The Rev. Richard Peck (‘61) was no stranger to the mission and influence of Iliff as he grew up in South Denver. Rich’s best high school friend was John Williams, son of Dr. Walter Williams, a past professor of Old Testament.
When Rich decided to pursue a career in ministry, he knew he would attend Iliff.
During his time at Iliff, Rich fondly recalls Dr. Charles Mulligan who “opened social justice horizons;” Dr. Martin Rist who rescued him from biblical literalism; and Dr. Harvey Potthoff, who elevated his understanding of theological issues.
His Iliff experience was not unlike the experience of today’s students. Richard Peck’s Iliff experience was not unlike the experiences of today’s students, full of bright peers, engaged faculty, and challenging (but stimulating) conversation about theology, society, activism, and justice. Peck came to Iliff to study for ministry, but left with so much more than “just theology.”
When prompted with the question, “Did any specific class or professor give you a new vantage point about the work you are doing?,” Reverend Richard Peck’s answer echoed his earlier sentiments. He recalled a class led by Dr. Bryant, who was then an adjunct professor:
I took a class related to discipline and church administration led by Dr. Bryant. He required attendance at the 1960 General Conference in Denver. I wrote a paper on proposals to eliminate the Central Jurisdiction. That class was my first step in understanding the general church. I would later attend 12 General Conference sessions as a conference communicator, editor of Newscope, editor of the Daily Christian Advocate (four sessions) and as an editor for United Methodist News Service. In a 25-year career with the United Methodist Publishing House, I served as editor of Circuit Rider and founding editor of the International Christian Digest (ICD). I also served as press secretary for the Council of Bishops following my retirement from the publishing house.
Rich was named Iliff alumnus of the year while serving as editor of ICD, and his parents established the Ralph and Norma Peck Chair of Religion and Communications at Iliff (now occupied by Dr. Jeffrey Mahan).
Rich’s time at Iliff and his engagement with social justice issues came to fruition through his relationships with professors and peers. He has since become nothing short of a social justice warrior. He engaged in anti-war efforts activities as the president of the Peace and Freedom Party for the State of Rhode Island in the 1960s and 1970s. He later taught in a freedom school in the same state. Rich is currently involved in an inner-city ministry in Nashville while serving as editor for the General Commission on United Methodist Men. He is a columnist for Insight where he advocates for an inclusive church.
Rich, 83, says he has no plans to retire from the commission. He has no plans to stop writing, and he has no plans to stop advocating for social justice.
In his words, Rich says, “I plan to wear out before I rust out.”
Peck’s lifelong mission and hunger for social justice and activism have not faltered. Although he got a divinity degree from Iliff, alumni Rev. Richard Peck pioneered social justice at Iliff without doing “just theology.”