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Career Profiles
Lyle Blackketter
Graduated: 1984
Major: Physical Education/Recreation/Camping

Ranch Specialist/Financial Adviser

lyle blackketterChoosing a Major
Lyle always loved the outdoors, farms, the range, and animals. He also had a passion for working with kids, from children through teenagers. He needed to find a way to channel these interests into a career, but first, he had to determine what would be a suitable major. Yep, this was going to be interesting.

Choosing a course of study - or two - at Messiah was not a difficult task for Lyle.  He opted for a double-major because he believed he could gain the knowledge and experience he needed to work with kids through a physical education major, and he could pursue his love of the outdoors through recreation. In conjunction with his collegiate experience, Lyle worked at various camps, and the time he spent interacting with adolescents reaffirmed his commitment to youth development: "As I got more and more into that camp," he says, "all it did was consolidate all my thinking into that one focus of working with kids and helping them get to where they want to be."

The Messiah Experience
Now that Lyle was sure he was on the right path, he needed the training that would prepare him for the career to which he felt called. He believes that his double-major suited him perfectly because "it taught me about interpersonal interaction and group dynamics," a combination of skills "that has proved incredibly valuable in every area of life." He supplemented the skills he was acquiring in the classroom with various extracurricular pursuits, working as a resident adviser for two years and participating on several ministry teams.

"There is nothing in college life that could have really prepared me for what I experienced [in my career]," Lyle explains, "However, the discipline of study and athletics at Messiah was incredibly helpful as I met the challenges of my first job out of college. One of the things they stressed at Messiah was to be professional on the job. That, I found, was a 'working out as I go' process. The deep impact of the spiritual influence that the professors, RD's, and other students had on me, I continued to draw from as I worked in a non-Christian atmosphere. While working in Vision Quest I would often call some of these people to get encouragement. The experience at Messiah and this first job has impacted my life in innumerable ways. I am forever grateful for the strong standards that I experienced at Messiah and the relationships I built there that last to this day."

"I would say that the small groups I was in and had a privilege of leading did more for me than most of the classes I took," Lyle says of the broad experience afforded him by Messiah. "The things I learned about interpersonal relations have had more lasting impact on my life since than any other thing." Lyle recommends that all students participate in a small group to develop interpersonal skills. He adds, "Also the times I set with friends of mine, to meet on a consistent basis to talk and pray about what was going on in our lives, was deeply impacting. It was one of the greatest times of my life."

What to Do Next
Lyle knew he wanted to somehow combine his passion for kids with his love of the outdoors, so he consulted the Career Center. "One of the reasons I went," he explains, "is because I didn't have enough information. The Career Center offered me information that I couldn't get myself. And the other thing that it did is, all of the things that I thought I understood-- they opened my eyes to all the other avenues that were out there that I didn't know about that could help me get where I wanted to be." The Career Center helped

Lyle find an address for Vision Quest, a program he had previously heard about that took troubled teens on wagon train trips. He applied and was accepted for a position that turned out to be a perfect fit. "The three years I spent with that organization did more for me professionally than anything else I could have done," he asserts. "It was radically different than anything else I had experienced up to that time. We slept in tepees and moved authentic steel-rimmed wooden-wheel covered wagons down the road every day with mules and wild mustangs. I stopped or helped to catch runaway kids as a matter of routine in a month's time. We were wet, cold, hot, hungry, tired, angry, thirsty, dirty, in the wonderful outdoors everyday, and able to see God's hand at work daily, but we often felt out of touch with the everyday grind of the average American. But we did impact the lives of many children in a positive way and built many strong and lasting relationships."


• "Take a weekend and go to a place by yourself where you can think and turn on your dream machine."
• "Pray."

Dynamic Process
But Lyle could not, nor did he want to, stay with Vision Quest forever. His various jobs have included, in his own words, "a camp athletic director, lifeguard, camp counselor, mission trip leader, animal health and coordinating specialist on a covered wagon train, ferrier and horse trainer on a covered wagon train, outrider on the same, . . . staff member where I worked with kids labeled as 'hard core, hard to place or unmanageable,' head wrangler at a youth camp, meat cutter, ventriloquist, heavy equipment operator, and various other sundry jobs."

Lyle moved back to the ranch in 1988. Four years later he got married and entered the ranching business. His subsequent foray into financial advising, however, has a little story of its own. "I answered an ad on the radio," Lyle says, "because I was searching for someone somewhere who could educate me about the specifics in personal finance that would make a difference. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired of the struggle of personal finance and blundering through it. We needed someone who could educate us about things that would make a difference and we found a company that could and would do that." Lyle then decided to help others by sharing the knowledge he acquired about financial planning, and soon he had developed his own financial advising business.

A Typical Day
Lyle's advising and planning job entails more straightforward tasks than some of the other, less traditional jobs he has held. "I meet with families one-on-one with a focus on educating them about personal finances," he explains. "I show them how to get most of the things that money can buy and all the things money can't buy. I build financial plans that are balanced in every area of personal finance that will show them how to reach all of their short-term and long-term financial goals." His ranching job is a bit more technical. "[I] develop strategies for maximizing the growth potential for a variety of plants and grasses," Lyle explains, "as sunlight energy is converted into plant form. [I] plan and implement ways to convert this plant energy into meat by utilizing a practice called Management Intensive Grazing using herbivores (cattle). Herbivores managed in this manner produce an incredibly healthy meat that is high in CLA, a cancer inhibiting agent; incidentally this ingredient is not found in corn finished cattle."
Lyle on the ranch
A "Why" Moment
Lyle firmly believes that in pursuing his passions, he is fulfilling the Lord's will for his vocation: "What [God] really wants for me to do is what I really enjoy doing, because what I enjoy doing, I'll work twice as hard at, I'll wake up early before everybody else, I'll be working late after everybody else has gone home, because that's my passion. I'd say you've got to determine what your 'why' is. Why do you get up in the morning, what is it that you want to do, what does God want you to do? It will be something that you enjoy doing."

Lyle found his why moment long before he found his "professional" career, and he used that to drive his vocational decisions. "Many people have a time in their life that is pivotal," Lyle reveals. "For me it came while working as a counselor at a youth camp. I was usually able to handle most any type of child, until one week I received a child that I was unable to get to do hardly anything. This one child was beyond anything I had encountered. The result was that I decided I needed to find a place where they could teach me to deal with harder core kids." Lyle found his passion for working with kids at that camp, and it's fueled his career ever since.

"Since I meet with families all the time," Lyle says, "it gives me much opportunity to see inside people's lives, and thus many opportunities to minister, more than just in finances. As a ventriloquist I have a unique chance to make people happy and to share the love of God through a media that most don't. I believe that soon God will help us get the Kid's ranch up and going, and be able to minister in that way to youth by providing a permanent home and guided education."

Dreams Still Dreaming
Lyle knows that the vocational process never stops. His ultimate goal at the moment is to open a ranch for troubled kids where he can work with them in the ways that he did in the past at camps and on wagon trains. Lyle knows that "there is so much more that I need to learn." He declares, "I hope I never think I have arrived at a place where I think I don't need to learn anymore, because I will be a dull person if I arrive at such a place. I believe the mind is a muscle and it can be developed. I have committed myself to do this until the day God takes me home."


Find out what paths other certified teachers are pursuing:

Stephen Lias, music theory professor/composer

Katie Lebhar, high school theatre director

Judy Armacost, church planter/missionary

Ben Armacost, church planter/missionary

Todd Parnell, general manager, Altoona Curve (AA baseball)

Owen Byer, mathematics professor


Profile by Angela Kriebel, 2005


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