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The Elizabeth Blackwell Award

By Sarah Tompkins ’10

Most Reverend Doctor Katharine Jefferts Schori

Honor goes to first woman to serve as presiding bishop of Episcopal Church

In November, the Elizabeth Blackwell Award for outstanding service to humanity was presented to the Most Reverend Doctor Katharine Jefferts Schori. The oceanographer, pilot, professor, pastor and bishop is the 39th woman to receive the honor.

Breaking a 500-year gender barrier, Jefferts Schori is the first woman to serve as Presiding Bishop, and the first female Primate in the Anglican Communion. “I stand here only because of the difficult work done by so many women and men before me. A lot of women have tried and failed to gain entry to many different vocations and opportunities,” said Jefferts Schori. “We remember those who prevailed in the face of prejudice and doubt, but none of those named trailblazers have made entries wholly on their own. At the same time, the remembered ones have continued to inspire others to try.”

Prior to pursuing a career in the priesthood to which she was ordained in 1994, Jefferts Schori was an oceanographer with the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle. She holds a B.S. in biology from Stanford University, an M.S. and Ph.D. in oceanography from Oregon State University, a M.Div. from Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and several honorary doctoral degrees.

“Bishop Jefferts Schori has had a fascinating career trajectory, one that bridges science and religion, and one that can serve as a powerful example to our students of a life of consequence,” remarked President Mark D. Gearan at the ceremony. “In her career as an oceanographer and today as the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop, she has shown a remarkable dedication to the stewardship of the environment and to the betterment of humankind. Her work to boost people from poverty and to move the Episcopal Church to a more inclusive status has aided individuals throughout the world and will help preserve the earth for future generations.”

In presenting the Blackwell Award to Jefferts Schori, Chair of the Board of Trustees Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09 said: “It is this worldview, one that is inclusive and expansive, that honors the dignity of all living things and that seeks to improve the human condition through faith and science, which defines her ministry.”

Following a brief talk, Jefferts Schori was joined by a panel of faculty and staff members including President Mark D. Gearan, William Smith Dean and Professor of History Suzanne McNally, Professor of Religious Studies Michael Dobkowski, Associate Professor of Geoscience Nan Crystal Arens and Chaplain Lesley Adams.

The Elizabeth Blackwell Award is given to women whose lives exemplify outstanding service to humankind. It is named for Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in modern times to receive the Doctor of Medicine degree. Blackwell earned her degree in 1849 from Geneva Medical College, Hobart College’s precursor. The Colleges confer the Elizabeth Blackwell Award whenever a candidate of sufficient stature and appropriate qualifications is identified. The first award was given in 1958; it was presented most recently in 2011 when Eunice Kennedy Shriver was posthumously honored as the 38th recipient. Other notable recipients include Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Wangari Maathai, P’94, P’96, Sc.D.’94, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and anthropologist and author Margaret Mead.