Church administrators, coworkers, and friends gathered on Founder’s Green at La Sierra University on Saturday, June 26, for an afternoon ordination service for Pacific Union Director of Education Berit von Pohle.
“We add our hands of blessing on the ministry that has already taken place and is taking place,” prayed Nate Furness, lead pastor at Napa Community Church, during the program.
Brooke Lemmon, von Pohle’s daughter and a principal in Southeastern California, introduced her mother to those gathered and shared more insights into Elder von Pohle’s life.
“It could be easy for an administrator to take the reins and direct others in the way that the show must be run, but Berit’s specialty is not only in leading but in helping others find their strengths and talents in leadership,” Lemmon said. “Her motivation is grounded in love for the life-changing work that’s done in Adventist Education.”
More Than a Gesture—An Act of Blessing
Elder Berit von Pohle’s ordination service was marked by heartfelt moments—one of which she describes.
“When I became a first-time principal at San Pasqual Academy, I had the opportunity to hire a pastor for the campus church,” von Pohle said. “Mark Holm joined the staff and capably led the church congregation for a number of years.”
During this time, Holm was ordained to the gospel ministry. Von Pohle shared how Holm has since been a youth pastor, campus chaplain, and Bible teacher—until a stroke limited him from working.
At the end of the ordination service on Sabbath, Holm indicated his disappointment that he had not been on the platform to participate in the laying on of hands. “He wanted to put his hand on me and share his blessing with me,” Von Pohle said. “It was incredibly meaningful to me.”
Von Pohle has served as director of education at the Pacific Union Conference since June 2011. She previously worked as a teacher and academy principal in Southeastern California Conference, an academy principal in Oregon Conference, and superintendent in Northern California Conference.
Von Pohle’s Biography
Berit von Pohle spent most of her formative years near the La Sierra campus after immigrating to the United States from Denmark with her parents and older brother. Berit attended La Sierra Elementary for grades one through eight. She chose boarding academy, Rio Lindo, for her secondary years and participated in the music program and Sabbath School leadership. She took organ lessons, which led to her playing regularly for religious services. Berit returned to La Sierra for college, where she pursued a Bachelor of Science in Business Education, which prepared her to teach at the secondary level. During the summers of her college years, she worked at Pine Springs Ranch. At the close of her junior year, she was baptized on the mall at La Sierra University.
Berit spent 12 years teaching, first at San Diego Academy and then at La Sierra Academy. During those years, she earned a master’s degree in Counseling and added the roles of school counselor and registrar to her teaching load.
Schooling continued, and Berit completed the Specialist in Education degree in Educational Administration, which prepared her for her first principal position at San Pasqual Academy. As principal, Berit worked closely with the local church pastor to create a spiritual climate that would draw the students to Jesus. During these years, Berit was granted a Commissioned Minister license. She led Bible studies with a group of students and was delighted when this led to the baptism of several from the group.
At Columbia Adventist Academy, Berit had the opportunity to create the position of chaplain, which was a new concept for day academies. The individual hired was new to the idea as well. However, they worked collaboratively to engage and empower the students in leading out in the spiritual activities on campus. Each year, graduation weekend included a baptismal service.
After 14 years as an academy principal, Berit became superintendent of the Northern California Conference and cast the vision that our classrooms should have an expectation of excellence in an atmosphere of knowing Jesus. And she went back to school again, this time completing an Ed.D. in Educational Administration by the early years of her tenure as Director of Education for the Pacific Union Conference.
Whether to classmates in Pathfinders, campers at summer camp, students in the classroom, teachers under the supervision of a principal, principals working in the conference, or superintendents working with the Union Office of Education, Berit has been committed to ministry. And it hasn’t just been part of her professional life. For most of the past 25 years, she has regularly taught an adult Sabbath School class at the Napa Community church, continuing even during the pandemic.
Berit’s husband, Chico, who passed away last year, was one of her greatest champions and shared the Sabbath School teaching duties. Their daughter, Brooke, is forging her own administrative journey as the principal at Oceanside Elementary School. Brooke and her husband Kyle have two daughters, Arden and Ava. Berit’s mother continues to provide support and wisdom.