It’s Never Too Late: Kurt Elling, MDiv ’17

You've probably heard the story. In 1992, just one credit short of his degree, Kurt Elling dropped out of Divinity School at the University of Chicago to pursue his vocation in jazz.
After graduating in 1989 from Gustavus Adolphus, a private Minnesota liberal arts college, Kurt began a graduate program at the University of Chicago in the philosophy of religion. He planned on an academic career or working for the World Council of Churches after completing his advanced degree. But when jazz captured him, he began playing gigs once a week at the Chicago basement club, Milt Trenier’s.

As Kurt explained,

By day I was reading dead German philosophers like Kant, Schleiermacher, and Martin Heidegger, trying to get a handle on that. I was exploring the essential thoughts of human beings throughout history, and enjoyed being part of that conversation and thinking process. As an artist and improviser, I respect the notion of taking disparate ideas that juxtapose interesting and intelligent notions with emotional resonance. At night, I was sitting in with other musicians in clubs, and of course, you can’t do both and be effective. All the musicians kept embracing me and welcoming me, and that was naturally what I wanted to do. Realizing that I had these vocal gifts, I came to see that it was a more natural fit for me to be a creator than an academic. So ultimately, Saturday night won out over Sunday morning.

And the rest is history: GRAMMY winner Kurt Elling is among the world’s foremost jazz vocalists.

But that's not the end of this particular story.

In 2017 Kurt completed his German requirement the old fashioned way and finally earned his Masters in Divinity from the University of Chicago.

Kurt Elling's Masters in Divinity diploma

With dedication and discipline, it's never too late for learning, education, and fulfilling one's dreams.

Many congratulations, Kurt!