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.
Mike Zimmerman, Program Coordinator for the Office of 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. Now working on a research PhD long distance, Mike travels “across the pond” yearly to work with Medieval scholars on his dissertation on the “Devotion to Mary Magdalene in Medieval Southern France.” 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.
I am originally from a small town called Delmar on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. After high school, I attended High Point University in High Point, NC. I was involved in numerous student groups including Theta Chi Fraternity and the Honors Program. After graduation, I remained at High Point University as an Admissions Counselor for almost 2 years. I then decided to go back to school to earn an MBA. This time I choose Salisbury University in Maryland and moved back home. While earning my MBA, I worked as a Graduate Assistant in the President’s Office. I also had the opportunity to study abroad in France. Upon graduation I was offered a job at Northrop Grumman in Baltimore as a Program Cost Control Analyst. After 2 years, I was offered an Operations Manager position at Target in one of their distribution centers in Pennsylvania. I managed a team of 30 people and it was great learning experience. Now I am here
at Vanderbilt and am very excited!
I enjoy reading, sports of all kinds, checking out new restaurants, watching movies and traveling as much as I can. One of my favorite places to go is Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. I am very close with my family. I have an older sister and a younger sister. Finally, as a fun fact, I grew up on a Christmas Tree farm!
Who’s who among our Affiliated Chaplains and Directors.