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Christian Union
February 16, 2016
"My wife, Judy, and I became aware of Christian Union in its early years on the Princeton campus," shares Dennis Sweeney. 

"Matt Bennett (Christian Union founder and CEO) contacted us and explained what Christian Union was doing. We felt a clear, immediate, strong call to become supporters," he said.

Dennis, Class of 1975, was an economics major at Princeton and a member of Cottage Club, one of the university's storied eating clubs.

The ministry's presence at his alma mater was welcome news.

"I grew up in a devout Catholic family, but drifted away from any interest in or commitment to faith in my teenage years. I was not a committed Christian at Princeton," he said.

"The Princeton I experienced, from 1971 to 1975, was a place seemingly devoid of any focus on God or faith."

Dennis attended Princeton on an ROTC scholarship and explains, "I was focused on getting a degree from this prestigious school as my ticket to the 'American Dream' and enjoying as much hedonistic fun as I could manage along the way without completely crashing and burning.

My worldview, which had been very effectively formed by network television of the 1960s (supplemented by reading Time magazine when I was feeling particularly intellectual) seemed to indicate that this was a perfectly viable path to the Good Life."

"I remain very grateful for the way Princeton opened my eyes, as a small town kid, to a broader world, and particularly grateful for wonderful roommates and friends who are dear to me to this day. However, I also now recognize there was a dimension of growth that was completely missing in me."

After college, Dennis served for four years in the U.S. Army as a field artillery officer.

During his years in the Army, he was stationed at Fort Sill (Oklahoma), at the Field Artillery Officer School, Fort Benning (Georgia), at the Airborne and Ranger Schools, and in Nuremberg, Germany, with the 1st Armored Division, providing artillery support to the units guarding the Czech sector of the Iron Curtain.

After completing his service in the Army, Dennis earned an MBA, with distinction, from the Harvard Business School.

Dennis spent the first 22 years of his consulting career with McKinsey & Company, the international top-management consulting firm, rising to senior partner.

Since leaving McKinsey in 2003, Dennis has served as an independent management consultant with Newport Consulting Partners, serving mid-sized and larger companies on issues of strategy, organization, leadership team effectiveness, and governance.

In the meantime, his spiritual life changed significantly from his college days: "After marrying Judy, I was led to a profound commitment to the Lord in my late 30s through our involvement, which she initiated, in Young Life."

SweeneysDennis and Judy have been married for 28 years now and have two children, Megan and Andrew. They reside in San Juan Capistrano, California, and attend Coast Hills Church in Mission Viejo.

As Dennis grew in his faith and commitment to Jesus Christ, he developed a profound compassion for those in need of life and hope. "As the Lord continues to heal and redeem my past and my character, my own story gives me a very tangible understanding of the power and potential impact of embracing the Gospel and genuine Christian community during college, in part through understanding what 'could have been' in my life."

Dennis brings this conviction into a very active life of service on the boards of several local Orange County nonprofits: the Rising Tide Transitional Housing Program, which provides housing and transition services for youth emancipating at age 18 from the foster care system; the Orange County regional board and the South County Area committee for Young Life, a non-denominational Christian youth organization; the Chancellor's CEO Roundtable at the University of California at Irvine; and Star Rock Ministries, which provides scholarships for under-served youth to attend summer camp.

In addition, Dennis currently serves on the board of a company that operates skilled nursing facilities and chairs the board of an early stage health care services company that provides in-home monitoring of patients with chronic disease conditions.

The Sweeneys provide financial support to Christian Union, but Dennis also commits a priceless resource: his time. He serves on the ministry's Princeton's President's Council, comprised of alumni who advise and support the ministry's operations at Princeton.

His vantage point, as both supporter and volunteer, has enabled Dennis to interact widely with the ministry faculty, students, and alumni, and to "look under the hood" of the ministry's operations. When enumerating their decision to partner financially with Christian Union, Dennis provides points in rapid-fire succession. The features that are particularly compelling for Judy and him:

1. Christian Union brings genuine Christian witness to the campus in the form of genuinely loving and respectful relationships and community among students. "We believe this witness brings light that is hugely attractive to what is, in significant ways, a spiritually dark place."

2. Christian Union's spiritual formation model deeply engages individuals, inviting them to truly pursue an interior life with God.
3. The extraordinary quality of the ministry faculty. "As a parent, it would be an unbelievable blessing to have one of these wonderful ministry fellows walking alongside your son or daughter during his or her college years."

4. The ministry's commitment to discipline of action and management is compelling. "As an ex-Army guy," Dennis quips, "I will say: the ministry operates as an impressive machine. And I think God honors Christian Union's pursuit of diligence and excellence in doing His work."

The Sweeneys sponsor a Christian Union Bible Course for Princeton students. The course is led by Christian Union Ministry Fellow Scott Jones. As faithful sponsors, the couple takes advantage of the opportunity to interact with the undergraduate men in the course.

They also have befriended a former student leader of the ministry, Princeton 2013 alumnus Luke Taylor, who is now at PIMCO, a large bond fund management company in Newport Beach, California.

"I come away from all these interactions with the same understanding," Dennis says. "Christian Union is transforming the experience these young people are having, from one which is spiritually stale to a time of extraordinary growth in spiritual depth and in leadership capacity."

In addition to supporting a Bible course each year, "Judy and I made a special gift to support the startup of the ministry at Harvard [launched in 2008]. We are planning to make a special gift to support the acquisition of a building a block from campus as a new ministry center at Princeton."

Certainly, his strong enthusiasm for Christian Union's ministry looks backward, in part, to Dennis' own college experience. At the same time, the rationale for the Sweeneys' support is deliberately forward-looking:

"Judy and I believe Christian Union puts Christ on display in a powerful, attractive, and authentic way.

The ministry is reaching a very talented and high potential set of future leaders who have the possibility of being a force for revival and renewal in our country and our culture."