Alexandra S. Treyz ’04 is a hospital Chaplain, musician, and songwriter. As Palliative Care Chaplain at Roper Saint Francis Healthcare in Charleston, SC, Alex finds purpose in providing interfaith pastoral care to patients with severe and chronic illness. Her commitment to caring for others in community and her passion for music were nurtured at Hotchkiss.
“Initially it wasn’t my plan to follow in my Dad’s (Jim Treyz ’70) footsteps to Hotchkiss. But when I visited campus, my curiosity grew by the minute. I remember feeling connected to a certain seriousness and resolve that I sensed within Hotchkiss students. By visit’s end, to my own surprise, I had fallen in love with Hotchkiss!”
Once there, she experienced “Advisor Wendy Levithan’s and Coach Walter Crain’s steadfast encouragement and kindness. College Advisor Betsy Beck helped me find my way to Davidson, and Varsity soccer coaches Cooper and Kirby both uplifted and challenged me – a wonderful combination inherent to so many Hotchkiss faculty members.”
“My upper-mid year I travelled to Ireland with a cappella group Calliope, where we sang in schools, pubs, and theaters in both Protestant and Catholic settings. I will never forget singing ‘Stand By Me’ for former IRA members in ‘The Felons Club,’ or hearing the poetry of W.B. Yeats recited in the green hills of County Sligo.”
In 2009 she received a B.A. from Davidson, a school to which she was drawn for its small classes, academics, focus on service, and links to the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). Treyz spent the next three years working for NGO Save the Children. “I loved working alongside my colleagues in Ethiopia's West Showa, Mozambique's Nampula province, and Haiti's Maissade region. I deeply respect Save the Children's community-led approach to its programs. I remember sitting with my Save colleagues as we listened to village elders in West Showa sharing their community priorities, and we responded with ideas and resources that would support them in realizing that vision.”
Growing up in the PCUSA, Treyz had wondered what care for others might look like not only on Sunday morning, but throughout the week. Eventually, this curiosity led her to pursue a dual masters in divinity and public policy.
“At Duke Divinity School, I investigated how Christian theology and ethics relate to social and environmental issues. At Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy, I focused on social policy and economic development. The last year of my dual degree program, I combined my lines of inquiry – theology and social policy – by researching the potential for micro-economic development via faith-based community gardens and farms. That brought me into conversation with farmers and entrepreneurs of multiple faiths and spiritual traditions. Eventually this thesis work led me to Duke’s World Food Policy Center, where I identified opportunities for growth and further researched food and faith – particularly the innovative, impactful work of people of faith in food security, regenerative agriculture, food entrepreneurship, and racial equity. I also organized a convening of interfaith practitioners and academics in the field.”
Her passion for music continued, and during graduate school she played in several bands. “These days I write songs, mostly as a means of processing my experiences. I recently partnered with musician friends from Duke Divinity and Interfaith Prison Ministry for Women to record songs telling the stories of formerly incarcerated women, in their own words and voices. Before the album’s release, we sang these songs in churches and theaters around the Raleigh-Durham area and over the radio waves at WUNC to raise awareness regarding systemic issues leading to incarceration. The album, released in October, is titled "Conviction."”
Deciding to pursue ordained ministry in the PCUSA, Treyz completed an internship as a Chaplain at UNC-Chapel Hill Hospital. She found great energy and purpose in her visits with patients and their loved ones. “I learned how to hold space for others: to be present, listen, allow others to reflect on their experiences meaningfully– to make space for grief and silence.”
Treyz entered Duke University Hospital’s Chaplain Residency program in the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Early in my Residency, visitors weren’t allowed into the hospital, and I often connected loved ones to patients virtually in an effort to mitigate the distress of separation and isolation. I have one particularly vivid memory of holding a vigil with an extended family via iPad as I stood outside a dying Covid-19 patient’s isolation room. It's difficult to describe the intensity of that year, one I wouldn’t trade despite its challenges. I witnessed exhaustion and grief in my colleagues, as well as extraordinary courage.”
Treyz shifted to Roper Saint Francis Healthcare in Charleston, SC late this summer. “As Palliative Care Chaplain, I care for patients and their families as they face illness, uncertain futures, or their last days, and hope to be a steadying, comforting presence along the way.”
“I continue to believe in and to support Hotchkiss because I see Hotchkiss responding in real time to the most pressing issues in the world.” Treyz supports the Walter Crain Fellowship for its response to issues such as diversity, equity, and inclusion, and Environmental Initiatives including the Fairfield Farm. “I may have left campus in 2004, but Hotchkiss continues to inspire and teach me.”