Mr. Al Kaul began his new role as Executive Director of Valley Lutheran on Sept. 25, 2023. We pray God’s blessings on him as he enters this new leadership position. Keep reading for an interview with Mr. Kaul!
With a few weeks now under your belt, what have you learned about your colleagues and the task ahead as you take on this new leadership role at Valley?
It is a tremendous privilege to work among such an outstanding group of faculty and staff each day as God has opened a new chapter in my life and the life of my family. I’ve prayed constantly about my position and the people who are already part of Valley Lutheran – our students, their families, our alumni, our staff, and our faculty.
Over the years, as a Board member and a parent, I’ve always known our Valley faculty and staff to be caring people who are drawn to this place so that they can participate in demonstrating Jesus’ love to those around them.
Being here to actually experience that care and love firsthand has been humbling and a tremendous encouragement. The people who work for Valley Lutheran hold themselves (and each other) to very high standards of service, care, and learning. That is a tremendous combination that makes Valley special.
As a Valley Lutheran alumnus, you join the many VL faculty and staff who have returned to work at their alma mater. Please share a couple of your favorite memories from your time as a student.
As I look back on my time as a student, my favorite Valley memory is the close relationships that I formed with some of my teachers. They served as mentors for me outside of the classroom, and their influence continues to shape my life today.
Another favorite memory includes the many plays in which I participated and the friendships I formed through drama, especially our spring play during my senior year – A Man for All Seasons. I was really able to relate to the character that I played and see the world from a different perspective.
Finally, I really loved our daily chapel services. There was great variety between different teachers and outside guests as well as “senior” chapels when different groups of seniors led chapel. Because the gym was carpeted, we always sat on the floor. Looking back, I realize now how daily chapel helped to instill in me the importance of walking with God every day.
The mission of Valley Lutheran is ‘Preparing students for life with Christ as our foundation!’ How do you see this mission playing out daily?
Our mission is a living mission statement, demonstrated by our faculty and our staff each and every day.
In a somewhat obvious way, students are gaining knowledge from their classes that will enable them to be successful adults in their futures after Valley. But there are less obvious, but equally important, ways that I see this mission alive daily:
- Preparing students for life is not just about the future, it’s also about the present, the life that we live every day, and what it looks like to be a Christian every day of the week, not just on Sunday morning. Being “prepared” includes things like prayers in and out of classrooms, daily chapel services, and being around other Christian students and adults who share in the knowledge of a loving God.
- Students are developing positive interpersonal relationship skills that enable them to interact with others in meaningful ways here at Valley, outside of Valley, and into future relationships they create as adults.
- Beyond the subject matter of the classroom, students are learning important life skills for the present and the future such as problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration – all skills that help them succeed here as well as in whatever vocation God leads them.
- Christ is the foundation on which everything is built at Valley. We live in an increasingly broken and challenging world, and building on an unshakable foundation of Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit enables our students to live boldly in their faith now and in the future.
Take us on a brief journey from the time you graduated from Valley Lutheran in 1987 to being named the new Executive Director in 2023. How has God prepared for this new calling?
After graduating from Valley Lutheran, I attended college at the University of Michigan and majored in psychology. Beyond the classroom, volunteer experiences during that time like serving at Mott Children’s Hospital and the local shelter for battered women and children opened my eyes to some of the challenges people face in our sinful and broken world. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, I stayed at U of M to complete my Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work with a major in Interpersonal Practice and a Minor in Nonprofit Administration and certificate in aging services.
My first jobs following graduate school focused on counseling and therapy services with individuals, couples, and families. I developed somewhat of a specialty in working with teens primarily because I enjoyed interacting with teens. This work challenged me and enabled me to grow not only professionally, but also in my faith walk.
Attending a public university and entering the job market in a non-faith-based nonprofit organization opened my eyes to see that a lot of people try to make it through life without God. I began to question how people could face daily problems and more serious long-term challenges like anxiety, depression, family strife, etc. without faith in God and seeing His work in our lives. That led to a career shift, and I went to work for a growing Christian nonprofit human services organization called Wellspring Lutheran Services.
I was blessed to spend 25 years serving Wellspring in various leadership roles where God continued to fill me with experiences, knowledge, and relationships that allow me to bring a well-rounded set of skills and knowledge to life at Valley. My hope is that others here at Valley may be able to benefit from some of what I have been blessed to receive through these experiences.
Please introduce the Valley Lutheran family to the rest of the Kaul family.
God has blessed me with the love and support of a wonderful family. There is nothing that I enjoy more in this life than spending time with my wife and our three sons.
Beth Lambert Kaul, VL ‘87 – God brought Beth into my life during our freshman year at Valley. Through shared classes, student council, and drama productions, we quickly became best friends. We didn’t really “date” each other in high school, but we spent a lot of time together hanging out with other friends and going to movies. We attended homecoming dances and prom as a pair. After college started, we realized that we were missing each other a lot, and I think that was God’s way of bringing our relationship closer together. We married a month after I completed graduate school. In many ways, we are opposites, and I think that is often God’s way of putting people together so they complete each other – the Bible says that the two will become one flesh. Beth is incredibly creative and artistic and funny and beautiful. She works primarily as an artist and as a school bus driver for a public school system. Together we’ve been blessed with three sons.
Luke Kaul, VL 2018 – Luke serves our country in the United States Navy on a ballistic nuclear submarine. His primary job is to operate the nuclear reactor that powers the submarine and all of its systems. When in port, he is stationed in Bremerton, Washington. His sub goes out on patrol for four to five months at a time generally underwater for that entire time.
Silas Kaul, VL 2020 – Silas began his college experience at Saginaw Valley State University. After exploring various possible career choices, he felt led to pursue radiography and has transferred to Delta College where he was accepted into their program. He has continued the musical interests he developed here at Valley and plays in his church’s praise band at St. Paul, Frankenlust. He plans to marry Chloe Haynes (VL 2019) in July 2024.
Elijah Kaul, VL 2022 – Elijah entered the workforce immediately after graduating from Valley. While here, he spent two years enrolled in the Saginaw Career Center welding program and now holds a certificate in welding. He has been working for a local welding and fabricating shop since early in the year.
Beth and I are truly blessed with wonderful kids, and it brings me great joy to see how God is using them each in different ways as they continue life outside of Valley.
What else would you like to speak to, Mr. Kaul?
Things have changed a great deal over the years here at Valley since I was a student.
As a Board member and serving on the Foundation Board, I was privileged to witness many changes to the campus and the organizational structure that allowed the school to grow its impact in the lives of our students. The physical changes such as the recent classroom additions and athletic improvements are evident to all. It seems that whenever I talk with alumni from my era, people invariably compare rugburn stories from when we had a carpeted gym floor. The cornfield to the west of our campus toward Mackinaw is now a beautiful residential neighborhood. And of course, the football program, stadium, ball fields, and a multitude of clubs and student organizations have been added. People now can hardly believe that we held homecoming festivities in our gym during basketball season with little red wagons serving as “floats.”
But some things have not changed – we are still a Christ-centered school where faith permeates every class, every sport, every activity. The visibility of faith in our Triune God is perhaps more visible than it was during my time as a student. Our students today express their Christian faith openly, and discuss important issues impacting our world from a faith-filled perspective. I see evidence of faith in action when I walk these halls and talk with our students every day. The Holy Spirit is working through our students to strengthen my faith, and I’m so grateful.