John Brent Bill ’69, Photographer, Retreat Leader, Non-profit Executive, Quaker Minister

John Brent Bill (class of 1969) is the son of John and JoAnn (Shields) Bill (both class of 1947), Brent lived on the Hilltop until 1975. His sisters Kathleen (Bill) Kramer (class of 1972), Linda Bill (class of 1973), and Julie (Bill) Duff (class of 1975) are also graduates of West High School. Brent attended West Mound Street, Highland Avenue, and John Burroughs elementary schools and Hilltonia Junior High. While at West, Brent was active in Art League, Spanish Club, and Victorious Christian Youth. He also was one the managers for the reserve track team.

After leaving West High School, Brent went on to graduate magna cum laude from Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio with a major in fine arts/photography and a minor in religion. After studying at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, he transferred to Earlham School of Religion, a Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) seminary in Richmond, Indiana. There he studied with writers D. Elton Trueblood and Thomas J. Mullen and wrote the draft of what would become his first book.

While in college, Brent served on the staff of Young Life of Central Ohio, where he founded Young Life clubs at West High School and Hilliard High School. He also served as youth pastor at Northwest United Methodist Church in Columbus and then as student associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Hillsboro, Ohio.

While he was at Earlham School of Religion, Brent served as pastor of Jericho Friends Meeting in Winchester, Indiana. After graduating with his Master’s degree from Earlham, Brent went on to work as Director of Christian Education and Youth at Western Yearly Meeting of Friends for seven years. During that time, he embarked on a publishing career that saw him writing five books, many magazine articles and columns.

After he left Western Yearly Meeting, Brent went to work for various United Way organizations in Indiana. As part of his work as a staff member of Project Giant Step of the Indiana Association of United Ways, he was the founding executive director of United Ways in Franklin, Jennings, and Scott counties. Each of those counties experienced exponential financial growth under his leadership and when he left that position he was awarded keys to the cities of North Vemon and Scottsburg.

Upon leaving United Way, Brent became pastor of Friends Memorial Church in Muncie, Indiana. While there, he was also the creative writing instructor at Earlham School of Religion, his alma mater. He continues to teach at Earlham School of Religion on an occasional basis.

In Muncie, Brent was active in civic affairs and continued his writing career. After his time at Friends Memorial Church ended, Brent assumed the executive vice presidency of the Indianapolis Center for Congregations. The Indianapolis Center for Congregations is a multi-million dollar project of Lilly Endowment, Inc. and is involved in consulting, education, and grant-making. Brent is the Chief Operating Officer and oversees the consulting and grant-making practices, the communications department, investments, and daily operations of this statewide organization.

Brent continues to be a prolific writer and photographer. To date, he has written, co-written, contributed to, or edited more than twenty books. His most popular titles include Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality, Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment, Rock and Roll: Proceed with Caution, and Lunch is My Favorite Subject. The latter title was the first in a series of light humor books for teens set in a fictitious high school based on West High School. His newest book, Awaken Your Senses: Exercises in Exploring the Wonder of God, is set for release in February 2012. One reviewer said of Brent’s writing that it is friendly, warm, and wise — “something like Mister Rogers Meets the Dalai Larrra.”

Brent specializes in black and white photography and his pictures have appeared in books and magazines around the world. Brent is listed in Indiana Children’s Book Authors and lllustrators, Contemporary Authors, Who’s Who in Religion and Who’s Who Among US Authors and Editors.

Brent is married to Nancy (Pierson) Bill and they live on Ploughshares Farm, southwest of Indianapolis, Indiana. Ploughshares Farm consists of fifty acres being reclaimed into native tall grass prairie and hardwood forest. Brent has two sons, Benjamin (Hachinohe, Japan) and Timothy (Indianapolis, Indiana), and four step-children, Michele Ragan Schreck, Laura LaPorte, Lisa Peterson, and Christopher Ragan.