Roanoke College

Roanoke College's "Church Lady" retires

  • Roanoke College's "Church Lady" retires

  • 04/01/11

  • When Kathryn Buchanan was hired by Roanoke College in 1987, she came in to develop a church outreach program under the leadership of then-President Norman Fintel. Around that same time, Dana Carvey from "Saturday Night Live" created a character called The Church Lady. Buchanan embraced the spoof when she was given a framed poster of Carvey's Church Lady to hang in her office.

    Buchanan retired on March 31, after 23 years as assistant to the president for church relations and major gifts.

    Buchanan worked diligently to develop strong relationships with the Lutheran Church. She worked with the leadership of the Virginia Synod and also with the Metro D.C. Synod and the West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod. Her goal was to help the Lutheran synods get to know Roanoke as an institution and over 23 years, Buchanan did just that. The synods host meetings on campus regularly and the College has valued the strong relationships developed under Buchanan's watch.

    Buchanan has helped manage and strengthen the relationship between Roanoke, the nation's second-oldest Lutheran college, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), where she was elected to the Board of Trustees of the ELCA Foundation. She also worked with other religious groups.

    "Kathryn Buchanan has traveled far across Virginia, the District of Columbia and Maryland, cultivating generous donors and making lasting friendships among Lutherans, young and old," said George Kegley, a Roanoke College graduate and editor of The Virginia Lutheran. "Her commitment to Roanoke College and her pleasant personality have created strong ties which will last a long time. She will be missed."

    Buchanan helped raise money for scholarships, endowed professorships and other funding priorities of the College. During her tenure at Roanoke, Buchanan raised approximately $14 million from Lutheran and non-Lutheran donors, and was part of the major gifts team that helped to successfully complete Roanoke's two most recent campaigns.

    While working for the College, Buchanan also served two consecutive eight-year terms as the treasurer of the Virginia Synod, then served as its vice president, the highest lay position under the bishop.

    When she became vice president of the Virginia Synod, Buchanan was the first woman to hold that position. But being a groundbreaking woman was nothing new to Buchanan.

    "Kathryn has always been ahead of the game," said Carolyn Walter, director of development research. "She was a professional woman when that was unheard of at the time." Prior to coming to Roanoke, Buchanan was the first female officer of Dominion Bank.

    "I could never go out and raise money for widgets," Buchanan said. "But I can raise money for this institution because I believe in Roanoke College and its 'Classic for Tomorrow' mission."

    Roanoke College, a classic liberal arts college in Salem, Virginia, combines firsthand learning with valuable personal connections in a beautiful, undergraduate setting. Roanoke is one of just seven percent of colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review lists Roanoke as one of the "Best 376 Colleges" in its 2012 guidebook, which includes the top nine percent of colleges, and U.S. News & World Report ranks Roanoke the number seven "Up-and-coming National Liberal Arts College."

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