Meet The Rev. Melea White: Cornell College’s new chaplain

Cornell College is welcoming a new college chaplain: The Rev. Melea White.

 The Rev. Melea White
The Rev. Melea White

White is no stranger to Iowa. She grew up in Cedar Rapids and moved back to the area in 2009 after attending undergraduate school in Mobile, Alabama, and earning a master’s degree in divinity and a master’s in social work in Austin, Texas.

She is ordained with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which she says is a  denomination she felt connected to because of its core value of welcoming everyone to the table. 

“There’s an expectation that people come together across and within different theological beliefs,” White said.

The new Cornell chaplain is excited to work with Cornell College students from all faith and spiritual backgrounds and to be a resource for them during their time on the Hilltop.

“I think that’s the most important thing I want students to know is that I am here to accompany them on their journey,” White said. “I want to be that presence for students–a person they can come to and know they will be affirmed and supported. The Chaplain’s Office is a space for people to come and ask big questions and explore faith, spirituality, and meaning and purpose.”

She notes that she’s no stranger to searching for understanding throughout her own journey. She says she grew up in a Christian family but stopped attending church in college as she explored her own beliefs.

“Then, in graduate school, I started feeling this tug back to the church, and I think it was the universe, the Divine showing me the way,” White said. “Some of our students are in the same place, and I often wonder what it would have been like in college to meet a pastor like me, particularly a female clergyperson. One of the reasons I feel called to work with college students is because of my own experience.”

Part of her faith story also includes someone many Cornellians know and love, the Rev. Catherine Quehl-Engel ’89. White stumbled upon her Cornell webpage back in 2010, and the two met in what is now White’s office over a cup of tea after White finished seminary. 

“Meeting her was really important in my journey. I left seminary feeling like my whole world had expanded in ways I didn’t really expect, and she had a role in helping me find my way as a fellow seminarian. I would say Catherine was an instrumental part of my own journey toward college chaplaincy, which feels very full circle,” White said. The Rev. Melea White

Now, White is in the midst of planning programming for students and building relationships. She’ll hold a few recurring events every week of each block with others sprinkled throughout, including an inter-spiritual gathering, a Christian gathering for all denominations, activities on the Allee Chapel lawn, and a mindfulness break during Week 4 as finals get underway. She’s also planning to be in the Thomas Commons each Thursday over the lunch hour for Chat with the Chaplain. 

White will be providing many services to students, faculty, and staff, including mentoring, spiritual care, pastoral counseling, ministry of presence, support for religious or spiritual development and exploration, vocational discernment, meaning and purpose reflection, and response to community crisis.

If you have any questions and want to reach out to White, feel free to email her at You can also follow the Spiritual Life Office on its new Instagram page: @cornellcollegespiritualife.