Meet Our Staff!
The Rev. Mark Forrester
University Chaplain, Director of Religious Life
Reverend Mark Forrester is an ordained United Methodist minister (Tennessee Conference), a native Nashvillian and an alumnus of Vanderbilt Divinity School (M.Div. 1983). He is also a graduate of Trevecca University (BA, 1979) and Columbia Theological Seminary (D.Min., 2005). Prior to becoming university chaplain in September 2012, Mark was the Affiliated United Methodist Chaplain at Vanderbilt between 1994 and 2012, serving as a campus minister and director of the Methodist/Episcopal ecumenical student ministry, The Wesley/Canterbury Fellowship.
Before entering ministry in higher education in 1991, when Mark was appointed to direct the Wesley Foundation at Austin Peay State University, he served eight years as a full time parish minister. Mark has served his denomination as a mentor to candidates seeking ordination, as a member of the UMC’s Commission on the Status and Role of Women, and as a professional ethics trainer for the Tennessee Conference Board of Ministry.
Mark is married to Elaine Billingsley, has two daughters, Emily and Shelley, and two grandchildren, Cayden and Layne. He loves to cook, write, read and remain physically active by running, cycling and hiking.
The Rev. Gretchen Person
Associate University Chaplain, Associate of Director Religious Life
Gretchen Person, Associate University Chaplain and Associate Director of Religious Life, previously served as Director of Spiritual Life at DePauw University. She graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree from St. Olaf College, studied music in Copenhagen, Denmark, and worked at the International Church of Copenhagen. She began her M.Div. studies at Harvard University, graduated from Luther Seminary, and received the Master of Sacred Theology degree from Yale University. She has also studied at the Goethe Institute in Murnau, Germany, and at Valparaiso University. She completed internships in both the San Diego and San Francisco areas of California, and has served as a pastor of congregations in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Tennessee. An ordained pastor in the Lutheran (ELCA) church, she has also served as a hospice and hospital chaplain and as Associate Campus Pastor of a private liberal arts college. Gretchen and her family enjoy sharing time with family and friends, travel, reading and biking.
Mike Zimmerman, M.T.S., M.C.P.E.
Mike Zimmerman, Program Coordinator for the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life, is originally from New York, but has lived in many places around the US, such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Utah, Michigan, Arizona and finally settling with his wife Sarah and two children Jonah and Finley, here in Nashville. Getting his BA in Religious Studies from Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan, he would come to Vanderbilt to attain his Master’s of Theological Studies from our Divinity School. Continuing his degree, Mike joined Liverpool Hope University and the Maryvale Institute in Liverpool, England, obtaining another Master’s degree in Catholic Pastoral Education. As Program Coordinator, Mike looks forward to working with all the various religious and social groups on campus as he has made religious diversity a main interest due to his personal history of various faith traditions.
Kay Tyler grew up on a family farm in northwest Tennessee, and keeps an open cotton boll in her office. When asked why, “It’s a reminder; when stressed, remember the real definition of hard work; farmers know it”. As an adult, Kay has lived in Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Hawaii. Some of her jobs included inventory control, Parts Manager for two auto dealerships, computer operator and Micrographics Systems supervisor. She finally returned to Tennessee in 1986, choosing Nashville. A Vanderbilt employee since May 1986, she joined the Office of Religious Life in December 2005. She appreciates the continued opportunities for learning about faith traditions and cultures, and enjoys gaining knowledge when assisting the chaplains and religious student groups with programs and events.
Friends know Kay as an avid reader, book collector, and promoter of literacy. She is a member of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) and the Sisters in Crime Nashville chapters. When asked for a little-known fact, she reveals that she and her husband (also a Vanderbilt employee) are certified KCBS barbeque judges.
Katy Lucci is a first-year master’s student at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University pursuing a M. Ed. in Higher Education Administration with a concentration in Student Affairs. In 2013, Katy graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.S. in Political Science and Public Policy with a concentration in Education Policy. During her time at UNC, Katy was heavily involved in Student Government, Carolina Leadership Development, and the Presbyterian Campus Ministry. Katy comes to Vanderbilt after serving as a Presidential Intern for the University of North Carolina General Administration. Katy’s hometown is Columbus, Ohio.
Carita Carryl is a senior undergraduate student of Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, graduating with a degree in Education and Language & Literacy Studies. Originally from Boca Raton, Florida, she loves all things warm and sunny. Carita enjoys reading Game of Thrones primarily, and Netflix otherwise.
Byron ‘Tyler’ Coles
Tyler is a first-year graduate student within the Vanderbilt Divinity School working towards his Masters in Divinity. A native of Roanoke, Virginia, Tyler is also a 2014 graduate of Roanoke College where he received a Bachelors Degree in History and Religion. Inspired and motivated by his UU-Pagan religious identity, he quickly began organizing around the topics of racial diversity and awareness, the LGBTQ community, and interfaith cooperation while at Roanoke. Through his experiences of creating community based in understanding, Tyler received a motion towards the ministry and looks to become an ordained minister within the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) as a College Chaplain upon graduating from Vanderbilt.
Blake is a native of Chattanooga making his way to a Masters of Theological Studies. He is a 2010 graduate of Austin Peay State University where he received a degree in English. He has a passion for the advancement of the LGBTQI community, and is seeking creative ways to further the conversation. He is a lover of Dolly Parton, dandelions, and dancing, among many other things.
Who’s who among our Affiliated Chaplains and Directors.