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Drew Theological School Celebrates the Legacy of the Rev. Dr. Joyce Bailey

The pioneer was remembered with the inauguration of a new award for academic excellence in her name.

May 2021 – Drew Theological School celebrated the legacy of the former assistant professor of Christian education at the Theological School with the inauguration of the Rev. Dr. Joyce Bailey award for academic excellence and community participation during a virtual Drew Chapel and community event.

To further celebrate Bailey, there was a virtual evening lecture given by Catherine John Camara, associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Oklahoma, titled, “You T’ink Seh We Done? We Jus’ ah Come!: Submerged Consciousness and New Ways Forward.”

The award will be distributed annually to an international or U.S. student of color with a 3.4 GPA or higher who excels in both academics and community life and who demonstrates commitment and growth in social justice values of the Theological School.

Bailey, a pioneer in her time, was affiliated with many religious organizations and earned a litany of firsts throughout her illustrious career. She served at the Theological School in the 1970s as the first Caribbean and Black scholar, she was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. from Princeton University and was a member of the Wesley Methodist Deaconess Order of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas.

Bailey was also the first director of the Christian Education Research Center at Drew, an interdenominational resource center which offered curricular resources and programming in religious education. “It’s exciting to see the way Dr. Bailey was leading this effort, which seems so very Drew because of its interdenominational vision and its interest in the theoretical and praxis challenges of doing religious education in the contemporary world,” said Interim Dean Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre.

Assistant Professor of New Testament Althea Spencer-Miller was the visionary leader behind the inception of the award in Bailey’s honor. Spencer-Miller recalled the discussions that formed their relationship on the sidewalk at the United Theological College of the West Indies in Jamaica. Here they would wrestle with such issues as Caribbean identity, Caribbean autonomy, the grassroots movement within the Caribbean, among many others. “So many of my dreams developed on the sidewalk with Dr. Joyce Bailey,” said Spencer-Miller, who credits Bailey for her journey to Drew. “She parted the veil at a time when I was ready to give up on doctoral studies. She reminded me of our shared dreams.”

“Joyce’s love of people led her to choose to live a life of Christian service, a calling which she was so well prepared for and one that has endeared her to people the world over.”

Lauris Bailey-DaCosta, Bailey’s sister and a decorated writer, educator and women’s rights advocate, shared a glimpse into Bailey’s early life. Born and raised in Jamaica, Bailey’s decision to attend New York University was the commencement of an international theological career. “Joyce’s love of people led her to choose to live a life of Christian service, a calling which she was so well prepared for and one that has endeared her to people the world over.”

“Joyce, we saluted you in life, and now we remember you with love as we thank Drew Theological School for establishing a scholarship as a living memorial of the many contributions you made wherever God planted you,” said Barbara Bailey, Bailey’s sister-in-law.

Recent Master of Divinity graduate Paola Marquez is the first recipient of the Rev. Dr. Joyce Bailey award for academic excellence and community participation. A total of 50 students earned awards this year.

“As I was listening to the witness of Dr. Joyce Bailey’s work and her personhood, I am reminded of our Drew mantra—rooted, innovative, courageous,” said Associate Dean Tanya Linn Bennett. “I know that it’s the legacy of these innovative, visionary, brave people that have shaped Drew as it is today.”

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