The new Trinity Preparatory School senior chaplain arrives at the school after eight years as a military chaplain.
Everyone is forced to face challenges and struggles at some point in their lives — and the years of middle and high school are no exception.
But a new staff member at Trinity Preparatory School is there to lend a helping hand and encouraging word.
The Rev. Richard Towers is the new senior chaplain of the Winter Park school. It marks the fifth college preparatory school at which Towers has worked during a long, purposeful career.
“I’m very excited; Trinity Prep is a great school with a really good faculty, staff and student population,” Towers said. “It’s a beautiful part of the world. A couple things I like about Trinity Prep is it’s co-ed, and it’s middle and upper school, so we can focus on ministry as the students are becoming young adults. … I enjoy talking with students who are a little older.”
Towers will be in charge of pastoral care throughout the school community, leading chapel and coordinating community service. He also will be teaching introduction to the Bible and introduction to ethics.
“The thing you really can’t figure for is the life cycle, emotional needs that people have with family,” Towers said. “Part of my ministry is trying to make sure that you support people in all aspects of their lives. I get to share in the joys and the challenges that we face as human beings.”
DRAWN TO MINISTRY
Towers grew up in New York outside of Rochester and knew early on that he was called to serve the church.
“Some people have ‘lightning bolts,’ so to speak, where there’s some dramatic life switch that says, ‘I’m going to commit myself to service of God,’” Towers said. “From the earliest memories at age 6, I had a sense that I was going to be going into the ministry.”
After graduating from high school, Towers attended Houghton College for his bachelor’s degree and Bexley Hall at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School for his master’s. He also obtained a certificate of advance study from Seabury Western Theological Seminary in Illinois and his doctoral degree at Virginia Theological Seminary.
Following graduation from seminary and ordination, Towers served as a chaplain at the Bishop Brent School in the Philippines, as well as in Guam at St. John’s School and Church.
That was followed by roles as associate dean for academic affairs at Seabury Western Theological Seminary and as a chaplain of St. Mark’s School of Texas.
It was at St. Mark’s that Towers met now-Trinity Head of School Byron Lawson, with whom he served for three years.
In 2010, Towers realized a dream that was many months in the making when he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy. His father was a veteran of the Korean War, and Towers always had been interested in service as a chaplain in the military.
“At the time, there was a serious need for chaplains in the Navy,” Towers said. “The age waiver was 41, so I joined the military at the unusually seasoned age of 41.”
Towers served as chaplain in the military for eight years. One of the highlights included his time as a squadron chaplain for a U.S. Marines aviation squadron at the joint reserve base in Fort Worth.
“In some ways, my experience in the military was not unlike ministry with young adults — most of the people that I worked with in the military were fresh out of high school and facing the kind of stress that any young adult might face,” Towers said. “With the added challenge of combat stress, they faced relational stress and occupational stress. (They faced) the challenges of being away from home often for the first time in their life other than basic training.”
Towers also was stationed in South Korea as a force chaplain, serving as the only chaplain supporting reserve activity on the South Korean peninsula.
“While I’d hoped to go to the Middle East, it was a real blessing to be able to serve in South Korea, because it was the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice,” Towers said. “The South Korean government had invited service members who had served in the Korean War to come back. I got to conduct a series of war memorials on battlefields in South Korea with soldiers that had not been in Korea for 60 years.
“The highlight of my eight years in the Navy I think would be the chance to speak with and learn more about what life was like during the Korean War,” he said.
RETURN TO THE STATES
After returning from Korea, Towers went into the reserves and also worked as rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ithaca, New York.
He then returned to Dallas, where he served as the chaplain of the Episcopal School of Dallas and associate priest of St. Michael and All Angels Church.
Towers just got out of the U.S. Navy in July after being out of active duty for several years. Back in June, Lawson reached out to Towers about coming to Trinity, and the former military chaplain gratefully accepted the new post.
Towers said he’s excited to start his new role at Trinity Prep.
“The students have great spirit, are kind and thoughtful, and talented in many ways,” Towers said. “The opportunity to grow in the practice of my ministry is obvious to me. I really look forward to becoming more embedded in the community and finding ways to help these fine young people get ready for college.”