Beloved campus ministries advisor retires at 66

Deb Nondorf's work will continue after leaving SPU campus

Jackie Chen, Staff Reporter

a woman sits in an office and speaks

Calvin Quisumbing
Deb Nondorf has served at SPU as the minister of discipleship for 14 year and currently serves as an adviser to Sharpen and to student ministry coordinators.

Deb Nondorf’s day starts with waking up at 5 a.m. and hopping on to a two hour cross-county metro bus to her office on the second floor of the Student Union Building.

“Hold things lightly and get out of God’s way,” Nondorf said, regarding the leadership she has been passing down to her student leaders in her time at the University Ministries.

“You can call me Deb,” excited yet soft-spoken Nondorf, Seattle Pacific University’s advisor said. At 66 years old, she is transiting out of her role of advising the campus student ministry coordinators and Sharpen ministries to retire this upcoming August.

Every Tuesday, during the weekly “At The Table” Sharpen lunches, Nondorf is in the back of the Fine Art Center kitchen located on the upper First Free Methodist Church, rolling up her sleeves as she hand-washes greasy pots and pans.

While she does the behind the scenes responsibilities, the Sharpen core team can focus on their lunch with students who live off-campus or in on-campus apartments.

Nondorf hopes her legacy will live on in what she has passed on to students leaders and peers while she was at SPU.

Jose Flores, vice president of ministries for the Associated Students of Seattle Pacific, was eager to attribute these wise words to his success in his role.

“It lets me give up control about things that I shouldn’t be worried about and trust that God is sovereign enough to take care of things,” Flores said.

Justin Eble, who was Nondorf’s campus hall ministry coordinator eight years ago, cannot imagine his experience at SPU without Nondorf.

The cozy room, with a coffee brown couch and the ventilating fan running steadily in the background, is where students would often come with challenges and adversity.

Nondorf’s work has been a fundamental part of guiding many students’ spiritual journey.

“Through her eclectic faith background, she showed me so much of the variety that makes up Christianity,” Sharpen core member Eren Dodd, said. “I could see that there was more than one way to express one’s faith.”

Growing up, Nondorf aspired to work in an environmental learning center someday, where she would host cycles of fifth graders in the state of Washington for a week-long outdoor submersion. She also never intended to marry or have offspring of her own.

Prior to being located here in SPU’s community, Nondorf held roles in cooking up burgers at McDonald’s, running a daycare center from home, responding to emergencies as local jurisdiction dispatcher, guiding young adults as a youth pastor and crunching numbers at the Snohomish County Assessor’s office.

“God has a sense of humor, and my life is an evidence of that,” Nondorf said. As she puts it, she was never in control of her life as God is.

Nondorf brought students into student ministry by fostering relationships. Take Jack Parisi, another Sharpen core teammate, for example.

“Deb pulled me aside and told me that she could tell just by the way I interacted with those around me that she wanted me to be a part of the team,” Parisi said.

After the Sharpen team spontaneously invited him to their luncheon, the rest was history.

In the ten years Nondrof has overseen Sharpen, she has not once ordered her students to do or advise any of her idea changes. Instead, she would sit with open hands and ears and get out of God’s way.

Nondorf’s legacy of encouraging those around her to trust God will not end when she leaves SPU.

“I don’t understand retirement. Do you just work and all of a sudden stop?” Nondorf said.