The Most Reverend Doctor Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, was honored as the 39th recipient of Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ Elizabeth Blackwell Award in a ceremony on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013. The election of Jefferts Schori to lead the Episcopal Church of the United States in 2006 made her the first woman to head one of the Anglican Communion’s national churches.
Jefferts Schori serves as chief pastor and primate to the Episcopal Church’s members in 16 countries and 110 dioceses. In her work as presiding bishop, Jefferts Schori has been vocal about the Episcopal Church’s mission priorities, including the United Nation Millennium Development Goals and issues of domestic poverty and sustainability. In addition, she has championed the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the church and in the secular world.
In nominating her for the Elizabeth Blackwell Award, Chaplain Lesley Adams wrote, “Like Dr. Blackwell, Dr. Jefferts Schori is a woman whose life opened doors to other women by conspicuous professional achievement in a previously male-dominated occupation. She is a role model for women seeking to live out their vocations as ordained ministers in the Church, as well as an inspiration for women in lay leadership.”
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. Her specialty was the northern Pacific Ocean species of squids and octopuses. 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,” says President Mark D. Gearan. “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.”
Jefferts Schori joins with other principal bishops to form the 38-member Provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Over the course of her nine-year term, Jefferts Schori is responsible for initiating and developing policy for the Episcopal Church and speaks on behalf of the church regarding the policies, strategies and programs authorized by General Convention. In describing her ministry, The Rt. Rev. Desmond Tutu writes: “In her version of reality, everything is sacred except sin.”
Jefferts Schori is an active, instrument-rated pilot – a skill she applied when traveling between the congregations of the Diocese of Nevada, where she was elected bishop in 2000 and ordained to the episcopate February 24, 2001. At the time of her election as bishop of Nevada, she was a priest, university lecturer, and hospice chaplain in Oregon.
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, former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, professional tennis legend Billie Jean King and anthropologist and author Margaret Mead.
The Elizabeth Blackwell Award ceremony took place at 3 p.m. in the Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center. Following the presentation of the Blackwell Award to Jefferts Schori, and her subsequent remarks, the Colleges hosted a panel discussion with: Colleges President Mark D. Gearan; Susanne McNally, dean of William Smith College and professor of history; Nan Cystal Arens, professor of geoscience; Chaplain Lesley Adams; Michael Dobkowski, professor of religious studies.