Attending freshman orientation at Texas Tech, in Lubbock, Texas, Helen Troutman made a beeline for the InterVarsity table. She listened politely but impatiently as the student at the table pitched her on all of the distinctives of the fellowship. Finally she thrust her contact information at him and said, “Don’t forget about me.”
“I was probably the easiest recruit they’d ever had,” she said. “I’m not even certain they knew what to do with me.”
Given the links between her family and InterVarsity, there was no question in her mind that she would be actively involved in the fellowship when she got the chance. There are few families that have such an enduring link to InterVarsity as the Troutmans.
Helen’s great-grandfather, Charles Troutman Senior, a Pennsylvania businessman, was on InterVarsity’s first board of directors. Her grandfather, Charles Troutman Junior, is known as InterVarsity’s co-founder. Together with C. Stacey Woods, Charles labored tirelessly to build InterVarsity, both before and after World War II. Her father, David Troutman, was chapter president at Indiana University in the early 1970s.
Growing in the faith
The Texas Tech InterVarsity chapter was rebuilding during the time Helen was a member, from 1996 to 2000. It had doubled in size to about 80 by the time she graduated. During that time she learned the value of community and the power of studying the Scriptures.
Helen served on the executive team and the worship team, she also served as a small group Bible study leader. “My staffworkers, Robin and Eric Bolash, were constantly encouraging me,” Helen recalled. “They taught me to say ‘Yes’ to God’s opportunities.”
Joining InterVarsity as a campus staff worker after graduation didn’t seem like a good fit for Helen, but when she heard about the opportunity to join the camp crew at Bear Trap Ranch in Colorado, she jumped at it. She joined the crew for the summer after her graduation and then joined Bear Trap staff a year later, to work an additional 15 months. “It was a way to give back to this organization that had been a part of my family, but also had given me so much in college,” she said.
In 2007 Helen learned about a vacant grant writing position at InterVarsity’s National Service Center (NSC); she applied and was hired. “Now it’s my job to get excited about what’s happening in InterVarsity and tell others about it,” she said. “I like working to tell our story well.”
The family legacy
Her grandparents, Charles and Lois Troutman, passed away within weeks of each other in 1990, when Helen was 12. She has fond memories of visiting their Tucson home and receiving encouraging postcards from them in the mail. “They were always kind,” she said. “I remember watching their relationship as an older couple and seeing how much they still loved each other.”
She regrets never having the opportunity to talk with them about InterVarsity. But her current job has given her the opportunity to talk with many older staff who have memories of working with her grandfather. She’s heard many stories about him that she’s never heard before. “He loved people well,” she’s learned. “They have such fond memories of him; they adored him and thought he was wonderful.”
Helen shares with her father David a sense of pride in what the Troutman family has invested in the fellowship, and thankfulness for what the fellowship has given them in return.
“We were trained to look at scriptures as God’s very word,” David said, when he spoke at a recent chapel service at the NSC. “We don’t bypass our brains and our intellect, but rather we use all of our faculties and our tools to serve and share our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.”
InterVarsity owes much to thousands of men and women who have served the fellowship over the years. Four generations of the Troutman family have served faithfully, and the family’s contribution to InterVarsity isn’t over yet.