office, we can enhance and supplement our campus ministries to provide more opportunities for spiritual growth than what these groups can do independently. I’ve always believed that when people and groups combine their time, resources, and talents, God can do far more with them together than we could ever do on our own."
A long-term goal of Wilhelmi’s is to infuse spiritualty into every aspect of campus life.
"What that means is no matter where one goes on campus, our faith and the practice of it is inescapably noticeable to both the campus community and our guests," he said. "From our residence halls, to the cafeteria, to the intramural fields, to the classrooms and beyond, my hope is that our spiritual life is engrained in all that we do here. That also means that it is my goal to partner with other entities of the campus and think about how we can work collaboratively to engage students in spiritual growth and practice."
Wilhelmi and his wife, Whitleigh, have two sons, Beckett, who turns 7 in September, and Jasper, 2. The family enjoys travelling, sports, board games and building Lego sets.