Graduate Theological Union


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Scholar, Author, Teacher, Administrator — Above All, Mentor

Dr. Terrence Tilley, Ph.D. ’76, professor and chair of the department of Theology at Fordham University, and the GTU’s 2008 Alumnus of the Year, feels called to mentor. It is, he says, a part of his vocation in theology: “I get immense satisfaction if others are able to thrive because of a contribution I’ve made,” he says. Tilley is a prolific author and scholar, a dedicated professor recognized by students and colleagues for excellence in teaching, and a gifted administrator. He seems simply to weave mentoring into each of his many roles. His drive to help may have started when he was an undergraduate, working his way through the University of San Francisco as a nursing-orderly at St. San Francisco’s St. Mary’s Hospital.

Called to Create Leaders

Karen Lebacqz, GTU professor of ethics for 31 years, now retired, returns to the GTU from the Mendocino coast each spring for Commencement. “When I stand with students at the pre-Commencement reception where they describe their work, I am staggered,” she says. “Staggered by the range of their studies, the resources and energy they bring to their work, and the fact that they really want to make a difference in the world.”

Erin Brigham, PhD student in Systematic and Philosophical Theology, continually explores how other fields may contribute to her work in ecumenism

Erin BrighamThe journey which led PhD student Erin Brigham from her general interest in Religious Studies at Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to her current dissertation topic was shaped by questions and detours along the pathway. Like many who travel in theological discourse, she began pursuing answers to the big questions theology attempts to answer — those of meaning and purpose. She landed at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley as a Systematic and Philosophical Theology MA student, and then she fell in love with the works of Elizabeth A. Johnson. Johnson’s premise that the symbol of God functions in community led Brigham to recognize that Christians have a social responsibility for how we talk about God.

Consortial Registrar Sharon-Gay Smith Leaves GTU after 37 Years

“My job isn’t a job. It’s a ministry. And the GTU has given me community and allowed me to practice my ministry.”

Sharon-Gay SmithThat’s what Sharon-Gay Smith says of her 37 years of work at the Graduate Theological Union. In return, from 1971 when she worked the GTU’s PBX system (remember those?) and typed transcripts by hand, to 1989 when she became common registrar, to 2008, Smith has given the GTU her loyalty. Day in and day out, she has given students down-to-earth, day-to-day practical help, ranging from advice about where to find affordable housing to how to register for classes.

Learning to Speak a New Tongue: Imagining a Way that Holds People Together

Fumitaka Matsuoka"Who are we as Americans? What will bring people together as Americans today and tomorrow?" Fumitaka Matsuoka attempts to answer these questions in the 2008 GTU Distinguished Faculty Lecture on November 11.

Stitching Hope and Beauty in Pamplona Alta

A stack of colorful cuadros — Spanish for “pictures” — sits on Rebecca Berru Davis’ sofa. They are hand-appliquéd and embroidered textile scenes created by a cooperative of women artists in Pamplona Alta, a shantytown outside Lima, Peru. Davis, a third-year Graduate Theological Union doctoral student in the area of Art and Religion, has just returned from her third trip to Pamplona Alta since 2006.

Holger Zellentin, Assistant Professor of Rabbinics and Late Antique Judaism, anticipates community outreach and interreligious collaboration

Holger ZellentinA member of the faculty of the Center for Jewish Studies, Holger Zellentin celebrates the center’s 40th birthday.  He believes that CJS is a pioneering institution with a bright future as it faces new challenges, one of them being adapting to the evolving needs of the GTU’s students, and surrounding community.  He hopes to see more community outreach as a means of growing the center.  In addition, Zellentin would like to see more collaboration among academic institutions, especially between GTU and the University of California, Berkeley.  CJS is focusing on working with the Center for Islamic Studies for interreligious events, the first this year being a co-celebration of Rosh Hashanah and Eid al-Fitr.

Joan McGrath Set To Not Just Survive, But Thrive

Joan McGrathJoan McGrath, chair of the Graduate Theological Union board of trustees, is fascinated by the power of groups to survive and thrive -- the first Christians whose tiny movement grew to today’s two billion; her own successful company built on teamwork and caring ethics; and the GTU, founded by people of distinct faiths committed to learning about one another and bringing a healing message to a world in need. 

Alumni Then and Now

Dr. Bernard Adeney-Risakotta (Ph.D. 1982) is Director of the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS), the first cooperative interreligious Ph.D. program in Indonesia. He received the GTU 2007 Alum of the Year award for his outstanding work in the field of religion. Here he talks about his interfaith journey.

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