On Friday, May 17, 2013, the faculty, staff, and students of the Graduate Division of Religion (GDR) gathered in Craig Chapel to celebrate the annual hooding ceremony. Assistant Professor of Church Music Mark Miller played the organ, as first faculty and then students processed into the chapel, donned in brightly colored academic regalia. There graduates and their families and friends were greeted by Drew’s President, Vivian Bull, who affirmed the crucial importance of the GDR to the University. Theological School Dean Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan also extended his welcome and congratulations, observing that 2013 marks the 100th year of doctoral education in religion at Drew—an auspicious year in which to graduate! Finally, GDR Chair Virginia Burrus discussed the symbolism of the graduate hood itself as a marker of identity and belonging: lined in silk with the school’s colors, its opening trimmed in dark blue velvet to denote the Doctor of Philosophy degree, the hood connects its bearers with a deep history of intellectual training while also signifying their enduring ties with Drew. Invoking their vocation as scholars and teachers, Burrus left the graduates with a passage from the early fifth-century Christian writer Palladius: “Words and syllables do not constitute teaching—sometimes those who possess these are disreputable in the extreme—but teaching consists of virtuous acts of conduct, of freedom from injuriousness, of dauntlessness, and of an even temper. To all these add an intrepidity which produces words like flames of fire.”
The central ritual of the hooding followed. As Burrus called each student’s name, the student stepped forward with his or her doctoral mentor, who first read a description of the contribution of the student’s dissertation and then slipped the hood over the student’s head, amidst festive applause and the flashing of cameras. Remarkably, no one’s glasses were knocked off or hair mussed this year!
The Theology and Philosophy Area had the lion’s share of graduates, with six total. Luke Higgins’s dissertation, entitled “The Time of Ecology: Theological Cosmology for a Postmodern Earth,” was granted distinction and was also one of two dissertations to receive the Helen LePage and William Hale Chamberlain Prize this year, awarded for creative thought and excellent prose style. Jung Doo Kim, author of a dissertation entitled “Love, the Spirit, and Eschatology: Toward a Planetary Theology of Love,” is already teaching in Korea but was happily able to travel back to participate in the ceremony. Dhawn Martin was granted distinction for her dissertation “The Cosmopolis of God: A Political Theology of the Kingdom,” and Erika Murphy was the fourth and final student to receive the hood from mentor Catherine Keller, having written a dissertation entitled “Inhabiting God’s Wounds: Reimagining the Wisdom of Vulnerability.” One more T&P student rounded out the cohort at the ceremony: Kiseong Shin, author of a dissertation entitled “The Concept of Self and Its Implication of Salvation in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity,” was hooded by his mentor Wesley Ariarajah. Not present at the hooding was T&P graduate Samuel Laurent, whose dissertation was entitled “Incarnational Creativity: A Pneumatology of Improvisation.”
Hebrew Bible was also prominent for its number of graduates this year. Linda Dietch wrote a dissertation entitled “Authority and Violence in the Gideon and Abimelech Narratives: A Sociological and Literary Exploration of Power, Violence, and Ethics in Judges 6-9,” and Donna Laird wrote “Negotiating Power: The Social Contours of Ezra-Nehemiah”; both received distinction and they shared the Rabbi Dr. Sheldon J. Weltman Prize for Excellence in Biblical Studies. Also hooded by mentor Danna Nolan Fewell was So Jung Shin, whose dissertation was entitled “’Who Am I, O Lord YHWH, and What is My House?’: A Bakhtinian Reading of David in Exile and in Return in the Deuteronomistic History.” Completing the Biblical Studies cohort was Sharon Jacob, author of “Violent Love, Oppressive Liberation: Reading Mary in the Infancy Narratives of Matthew and Luke alongside Surrogate Indian Mothers”; Jacob was hooded by mentor Stephen Moore.
Religion and Society graduate Jill Krebs, hooded by mentor Laurel Kearns, received distinction for her dissertation “Local Girl: Our Lady of Emmitsburg, Visionary Culture, and the Fashioning of a Catholic Subjectivity”; she was also the recipient of the Helen LePage and William Hale Chamberlain Prize for creative thought and excellent prose style, shared with Luke Higgins. Not present at the ceremony, given the rigors of a trip from Brazil where he resides, was R&S graduate Paulo Ayres Mattos, whose dissertation was entitled “The Theology of Sacrifice of Bishop Edir Macedo: A Theological Critique.”
Finally, Liturgical Studies graduate David Patrick Rowald received the hood from Heather Elkins, on behalf of mentor Jill Comings; his dissertation was entitled “English-Language Liturgy in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod: Its Growth and Development.”
One further PhD degree was awarded posthumously to R&S student Adelaide Ruth Afi Boadi, who died tragically in September of 2012, just short of reaching a much longed for goal. After words of tribute from Laurel Kearns on behalf of a committee that had been chaired by Otto Maduro, who also passed away recently, Joyce Agyemang, Adelaide’s cousin, accepted the degree on behalf of Adelaide.
With joy only made more intense by the shadows of grief and reminders of life’s transience, we celebrate this year’s GDR graduating class!