Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon was a student pursuing her Ph.D. at Union Theological Seminary when she forged what would become a lifelong friendship with Elder Delores “Dee” C. Dixon, who was Christian Education Director at The Church of the Master, Presbyterian Church where Dr. Cannon was an intern. Throughout their lifetimes, both Dr. Cannon and Elder Dixon educated, advocated, and led in movements that would pave the way for countless African American women.
Delores Dixon made a promise to Katie Cannon to donate a portion of her estate to causes important to their shared passion. Dee chose to share a part of her legacy giving for a scholarship that supports a returning student. The Katie Geneva Cannon, Ph.D. ’83 Unitas Distinguished Alumna ’07, Union Medalist ’16 & Elder Delores C. Dixon Scholarship at Union honors the women’s lifelong perseverance of expanding the Womanist movement and ensuring African American women have a voice and stage for change.
A liberation theologian and Christian ethicist, and founder of the Womanist movement, the Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon was the first African American woman to be awarded a Ph.D. at Union Theological Seminary and the first African American woman to be ordained in the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A., 1974); and among the many accolades she received throughout her lifetime, she was the recipient of Union’s highest distinctions. Dr. Cannon passed away in August 2018—and as a way to commemorate her dear friend, Elder Dixon is making her promise a reality. Read more about Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon in the Union Collective magazine on page 23 and watch her memorial service.
Former Harlem resident and planning member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Elder Dixon was a key witness to the dawn of the civil rights movement and activism in the United States. As solo member of folk trio The New World Singers (NWS), Elder Dixon traveled through the South with the trio and representative groups of activists during the 1960s. Aside from leading the workshops and discussion groups, NWS created and taught the many freedom songs for demonstrators to sing, and they performed before and after keynote addresses by The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. The NWS trio recorded the first version of the protest song by Bob Dylan, “Blowin’ in the Wind,” inspired by one of Dee C. Dixon’s solo songs and “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right” by Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan and Elder Dixon remained good friends throughout their lives.
Elder Dixon was the first Black female hired as lay missionary by the Christian Reformed Church and is an Elder in the Presbyterian Church. She is a retired NYC teacher for church organist theatre and a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) performer. Elder Dixon was featured in art exhibitions such as Folk City at the Museum of the City of New York, where the impact of American politics and culture during the 1960s was explored. A graduate of The City College of New York, Elder Dixon was the recipient of the 2020 Alumni Service Award—which recognizes members of the Alumni Association “who have provided exemplary volunteer service to the Alumni Association and/or the College community.” She continues her activism in the Bronx.