The lessons learned on the gridiron as a Lute helped lay the groundwork for a lifetime of service for Tad Monroe ’97, who has championed social justice in the Tacoma community for the past 23 years.
Monroe has been an athlete, a coach, a pastor and a public servant. Now, his work has him building a stronger community – literally.
He serves as the organizational development and neighborhood revitalization consultant for Habitat for Humanity International. Monroe assists entire neighborhoods in their goal of growing stronger, consulting with projects on the West Coast and nationwide.
The framework of Monroe’s career trajectory was forged during his time at Pacific Lutheran University.
“One of the focuses of the football program was positioning yourself and your mentality in a place of abundance where you were held up by the guys around you,” Monroe said. “It was about the collective and what we can do when we banded together with everyone doing their part.”
That’s been a huge emphasis for Monroe. He uses that philosophy on a daily basis at Habitat, working with communities to identify and empower assets within the neighborhood.
“The idea is we try and unlock the assets and resources already in the community,” he said. “We believe that fundamentally no community is going to change unless you can unlock assets from within the neighborhood.”
Football was the initial draw to PLU for Monroe, who decided to attend the university along with a group of teammates from his hometown Yakima, Washington. They chose PLU, in part, because of how highly one of their coaches talked of his experience at PLU. That coach was backup for quarterback Craig Kupp, who went on to play in the NFL.
Monroe played center for the Lutes for two seasons, including in 1993 when Frosty Westering led them to a NAIA Division II Championship. Monroe also served as a player coach in 1995, after a knee injury cut short his playing career. While Monroe’s time playing football was fleeting, the lessons learned continue to shape his life philosophy.
“Football was really important to me, so when I tore my knee it was a hard process letting go of that identity,” Monroe said. “But in some ways, that process allowed me to get involved in the greater community and fall in love with Tacoma.”
After exploring his personal faith, Monroe entered seminary following graduation. The decision was partly due to encouragement from his roommate, Pat Query ’99, and being challenged by his history advisor Beth Kraig, who taught classes through the lens of social justice.
Tad Monroe ’97
After seminary school, Monroe served as a pastor for both Trinity Presbyterian and Urban Grace churches in Tacoma for 12 years. At both parishes, Monroe spent a significant amount of effort running the social outreach programs, including tutoring, food programs, clothing drives and establishing a medical clinic. He also found himself back on the football field, coaching at Tacoma’s Stadium High School and later Franklin High School in Seattle.
“A lot of the kids I coached grew up in tough situations,” he said. “I coached because I truly believe it is a great tool for shaping young men into successful people who are going to give back to the community.”
In 2012, Monroe accepted a position as the ecumenical and multifaith campus minister at Seattle University, but the relationships built in the Tacoma community and at PLU brought him back to his adopted town. He returned in 2015 to work for Habitat for Humanity, where he continues on a path of social justice and giving back to the community.
“Tacoma embraced me,” he said. “So many people in the city believed in me as a young leader and gave me real responsibility, I was nurtured and mentored but was also allowed to contribute in significant ways.”