New York City - Bells tolled and majestic brass music resounded throughout The General Theological Seminary this morning as friends, trustees, students, and faculty members in resplendent academic regalia gathered at 11am for the historic institution's 185th Commencement Exercises. Founded in 1817 and located in the Chelsea district of Manhattan, General confers degrees and honors during a stately service, recited in Latin according to a form unchanged from the late nineteenth century. A total of fifty-five women and men received degrees, diplomas, or certificates from the Seminary's Dean, the Very Rev. Ward B. Ewing. Of these, thirty-six persons were awarded the Master of Divinity degree. The Seminary also awarded its honorary doctorate to five persons with distinguished and faithful ministries worldwide: Dr. Horace Clarence Boyer, the Rt. Rev. Dr. B. Satyanandam Devamani, the Rev. Prof. Peter J. Gomes, Ms. Phoebe Wetzel Griswold, and Archbishop Michael Peers. For extraordinary service to the Seminary, the Rt. Rev. G.P. Mellick Belshaw received the Seminary's Clement Clarke Moore Medal.

Dr. Horace Boyer, a native of Florida, received a B.A. in Music from Bethune-Cookman College and the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the Eastman School of Music. He taught at Albany State College in Albany, Georgia, the University of Central Florida, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he served as Professor of Music Theory and African American Music. Dr. Boyer has made over 300 appearances in 40 states, performing and discussing gospel music in concerts, festivals and on television. His research into African American vocal music led to his contribution of 45 biographical entries on gospel musicians to the New Grove Dictionary of American Music (1986). He contributed ten arrangements to "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a 1982 hymnal supplement, serving as General Editor for its 1993 revision. His book, "How Sweet the Sound - The Golden Age of Gospel," was published in 1995.

The Rt. Rev. Dr. B. Satyanandam Devamani was consecrated seventh Bishop of the Diocese of Dornekal in the Church of South India (CSI) in 2006. He received a B.A. from Noble College, Machilipatnam, App; a Diploma in Theology from Bishop's College, Calcutta; a B.D. from Bishop's College, Senate of Serampore; an S.T.M. from The General Theological Seminary in 1980; and a D.Min. from Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago in 1992. He was ordained a priest in 1976. From 1984-1990 he was Director of the Pastoral Aid department, working exclusively for all CSI Pastors producing study materials publications, conferences, programs for study and reflection, and leading Holy Land study programs. From 1995-1998 he was Director of the Synod Department of Ecumenical Relations responsible for bilateral relations, exchange visits, and matters related to ecumenical relations between CSI and overseas churches.

Born in Boston, Peter J. Gomes received his B.A. degree from Bates College and his Bachelor in Sacred Theology degree from Harvard Divinity School. He is widely known as one of the most distinguished Christian preachers in the history of the English-speaking pulpit. Pastor, professor, teacher, humanitarian, scholar, biblical interpreter, and cultural critic, Peter Gomes is now Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and the Pusey Minister in The Memorial Church of Harvard University. The most recent of his many books is "Strength for the Journey: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living" (2003). He participated in the presidential inaugurations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and has delivered numerous talks, including the Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching at Yale Divinity School.
Phoebe Wetzel Griswold received her B.A. from Smith College and is a prominent lay member of the Episcopal Church. She has been a catalyst in projects at the parish, diocesan, national, and international level on a wide range of issues, from the education and nurturing of children to the significance of women's spirituality, from the importance of the arts in life and faith to the problems of global peace, hunger, development and relief. In 1999 she published a book, "Paths of Love and Faithfulness: Reflections on Lambeth and the Anglican Communion" and she spearheaded the creation of a global Anglican women's network. She is also a founding member of Episcopal Church and Visual Arts, whose mission is to encourage the visual arts in the life of the Church. She has led retreats and workshops, including a workshop for the Spouses' Program at the 1998 Lambeth conference of Bishops. The breadth of her professional accomplishments is surpassed only by the depth of her commitment to honoring human dignity.

Archbishop Michael Peers was Primate of the Church of Canada from 1986 to 2004. He received an interpreter's certificate for German-English translation from the University of Heidelberg (1955) and a Bachelor of Arts in Slavic Studies from the University of British Columbia (1956). He was ordained a priest in 1960 and has served the Anglican Church as university chaplain, parish priest, Dean and Bishop of the Diocese of Qu'Appelle, and Metropolitan of the Province of Rupert's Land. As Primate, he facilitated full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and made reparations to aboriginal Anglicans. Fluent in French, German, and Russian as well as English, he was the first to preside over meetings of the Lambeth Conference in a language other than English. After Lambeth 1998, he wrote a pastoral letter to gay and lesbian persons that reads, in part, "We pledge that we will continue to reflect, pray, and work for your full inclusion in the life of the church.... " He has always led by example, showing us the meaning of grace under pressure, of integrity, and of honor.

The Seminary's Clement Clarke Moore Medal, named for the donor of the land on which the Seminary is built, was awarded to the Rt. Rev G.P. Mellick Belshaw. Bishop Belshaw was graduated from General Seminary in 1954 and was Bishop of New Jersey from 1983-1994. In the years following his graduation, his record of service to the Seminary has been truly remarkable: he has served as Tutor, Fellow, Adjunct Faculty Member, Trustee, Chairman of our Trustees, and Acting Dean. He was a member of the Seminary's Board of Trustees for an unprecedented 31 years, deservedly he received a prolonged standing ovation.


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