Montana State University

Spring 2016

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Mountains and Minds

Making it his mission May 10, 2016 by Anne Cantrell • Published 05/10/16

Andrew Raduly regularly reads articles from America’s leading financial journals to his young children. He does so because he knows first-hand the importance of education, and also because Raduly—a Seventh Day Adventist pastor who is studying for a master’s degree in family financial planning in order to help his parishioners—realizes the importance of language.

“I’m reading Forbes and The Wall Street Journal to our children,” said Raduly, who speaks four languages. “At 8 weeks old, I know they don’t understand anything, but they will have that language from a very young age.”
Raduly’s own view of the importance of education has been shaped by his life that began as a tailor’s apprentice in Romania and has led him to earn several degrees.

An ethnic Hungarian from Transylvania, an area that was ceded to Romania after World War II, Raduly’s formative years were spent in Romania under communist rule. Raduly said he saw how the government repressed intelligentsia. As a child, he was told that he would go to a trade school rather than high school. He simultaneously witnessed his mother—who had a job in an armaments procurement factory and who was raising Raduly and his brother on her own—work hard, yet struggle to get by.

But Raduly loved to learn, and as a teenager he decided that he would emigrate from Romania when possible. By 18, he was living in Hungary. Just a few years later, he moved to the United States. He went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees without going into debt, and he has since dedicated more than 16 years to his chosen profession.

Now Raduly, 39, is again seeking additional education, this time motivated by a desire to improve others’ lives. As a pastor at two Seventh Day Adventist churches in eastern Montana, Raduly said he often works with people of limited means who would benefit from financial counseling. However, when Raduly directs his parishioners to a financial adviser, he said the response is always the same: that they cannot afford one.

“Financial planning is often expensive to the detriment of those who need it most,” Raduly said.

Raduly decided to do something about it. He found an online Montana State University graduate program in family financial planning and enrolled last fall. After graduation, he plans to become a certified financial planner and offer his services to those who need it the most—for free.

“The goal with my MSU education is to make sure I have the knowledge to help people who cannot afford financial counseling,” Raduly said. “I’ve made it my mission that people who are listening will not go broke anymore.”

Raduly valued knowledge—even as a youth—for two reasons.

“One, I knew that an intelligent, educated person will have a different window on the world,” Raduly said. “That person will be more tolerant, more accepting of other cultures. Hungarians and Romanians always had tensions between (one another). It was a bigoted view of life to some extent. I realized the more (they were) educated, the more tolerant they (became). I wanted to have peaceful cohabitation with other people. I didn’t want conflict.”

The second reason was simply because he had always enjoyed reading and studying. He said his love of learning was solidified during childhood summers when he lived with an aunt who had a huge library. There, he said, he would read from morning to evening.

“She did not ask me to do anything but read. I was reading ferociously, book after book,” Raduly said. “It solidified my desire for more books and education.”

However, his mother, who herself did not go to school beyond the eighth grade, believed that jobs, rather than books, were the future. So, after his eighth-grade graduation from a boarding academy, Raduly enrolled in a trade school for tailoring. He then went on to apprentice with a tailor. Though being a tailor was considered a “lowly” position, Raduly said, the man with whom he apprenticed earned a good living. Still, Raduly knew he wanted to continue to learn, and when communism dissolved in Romania in 1989, Raduly decided to go to high school. He enrolled in a program where students could work in the morning and attend high school in the evening. The days were long: Raduly would work as a tailor from 6 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., then he would go to school until 9 p.m. But Raduly felt fortunate to have the freedom to learn. A few days after earning a high school degree, he immigrated to Hungary to continue to further his studies, this time intending to earn a bachelor’s degree in a subject that he likely wouldn’t have considered even a few years earlier: theology.

Although he grew up in a Catholic environment, Raduly said he didn’t believe in God until a teacher came to his boarding academy when he was about 13 and in the seventh grade. She was a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Although she was not allowed to talk much about her religion, one day she asked Raduly, “Why don’t you try God out?”

“I was always up for a good challenge,” he said, laughing. “I told her, ‘If there is a God, I want this professor to give me an A without ever opening a book.’”

Remarkably, Raduly said, it happened. Contradicting his previous grading methods, Raduly’s professor came to class the next day and said, “I have one question. If someone answers it, I’ll give him an A.”

It was a question about Hungarian literature, and Raduly nailed it.

Raduly was moved. He started going to church and searching for answers to his questions about God and religion.

Another sign soon followed. Raduly said he was very poor when he moved to Hungary and would not have been able to pay the necessary fees to enroll in theology school. When the government gave him a scholarship for a year, he viewed it as a sign from God that he was on the right path.

“From a faith perspective, that was very cool,” he said.

A few years later, a friend invited Raduly to visit the United States. Raduly had just lost his mother in a terrible accident, and he was ready for a break. When he was awarded a three-month tourist visa, he said it felt like he had been given the world.

“I was just a young Hungarian kid. I went to New York City, to the bottom of the (World) Trade Towers. I had $80, and I wanted to eat at McDonald’s. I wanted to feel American. At the time it was a sense of freedom—a sense that you can do anything you want.”

Raduly said he fully intended to go back to Hungary when his visa expired, but his plans changed when he was offered a scholarship to attend a mission college that was part of the Black Hills Health & Education Center in Hermosa, South Dakota. He was there for about a year, and then in 2001, became a Seventh Day Adventist pastor for several small congregations in Minnesota. Simultaneously, he started attending a local community college in Minnesota, and then transferred to Minnesota State University.

“I paid cash for school. Coming from a place where credit cards were nonexistent, and seeing my mom struggle (to make ends meet), this was very personal for me,” he said. “It was a culture shock coming to America to see how you can get so much money for free and you don’t have to do anything for it. But I knew you had to pay it back, so I said no to debt. I self-funded my entire education by saving and working.”

Within three years, Raduly finished a bachelor’s degree in history from Minnesota State University. He decided to enroll in a master’s program at Andrews University in Michigan, the flagship university of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
After another stint as a pastor in Minnesota—a time during which he met his wife, Judith (who is also a Hungarian) while traveling abroad—Raduly landed a job in Montana as pastor of churches in Miles City, Hardin and Custer. Later, in 2013, he became pastor of a district that includes churches in Roundup and Lewistown.

Raduly said he loves the work, particularly in smaller churches, but through his ministry he also sees a large need to help his parishioners learn about financial planning.

“People here have financial issues, but I’ve had an inability to help them,” Raduly said. “As a minister, I can help spiritually, but without formal education and training in financial matters, how do I tell someone to save money other than on an anecdotal level? When people come to the church and the church board and say, ‘Pastor, can I have some money because I can’t make this bill,’ what do you do? Do you satisfy the present need and people keep coming back? Or do you put a system in place where people will have financial literacy? How do you teach someone to be self-sufficient?”

He searched online for family financial planning courses and found MSU’s master’s program in family financial planning. The program—which is designed for working professionals who already have bachelor’s degrees—is offered through the Great Plains Distance Education Alliance, a consortium of eight land-grant universities, including MSU. Students choose one of the eight institutions as their “home” and enroll in that university as a graduate student. Then students take several online courses from each of the participating institutions throughout the course of their degree, benefiting from shared resources and shared intellectual expertise. At MSU, the program is housed in the College of Education, Health and Human Development.

Raduly also feels fortunate to have received a $1,500 Marie Moebus Scholarship for Family Financial Planning to help finance his MSU degree. The scholarship is given to students who demonstrate a desire to help people make households and families healthier.

“It felt phenomenal to get the scholarship,” Raduly said. “Without it, I would not be able to do this program right now. We have lots of extra expenses with triplets. Even with planning, I’ve been anxious to be sure everything is covered.”
Raduly began the program last fall and hopes to complete it by 2018, when he also is scheduled to complete a doctoral program in organizational leadership through Andrews University.

Raduly calls MSU’s people its greatest asset.

“The people are phenomenal,” he said. “They’ve been so genuine and willing to help.”

Deborah Haynes, head of the Department of Health and Human Development at MSU who teaches courses in the family financial planning program, said there is a huge need for personalized information about finances and retirement.

“Any family goal has a money component, whether it be to send your child to college, or to get married or to choose a career,” Haynes said. “Whatever you have as a family goal, there is a money demand and a money consequence. The more people understand that and how to make it more efficient and work toward their own family goals with less financial stress, the better off they’ll be. Financial planning is very much a helping profession.”

Furthermore, Haynes said, Raduly’s own background gives him credibility.

“He’s been through the school of hard knocks. He’s done a lot of education. He’s a real go-getter. Life has not handed it to him on a plate. Most people understand that.”

Haynes noted that Raduly will be well-positioned to deliver help to individuals and families in his community.

“One of the things we want in our graduates is a certain sense they are trusted, so that individuals and families can confide in them their deepest concerns and fears and goals,” she said. “Andrew will have both the pastoral trust, along with the fiduciary trust, of the people he serves. By giving them solid information and working with them, he can really help his own community do better.”

Raduly agrees, and has already started a weekly call-in program on a low-frequency FM station to answer listeners’ spiritual and financial questions.  

“Financial literacy is extremely important in any family. The very health and spiritual well-being of the family unit depends on wise, informed, long-term financial decisions,” Raduly said. “We live in the most generous, hard-working country on the planet. No American family should go broke for lack of financial literacy.” ■