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Nancy W Vyhmeister

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Photo of Nancy Vyhmeister in her office

“On the second night we were at Chile College, just after our honeymoon, my husband says, ‘I wanted to study my Sabbath School lesson in Greek and Hebrew, and now I can’t.’ I said. ‘Why not?’ and he said, ‘Because you don’t know Greek and Hebrew.’ So I said, ‘When’s the next class?’ And that’s what got me started. Later, when he was teaching in Argentina he said, ‘You’ve got to teach Greek this summer or these students can’t graduate.’ I’d taken two semesters of Greek and an independent study on Philippians. That summer was just the beginning! At one point a professor said, Nancy can’t teach Greek 4, that’s theology. My husband said, ‘Oh, OK, who here can rearrange his load to cover it?’ Well, no one spoke up, so I taught it and that was the end of that.

“When we went to Andrews to complete his master’s degree he said, ‘You are going to do a masters, too’. And I said, ‘In what?’ and he said, ‘Well you’re teaching Biblical languages. Why don’t you do it in that?’ So I completed a masters. A few years after we went back to South America, he got a call to be education director for the division. There were no schools nearby so I taught Pathfinders and worked as the associate editor translating the Bible Commentary into Spanish. It was fascinating.

“Then we went back to Andrews in 1975. The seminary said, ‘We need you to teach research methods’ but I had never taken the class. They said, ‘We know it but Sakae Kubo says you can do this just fine.’ So I taught it 11 times before we left Andrews in 1984. When we went to the Philippines I wrote a textbook on the subject. Later I taught research at the beginning of the doctoral program of the South American Seminary, in three countries. It’s been a very, very interesting thing.

“When we went to the Philippines, I was the librarian and taught Greek. Then I worked on the extension program teaching in different places. Once in Indonesia a guy asked in English, ‘Why you woman come to teach us?’ I explained that nowhere did the Bible or the church say that said a woman couldn’t teach a class and I knew the subject matter and I had been asked to do it and he said, ‘OK you stay.’ There was no more fuss. My husband and I developed the doctorate of ministry program at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Study in the Philippines then my husband said, ‘I’ve got so many other things to do, you run it.’ So I did it! Eventually, I was the only full time female professor and became a full professor. I was involved in different kinds of teaching because there was nobody else to teach it.

“When my husband became dean of Andrews Seminary, he said: ‘Now you should not be under my leadership, so I became editor of Seminary Studies from 1991 to 2000. It was a fun thing to do. When we got back from furlough they said, ‘You’ve been named editor of the book on women’s ordination.’ I hadn’t been involved in the women’s ordination issue before that and here I was doing it. It was fun. Some faculty members were supportive and some tried very hard to make life miserable for us. We said, ‘People have a question on this topic. We think we should always find out what the Bible has to say on any topic. That’s our job. You can’t be afraid of that. Yes, there is culture, but that is separate from what the Bible says.’ But we weren’t trying to fight, just put out the evidence.

Even in retirement my husband put together the plan for the Adventist University of Africa. Next thing you know he had me teaching Research Methods in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

I’m passionate about teaching, especially how to read the Bible in its original language and understand it like it should be understood. My life has not been driven by, ‘I want to do this’, but, ‘What needs to be done? I suppose there were people who thought my husband was treating me special, but in truth, it’s because things needed to be done and he couldn’t find anyone else. My whole teaching career, we worked as a pair and interesting doors just opened up.

It’s been quite a career for a woman to be so involved in teaching and designing programs. It was hard when the kids were little but we were lucky to have good domestic help and the kids have done well. It was just that little bit of time that was difficult. People have said why is a woman doing this? I say, because there is a need and I feel that God has equipped me, has called me, to do it. God kept dumping these interesting things on me. It has been a most amusing career. Rewarding, yes! But not run of the mill.

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