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In the Spotlight: Dr. Beth Hoeltke

Look up the definition of multitasker and you might find a photo of Dr. Beth Hoeltke. Among her varied responsibilities, she manages the front-end operations at the campus library, looks after about 200 graduate students to help ensure they are on track to complete their degrees and schedules nationwide presentations of the Seminary’s The Gospel of Mark presentations.

But that just covers her current roles as the director of the Seminary’s Graduate School and as the library’s public services administrator. Previously, Hoeltke worked in the printing industry, as a shop teacher, as a sales administration manager for a semiconductor test equipment business (with clients including Intel, Micron and IBM) and as a professional chef.

These days, Hoeltke said she looks at everything in life with a single, theological perspective. “It’s scary and fun at the same time,” Hoeltke said. “Theology makes you question everything. That’s what it should do for us. If God has put me in a place that is full of wonder, then how does that affect the way I look at it?”

In 2005, she was working for a Japanese company in California’s Silicon Valley, when it became clear to her that learning more about her faith was becoming a passion. She began reading theological books and resources during her free time. Hoeltke found herself drawn to the idea of seeking a theological education at Concordia Seminary.

“I couldn’t get enough of trying to understand why Jesus would reach out to somebody like me, that He would give His life for someone like me, that He would die. I just couldn’t comprehend that,” Hoeltke said. “And I know knowledge doesn’t get you there. It still doesn’t, but I was blown away by that.”

She started attending weekly Wednesday Matins service in nearby Mountain View, Calif., not far from her job. She said the pastor at the church asked if she had ever considered returning to school to study theology. It was an aha moment.

So, fifth-career student Beth Hoeltke arrived at the Seminary in 2006, immersing herself in student life as she pursued a Master of Arts in systematic theology. She moved into Metzger Hall and took summer Greek with about 40 Master of Divinity students.

“Getting my feet back into school was hard, but it was phenomenal,” she said. One formative experience during her first year at the Seminary was her “Lutheran Confessions” class with Dr. Charles Arand, the Eugene E. and Nell S. Fincke Graduate Professor of Theology and dean of Theological Research and Publication. She would often stay after class and discuss theology with Arand.

Hoeltke was baptized Lutheran but grew up Episcopalian. She wasn’t active in the church as a young adult but in 1996 she returned to her Lutheran roots. For her, Arand’s class helped her rediscover and gain a deep respect and appreciation for the tenants of the Lutheran faith.

“I’m blown away by the understanding that we (Lutherans) live by the Bible and that we’re a church that is really interested in knowing our doctrine,” she said. “The more I read about Martin Luther and Melanchthon and Augustine, the more I thought, ‘This is amazing.’”

After receiving her master’s degree, Hoeltke realized she wanted to learn even more. She applied to the Seminary’s Ph.D. program and was accepted. Her now-friend and mentor Arand agreed to serve as her dissertation supervisor.

Hoeltke’s role at the Seminary quickly expanded beyond the role of a graduate student. She had already been working in the campus library, first as a part-time reference desk worker and later managing the Circulation Desk. During her years as a Ph.D. student, the opportunity arose for her to manage the front-end of the library as the public services administrator, a position she still holds. But the new responsibilities didn’t come without challenges.

“I would get up, work on my dissertation from 3 to 6 a.m., then work a regular day at the library,” she said. It was during that time that Hoeltke also became involved with The Gospel of Mark, the dramatic presentation by several faculty members and area pastors based on a translation of Mark by Dr. James W. Voelz, the Seminary’s Dr. Jack Dean Kingsbury Professor of New Testament Theology. Hoeltke now serves as the production manager for the presentation, which travels the country offering presentations at congregations and schools several times a year.

Hoeltke finished her Ph.D. dissertation in 2014 on the theology of creation and was named director of the Graduate School in 2016. “That was really quite a compliment for me,” she said. “I was very honored.”

Despite completing her Ph.D., Hoeltke remains interested in expanding her knowledge and continuing academic research. She actively pursues her theological interests, specifically green burial practices and food production and how they relate to God’s design in creation. She is also beginning work on a Bible study for Concordia Publishing House and teaching online theology classes for Concordia University Portland’s doctoral program in education.

Hoeltke said her deep interest in learning more about Lutheran theology continues.

Seminary Dean of Advanced Studies Dr. Gerhard Bode works closely with Hoeltke. “Beth’s energy is infectious and makes her a pleasure to work with,” he said. “The Christian care and concern she demonstrates every day for the people of this community is genuinely and uniquely her own. This is who Beth is and, frankly, I don’t know what we would do without her.”