Spring 2021 Class Notes

Spring 2021 Class Notes

Categories: Uncategorized, Union Collective Spring 21

CLASS NOTES 

To submit a class note or death notice, please contact Shana Kaplanov in the Alumni/ae Affairs Office at development@utsnyc.edu. Due to space constraints, class notes will be edited to 150 words or less. 

1950s  

Howard Hunter Cox, M.Div. ʼ52, and his wife, Shirley L. (Peet) Cox celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary at a socially-distanced picnic with immediate family at their daughter Sara’s home in Bethlehem, PA. The couple were married on Sept. 9, 1950 in a backyard ceremony at the home of the bride’s mother, Mrs. Lottie (Guthrie) Peet, in Bristol, PA, with approximately 50 guests in attendance.  Before Howard Cox came to Union, he overheard Paul Tillich speaking at a church in Bethlehem, and leaned over to his wife and said “that’s the man I want to study under.” The next year, he enrolled at Union and took courses from Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr.  He later obtained his doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary, and spent the rest of his career teaching Old Testament at Moravian Theological Seminary, also in Bethlehem. 

1960s 

John G. Barr, S.M.M. ʼ62, S.M.D. ʼ77, continues as organist at Bridgewater Church of the Brethren in Bridgewater, VA, after retiring in 2003 as Professor Emeritus of Organ and Piano at Bridgewater College.  He also regularly composes hymn preludes and other service pieces for The Organist’s Companion, a bi-monthly journal of organ music for the church musician published by Wayne Leopold Editions, Colfax (Greensboro) NC. 

Douglas A. McArthur, M.Div. ʼ64, retired in 2018 after serving as a missionary in Japan for three years, a United Methodist Minister in the New York Annual Conference for 35 years, and a pastoral psychotherapist for 20 years.  He then returned to Japan to serve as the Interim Pastor of Tokyo Union Church.  More recently, he was asked by the Special TIME Edition Magazine (STEM), to write an article for their publication, “The Power of Joy.”  While he is not “in the same league,” he says, he is overjoyed that his article, “Having Faith in Joy,” is among articles written by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu. 

William C. Nelsen, M.A. ′67, was recently selected by AARP Minnesota as one of its “50 Over 50” honorees for 2020.  He was recognized as one of the 50 most accomplished and inspirational Minnesotans (and one of 10 in the nonprofit sector), all noted for “courageous compassionate, and selfless acts or service by Minnesotans over the age of 50.” Currently, Bill serves as the Interim Pastor of First Lutheran Church, St. Peter, MN.  Previously he was the Interim President of Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, MA 

1970s  

Ronald MacLennan, M.Div. ʼ70, received a certificate of appreciation from the ELCA Kansas Bishop for his 50 years of ordination as a Lutheran pastor.  Since 1970, he has served five churches in Kansas, and after earning his Ph.D. in religion in 1984, he was chaplain at Bethany College for 30 years, as well as a member of the religion faculty there. 

Thomas W. Goodhue, M.Div. ′75, and his wife Karen Pohlig, M.Div. ’75, have moved back to the Heights (Morningside Gardens). Tom’s biography Ka’ahumanu: The Hawaiian Queen Who Broke the Rules will be published soon by McFarland. He also is completing a book on how to be a good neighbor in a multicultural, multi-faith world. 

Nancy Whalley Jensen, M.Div. ʼ78, has retired as Pastor of the United Church of Christ in Atlantic, IA, after 43 years in the ministry.  She plans to spend more time with her husband and family; to travel; to work more on writing and photography; and to enjoy each day without wondering what the next phone call might bring.”  Beside husband Dale, the couple’s family includes five children, 17 grandchildren (and two of their spouses), along with one great-grandchild.  Nancy and Dale plan to stay in the Atlantic area after her retirement. She said it will be an adjustment from being up front at the church as pastor to sitting in the pews listening to the sermon, but she has enjoyed her time as a pastor.  “My greatest passion has been to teach people about having a deeper relationship with Jesus, and about depending on the Holy Spirit,” she said. 

Arthur J. McDonald, S.T.M. ʼ79, has published A Progressive Voice in the Catholic Church of the United States: Association of Pittsburgh Priests 1966-2019.  Ordained a Roman Catholic Priest in 1978 by the Dominican Order of Preachers, he served as a priest in the South Bronx until 1982.  After leaving the Catholic ministry and marrying, he served two Unitarian Universalist congregations, one in Pittsburgh, the other in Essex, MA, for 26 years until he retired in 2017.  He now serves as minister emeritus at the UU Church of Essex. 

1980s  

Kevin D. Jordan, M.Div. ʼ83, has been named Vice President for Student Affairs at Farmingdale State College in Nassau County, NY, where he had already been serving as the College’s Chief Diversity Officer.  He will continue in that role as well.  In addition to his Union M.Div.,Jordan holds an Ed.D. from Dowling College in Education Administration, Leadership and Technology; and an A.B. from Princeton University with a focus on Psychology.  He serves on the Board of Directors of two Long Island not-for-profit organizations: Project Safety Net-NY, Inc. and Bridge to Promise, Inc. He is also  a member of the Urban League’s State of Black Long Island Council, and a founding member of the on-line “Trusted Voices of Long Island” dialogue, whose mission is to bring community leaders and visionaries together to address issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity. 

Emily Enders Odom, M.Div. ’90, has received a DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Award from the Religion Communicators Council, for her article, “Sarah Schoper Salazar can’t be easily dismissed,” a piece about a Presbyterian in Illinois who’s addressing structural racism in her community, which won as the Best in Category, Newspaper: Article or Story – Single Work. Odom is a communications specialist with Mission Engagement & Support at the Presbyterian Mission Agency in Louisville, KY; previously she was Union’s director of alumni/ae relations for three years; and prior to that, she was at the Presbyterian Mission Agency for 12 years.  The Religion Communicators Council (RCC), founded in 1929, is an association of communications professionals who work for and with a diverse group of faith-based organizations in the areas of communications, public relations, advertising and development.  The DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Awards are given annually to active members of the Religion Communicators Council who demonstrate excellence in religious communications and public relations. 

John L. Odom, M.Div. ʼ90, received his D.Min. degree from Columbia Theological Seminary on December 31, 2020. John’s D.Min. project was entitled, “Beginning in Sin and Ending Rather Odd: An Appreciative Inquiry Case Study of the Effectiveness of the Synod of Living Waters in Supporting Ministry and Mission in the Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky.” John is in his second 5-year term as general presbyter for Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). 

1990s 

David P. Gushee, Ph.D. ′93, Unitas Distinguished Alumnus ′12, has signed an agreement with Front Edge Publishing to publish the final “Introducing Christian Ethics lectures.Gushee is known around the world as a leading Christian scholar and ethicist. Through decades of teaching Christian Ethics at Mercer University in Atlanta and Macon, Georgia, where he is the Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics, he has helped shape the lives of thousands of young men and women as they begin to grapple with morality in ministry and their chosen professions.  Over the years, he has also written for newspapers, magazines and wire services.  More recently he has served as president of both the Society of Christian Ethics and the American Academy of Religion.  He is an author or editor of 26 books. He and his wife, Jeanie, live in Atlanta. 

Marc S. Mullinax, Ph.D. ’93, has translated and published Tao Te Ching: Power for the Peaceful (Publication Date: April 6, 2021) with Fortress Press. Alongside the translation or each verse, there is a flowing chorus of similar wisdoms from (1) the world’s wisdom traditions, (2) books both ancient and new, and (3) pop culture icons such as Banksy and Bob Dylan. Mullinax also includes scholarly notes on the Chinese text and demonstrates how the Taoist worldview remains a deep resource for courageous leadership and wise living today.  He is Professor of Religion at Mars Hill University, Mars Hill, NC. 

Raphael G. Warnock, M.Div. ′94, Ph.D. ′06, defeated Senator Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., in a special runoff election in January 2021.  He and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff, who defeated Senator David Purdue, D-Ga., helped flip control of the U.S. Senate to Democratic control, and thereby gave President Joe Biden a big boost in his legislative plans. The two Georgians are the first Democrats to be elected by Georgia since 2000, and Warnock becomes the first Black Senator from Georgia, and the first Union alum in the U.S. Senate.  

Cheryl D. Miller, M.Div. ʼ95, has received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Vermont College of Fine ArtsMiller is a designer, author, and theologian best known for her diversity, equity, and inclusion advocacy for Black graphic designers.  She established one of the first Black-women-owned design firms in New York City in 1984, Cheryl D. Miller Design Inc., and has gone on to provide corporate communications services to Fortune 500 clientele, as well as social impact corporate communications defining the civil rights era.  Miller holds a M.S. in Communications Design from Pratt Institute and a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art, with Foundation Studies completed at the Rhode Island School of Design.  She is an adjunct faculty member at Lesley University’s College of Art & Design, where she teaches graphic design. 

Philip B. Davis, Sr., M.A. ʼ96, has been called to Webster Presbyterian Church in Webster, NY, as its new pastor. He was ordained in 1997 at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Brooklyn, and has served Presbyterian and American Baptist churches in the Rochester area since 2003. “Is this love?” is the guiding question to his theology, ministry and approach to living.  

Michelle A. Gonzalez Maldonado, M.A. ʼ96, began her tenure as the new Dean of The College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Scranton in Scranton, PA., on July 1, 2020.  She previously taught at the University of Miami, and before that at Loyola Marymount University.  Maldonado obtained her Ph.D. in theology at the Graduate Theological Union at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Jennifer Sowell Glover, M.A. ʼ99, has been called as pastor to St. John United Church of Christ in Collinsville, IL.  She is the first woman to serve as senior pastor in the church’s 126-year history.  Glover has served UCC congregations in Maryland, New York and Florida.  Her education includes Union, and Lancaster Theological Seminary. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in ministry at Wesley Theological Seminary.  Pastor Jenn has been married to her husband Allen for 18 years. He is employed in real estate and has also written a novel which he is working to get published. They have two sons, Aaron and Mark, who are both in middle school. 

2000s 

Anne Bowie Snodgrass, M.Div. ′03, has been called by the Vestry of Christ Church in Short Hills, NJ, as its 12th Rector, effective March 2021. Rev. Bowie, as she is known, had served there first as Curate beginning in 2016, then as Associate Rector, and since January 2019 as the Priest-in-Charge. She is the first woman to be called as Rector of this historic Episcopal churchSnodgrass is active in the Coalition of Religious Leaders of Millburn and Short Hills, and has launched a monthly Interfaith Bible Hour in collaboration with Temple B’nai Jeshurun, Short Hills, and St. Stephen’s, Millburn.  She resides in Short Hills with her husband, George Mathew, an Indian-American conductor, social entrepreneur and founder of Music For Life International, a non-profit creating transformative global social impact through music; and their children, a son in fourth grade, and a daughter who attends Christ Church Nursery School. 

Rebekah Adens, M.Div. ʼ04, has been appointed Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Merion Mercy Academy, in Merion Station, PA, effective July 1, 2021.  She has more than 15 years of experience developing and leading diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in K-12 and higher education, leads through a holistic lens of pastoral ministry, and believes in engagement and education as conduits for progress. Adens is the author of Teaching Beautiful Brilliant Girls: A Systemic Response to Creating a School Where Black Girls Can Thrive.  She holds a Master of Social Work from Hunter College.  

Janet E. Blair, M.Div. ʼ04, has been called as pastor to the Santa Rosa, CA, community and to Knox Presbyterian and Thanksgiving Lutheran Churches.  Pastor Janet is a minister of Word and Sacrament, ordained in the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), which has a full communion relationship with the Presbyterian Church (USA).  She specializes in Cross-Cultural Ministry.  Her first career was in publishing (production and editorial), and she continues to write and publish on various topics.  She and her family look forward to becoming citizens of California.   

Darrell Ezell, M.A. ʼ04, has joined the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama, as Director of Diversity, Equity and InclusionEzell is a Huntsville native, and brings more than ten years of experience designing and implementing intercultural communication programs and diversity and inclusion strategies to HudsonAlpha. He previously served as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean at Claremont Lincoln University and as a Visiting Professor in International Studies at Louisiana State University.  He holds a Ph.D. in Religion and International Affairs from the University of Birmingham in Birmingham, England. 

Kim Richards Harris, M.Div. ʼ05, Ph.D. ʼ13, and her husband, Reggie Harris, have been awarded the 2020 Free Press Prize for Preservation for discovering and reintroducing songs of the Underground Railroad over a very long performing career. 

Kim and Reggie  ̶  their stage names  ̶  gathered the spirituals that slaves sang, and in 1984 released their first recording, “Music and the Underground Railroad.”  The album, the first of nearly a dozen, reintroduced songs such as Follow the Drinking Gourd, Steal Away, Swing Low, Free At Last, Wade in the Water, and No More Auction Block.  Audiences at the Kennedy Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Smithsonian Institution, and myriad theatres, arts centers, festivals, universities, and schools have given this inspiring duo standing ovations for their vibrant performances; and their research has contributed substantially to the resources and knowledge base on the Underground Railroad and the modern civil rights movement. 

Sarah Segal McCaslin, M.Div./M.S.S.W. ʼ06 has been named Executive Director of the Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute in New York City, and assumed her new role as of January 4, 2021. In addition to providing spiritually-informed psychotherapy for individuals, couples and families, PSI hosts conferences and continuing education programs; offers consulting services to organizations, businesses and faith communities; and supervises both graduate and undergraduate students.  Previously, McCaslin worked in various congregational settings and nonprofits in New York City, including Project Renewal, the Jewish Home and Hospital, The First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York, and St. Lydia’s in Brooklyn.  She is a licensed clinical social worker and an ordained Presbyterian minister, and holds a post-graduate certificate in family therapy from the Ackerman Institute for the Family. 

Jacquelynn C. Van Vliet, M.Div. ′08, has been called as Pastor to The Presbyterian Church of Madison, NJ, effective July 1, 2020.  Prior to coming to Madison, Van Vliet served Presbyterian congregations in Ridgewood, NJ, New York City, Bryn Mawr, PA, Bedminster, NJ and most recently in Morris Plains, NJ. She earned a degree in history and secondary education at Houghton College, and later obtained an M.A. from New York University in the field of rehabilitation counseling. As the new pastor of the oldest congregation in Madison,she is excited to build meaningful relationships with members of the Madison community. 

Sarah Winsett Wiles, M.Div. ʼ08, became pastor at Blacksburg Presbyterian Church, Blacksburg, VA, in 2020.  Prior to serving at BPC, Sarah served churches in Tacoma, WA and Ann Arbor, MI. She and her husband Joseph Childers are parents to twins Zoë and Isaac.  

2010s  

Roger Holland II, M.Div. ′11, has entered into a three-year relationship with Kantorei, a Denver-based, choral ensemble comprised of volunteer singers under the direction of Artistic Director Joel M. Rinsema. Holland will serve as the choir’s Artist-in-Residence beginning with the 2021-22 season. Roger is a Teaching Assistant Professor in Music and Religion and Director of The Spirituals Project at the Lamont School of Music, University of Denver. He previously served as Artist-in-Residence and director of the Union Gospel Choir for over 13 years and toured nationally and internationally with The Boys Choir of Harlem, working with them as a conductor, pianist, instructor and arranger for several of their recordings. He has played for the Broadway productions of Oprah Winfrey’s The Color Purple and the Tony award winning show, Memphis. 

Nichelle L. Jenkins, M.Div. ′11, married Ronald Davis on February 26, 2021.  

Christopher L. Fici, M.A. ʼ14, S.T.M. ʼ15, Ph.D. ʼ20, has moved to New Rochelle, NY, to teach at Iona College there.  He recently posted on Facebook that he is still “one-and-different, as we Hare Krishnas like to say, with New York City.  I am a New Yorker through and through.”  Fici is partnered with Sonia Ruth Bennett. 

Julia Macy (Stroud) Offinger, M.Div. 14, married Caitlin Offinger in October 2017, and on October 6, 2019, the couple welcomed their son, Harry Offinger.  Julia is an Episcopal priest on staff at Grace Church in Manhattan, where she leads programs for children, youth, and families, oversees the baptismal process, and coordinates the pastoral care ministry. She also guides the Sunday evening service, spends time with the junior choristers at Tuesday evensongs, and leads various small group ministries.  

Demian M. Wheeler, Ph.D. ʼ14, Has published Religion within the Limits of History Alone: Pragmatic Historicism and the Future of Theology (State University of New York Press, 2020) and is the co-editor of Conceiving an Alternative: Philosophical Resources for an Ecological Civilization (Process Century Press, 2019).  He is Associate Professor of Philosophical Theology and Religious Studies and Director of Advanced Studies at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.  He has also written a number of journal articles and book chapters on religious naturalism, empirical theology, and process philosophy, among other topics. He lives in Minnesota with his wife, Victoria, and their son, Shailer. He is a Unitarian Universalist. 

Kendrick Arthur Kemp, M.Div. ʼ16, was ordained on January 9, 2021 at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. His ministry is Black Liberation Theology of Disability in the American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York.  While at Union, Kemp was the founder and co-chair of the Disability Justice Caucus. He also sat on a panel at the American Academy of Religion titled “Black Liberation Theologies of Disabilities.  He has spoken at conferences around the country and the world. 

Timothy J. Wotring, M.Div. ʼ16, was ordained on August 23, 2020. He is the pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church of Fox Chase, located in Philadelphia, PA.   

Rachael A. Hayes, M.Div. ʼ17, was installed as the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst, MA. 

 

 

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