Berkeley Divinity School at Yale Confers Honorary Degrees

On Tuesday, Oct. 14, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale will present honorary degrees to Connecticut’s former Lieutenant Governor Eunice Strong Groark, the Reverend H. Boone Porter, the Reverend Barbara Brown Taylor, and the Right Reverend Herbert Thompson Jr.

“Looking at the diversity represented among these four outstanding individuals, one sees a mosaic of Episcopal life,” says Berkeley Dean Philip Turner. “In conferring these degrees we celebrate the principle that all persons, lay and ordained, have a place in Christian ministry. Whether that ministry is political action, preaching and liturgy, or social concern, each was called and each responded.”

Eunice Groark, former Lieutenant Governor of the State of Connecticut, will receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree for her commitment to Christian principles in public life. Throughout her career as an attorney, a public figure, and a mother of three daughters, Ms. Groark has demonstrated a commitment to disenfranchised and marginalized persons. Among her many public service affiliations, she has served on the board and as vice president of the Connecticut Prison Association, as secretary and president of the Public Housing Corporation of Hartford, and as a board member of the Open Hearth Mission. She is currently treasurer of the Connecticut Chapter of the Nature Conservancy; president of the Connecticut Academy for Education in Math, Science and Technology; and a trustee of both the Hartford Grammar School Foundation and the Women’s Campaign School at Yale. Ms. Groark is currently a visiting professor of government at Wesleyan University. In the 1996-97 academic year, she was a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

The Rev. H. Boone Porter will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. He is among the chief architects of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer – only the fourth edition to be published since the founding of the Episcopal Church in the United States in 1776. The prayerbook unites the Episcopalian community in a common form of liturgy and worship. The Rev. Porter is a graduate of Yale College, Berkeley Divinity School, the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and Oxford University. In the course of his career, he has taught liturgy at several Episcopal seminaries; served as editor of The Living Church, a 120-year-old weekly magazine for Episcopalians; and been a member of the Standing Liturgical Commission and the Board of Examining Chaplains of the Episcopal Church. He is author of several books and numerous articles on liturgy. Retired from active ministry, the Rev. Porter is an organizer of the 1999 North American Conference of the Associated Parishes on the reshaping of lay and ordained ministry.

The Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor was recently named among the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world in a Baylor University survey of preachers and religious press editors. She will receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. As a teacher and lecturer, she is known for her work with the College of Preachers, based in Washington, D.C., and for her numerous books, articles, printed and recorded sermons. “Bread of Angels joins Gospel Medicine,” “The Preaching Life,” and “Mixed Blessings” are among her well-known books on preaching. The Rev. Taylor is a 1976 graduate of Yale Divinity School.

In addition, the Rev. Taylor will deliver the three-part series of Beecher Lectures titled “Famine in the Land: Homiletical Restraint and the Silence of God” as the centerpiece of the Divinity School’s Annual Convocation. Founded in 1871, the Beecher lectureship is the longest-running lecture series on preaching and the work of the ministry in the United States. It is considered to be one of the most prestigious speaking invitations in religious scholarship.

New York City native Bishop Herbert Thompson will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree for his visionary church leadership and social justice ministries. Since 1988 the Right Reverend Thompson has served as Bishop of Southern Ohio. In response to his vision, the Cincinnati-based diocese has initiated a ministry for young people, established the Anglican Academy for Adult Education, and launched an aggressive program of congregational development and mission support. Prior to being named Bishop, he was rector of Grace Church in Jamaica, New York, where he established a shelter program for homeless men, implemented a tutoring program and initiated three programs to address hunger in the community. Through his leadership, the 1,600-member urban parish, whose history dates to 1702, received $4.5 million in HUD funding to build housing for the elderly and handicapped.

The Right Reverend Thompson serves on several church committees at the national level as well as on boards and committees supporting the arts and social justice in the Cincinnati area.

Degrees will be conferred during a service of Evensong in the Marquand Chapel of the Yale Divinity School at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 14. The service is part of the four-day Yale/Berkeley Convocation, which begins on Monday, Oct. 13. Former Yale Divinity School faculty member Ellen Davis will preach during the service. A reception will follow in the Divinity School Common Room. The event is free and open to the public.

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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325