Established in 1994, the Unitas Distinguished Alumni/ae Awards bear witness to the faith and perseverance of living Union alumni/ae who exemplify the Seminary’s academic breadth, its diversity and inclusiveness, and the range of vocations its graduates follow.
The 2018 award ceremony, held on Friday, October 5, honored Union alumni/ae, the Rev. Dr. Norman J. Kansfield ’67, the Rev. Dr. W. Eugene “Gene” March ’66, the Rev. Dr. JoAnne Marie Terrell ’90, ’94, ’97, and Dr. Janet R. Walton ’79. Watch video of the ceremony below.
The 2019 ceremony—which will be free and open to the public—will be held on Friday, October 4, at 5:00 p.m., in James Memorial Chapel. Following the free public event, Union will host a banquet on campus to celebrate the honorees, who will be announced in the spring of 2019.
2018 Unitas Distinguished Alumni/ae Awardees
The Rev. Dr. Norman J. Kansfield ’67
Educated at Hope College (A.B.,1962), Western Theological Seminary (B.D., 1965), Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York (S.T.M., 1967) and the University of Chicago (A.M., 1970 and Ph.D., 1981), the Rev. Dr. Norman Kansfield began his ministry within the Reformed Church in America (RCA) in Astoria, Queens, and continued in the Chicago suburbs of Berwyn and Riverdale, IL. He was the seminary librarian and a faculty member at Western Theological Seminary, Holland, MI, and at the Colgate Rochester Divinity School/Bexley Hall/Crozer Theological Seminary and St. Bernard’s Institute in Rochester, NY.
From 1993 to 2005, Dr. Kansfield served as the President and the John Henry Livingston Professor of Theology at New Brunswick (NJ) Theological Seminary (NBTS). During Dr. Kansfield’s tenure as President of New Brunswick Seminary, two events revealed his commitment to the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons within the church. In 1998, he appointed the Rev. Dr. Judith Hoch Wray (part. ’85), a gifted teacher and a lesbian in an enduring relationship, to a one-year position teaching New Testament. The RCA forced the Seminary Board to rescind the contract. Dr. Kansfield was rebuked by the General Synod of 1998. In June 2004, Dr. Kansfield presided at the marriage of daughter Ann and daughter-in-law Jennifer Aull, M.Div. ‘06. This marriage caused the Seminary to end his tenure, and caused the General Synod of 2005 to depose him from the Office of Professor of Theology and suspend him from the Office of Minister of Word and Sacrament. The Classis of Rockland-Westchester, to whom the General Synod passed all responsibility for Dr. Kansfield, restored his ecclesiastical standing on October 18, 2011.
After his separation from NBTS, Dr. Kansfield served as Senior Scholar in Residence in the Theological School of Drew University (2005-2011). His current ministry is as Theologian for the Zion United Church of Christ in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. He is married to Mary Klein Kansfield, and they have two grown children, daughter Ann M. Kansfield (married to Jennifer Aull) and son John Livingston Kansfield (married to Melissa Marks). Ann Kansfield and Jennifer Aull are the parents of the Kansfields’ grandson John Aull Kansfield and granddaughter Grace Carol Aull Kansfield.
The Rev. Dr. W. Eugene “Gene” March ’66
The Rev. Dr. Gene March, A.B. Rhodes Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, received his Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary in 1966. He taught at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary for 24 years and served in a variety of leadership roles, including Dean of the Faculty. Before his time in Kentucky, Dr. March taught for 16 years at Austin Presbyterian Seminary, where he received his B.D. (M.Div.) degree.
An ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Dr. March has been very active within his denomination at the congregational level as an interim pastor and church school teacher, and in the work of the General Assembly where he served on and chaired the committee on Theology and Culture for eight years. He led in developing positions on everything from proper God language, LGBTQI acceptance and ordination, justice for Palestinians, to issues of the involvement of children in worship. Of particular significance was his leadership in guiding his denomination in developing a better understanding of the relationship of Christianity and Judaism and effecting standards against any form of anti-Jewish rhetoric in the denomination’s published materials.
He has written numerous curriculum studies and spoken widely across the church. Some of his books are The Wide, Wide Circle of Divine Love: A Biblical Case for Religious Diversity (2005); Great Themes of the Bible (2007); God’s Land on Loan: Israel, Palestine, and the World (2007); God’s Tapestry (2009); Sacred Gifts and Holy Gatherings (2015); and Six Themes in Genesis that Everyone Should Know (2018). He is married to the Rev. Dr. Lynn Gant March.
The Rev. Dr. JoAnne Marie Terrell ’90, ’94, ’97
The Reverend Dr. JoAnne Marie Terrell, Associate Professor of Theology, Ethics, and the Arts at Chicago Theological Seminary, received her Master of Divinity (’90), Master of Philosophy (’94) and Doctor of Philosophy (’97) degrees from Union Theological Seminary.
During her tenure at Union, she worked as research assistant to Dr. James Cone, was a tutor for the first course on Feminist and Womanist Theologies co-taught by Drs. Beverly Harrison and Delores Williams ’91, taught English as a second language, and was a founding member of Union’s gospel choir. After leaving Union, she served as Associate Pastor of Mount Hope AMEZ Church (White Plains, NY), and Interim Pastor of Metropolitan AMEZ Church (Yonkers, NY) and St. Matthew Gordon AMEZ Church (Chicago, IL).
At Chicago Theological Seminary, Dr. Terrell teaches the core course in Systematic Theology, and advanced seminars such as St. Augustine, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Malcolm X, Womanist and Feminist Christologies, and Proto-Womanist Thought. In her fall semester course, AIDS and Violence, she combines her passion for art and activism by working with students on original stage plays. An ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Dr. Terrell has written extensively for journals, anthologies, and lectionaries.
In February 2018, she was a featured speaker at Beyond the Temple Door There is No Promised Land: Black Women and Challenge of God Talk in the 21st Century, a conference celebrating the 25th anniversary of the publication of the groundbreaking work, “Sisters in the Wilderness”, by Dr. Delores S. Williams, Paul Tillich Professor Emerita of Theology and Culture.
In April 2018, Dr. Terrell presented the 2018 Grawemeyer Religion Award lecture at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Her lecture focused on the 2018 Grawemeyer Religion Award-winning book, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree,” which was written by Dr. James H. Cone, Bill & Judith Moyers Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology.
Dr. Terrell is the author of Power in the Blood? The Cross in the African American Experience (1998), a staple in theology courses in seminaries, colleges, and universities across the globe.
Dr. Janet R. Walton ’79
Dr. Janet Walton, musician, liturgical scholar, educator, worship consultant, and community advocate for justice received her Ed.D. in Religion and Arts from Union Theological Seminary/Columbia University in 1979. As a member of the Union Faculty from September 1980 to December 2016, she focused on worship and the arts. Her research and teaching focused on ritual traditions and practices in religious communities with a particular interest in artistic dimensions, feminist perspectives, and commitments to justice. Her classes take place on street corners, in prisons, in concert halls or museums, temples, and churches as well as classrooms.
Dr. Walton is past President of the North American Academy of Liturgy (1995-97), a Henry Luce Fellow in Theology and the Arts (1998), the recipient of the American Academy of Religion Excellence in Teaching award (2003), and the 2009 recipient of the North American Academy of Liturgy Berakah Award. Her books include Worship and Art: A Vital Connection, Sacred Sound and Social Change, co-edited with Lawrence Hoffman, Women at Worship: Interpretations of North American Diversity co-edited with Marjorie Procter-Smith, Feminist Liturgy: A Matter of Justice and New and Borrowed Rites co-edited with Siobhan Garrigan.
In 2015, she co-produced with Dr. Troy Messenger, Union’s Director and Assistant Professor of Worship, “Practicing for Life,” a video chronicle of thirty years of the worshipping community at Union Theological Seminary. After retiring from Union, she expanded her work as a consultant for synagogues that she began at Central Synagogue, New York City, in 1995, helping them to collaborate with clergy and congregants in discovering new possibilities for their liturgies. Dr. Walton is presently working on her forthcoming book, Worship Beyond Boundaries.
Know An Outstanding Alumnus/a?
The Unitas Award is the highest honor presented by Union’s Alumni/ae Council on an annual basis and is typically given during ReUnion weekend each fall. Recipients are nominated by fellow Alumni/ae, reviewed by the Alumni/ae Council, and then recommend to the seminary President for approval and final selection.
All Union alumni/ae are encouraged to submit nominations for the annual Unitas Distinguished Alumni/ae Award. To nominate a fellow alumnus/a for a 2019 award, please complete and submit a nomination form by January 31, 2019.
- Nominations will be reviewed by the Alumni/ae Council and then recommend to the seminary President for approval and final selection.
- Each submission should include as much detail about the nominee as possible, e.g., articles, publications, curriculum vitae, newspaper clippings, or other citations.
Please contact Director of Alumni/ae Relations, Emily E. Odom ‘90 | 212-280-1419
The 2017 Unitas Award ceremony took place on October 6th. Watch highlights below: