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Commencement 2010


29 April 2010 -- Press Release

General Seminary to Award Degrees and Moore Medal on May 19

New York City – Majestic brass music and pealing bells will fill the garden-like campus of The General Theological Seminary on May 19 as faculty members in colorful academic regalia are joined by friends, trustees, and students for the historic institution's 188th Commencement Exercises. Fifty-one women and men will receive degrees, diplomas, or certificates from the Seminary's Dean, the Very Rev. Ward B. Ewing.  Additionally, the Seminary’s honorary doctorate will be conferred on Mrs. Ruth Bakare, the Rt. Rev. Sebastian Bakare, the Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne KBE FRS, Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo, and the Rev. Dr. J. Robert Wright. The Clement Clarke Moore Medal will be presented to Mr. David N. Redden and to Mrs. Jeannette Redden. 

Ruth Bakare of Zimbabwe is a tireless leader of the church for the welfare and development of women and children.  An outstanding educator, she has taught on many levels in Europe and in Africa.  When her husband was elected Bishop of Manicaland, she became president of the diocesan Mother’s Union. Under her leadership the Union was a strong force for improving the lot of women and families, particularly addressing issues of AIDS, absentee husbands, limited education, nutrition and limited career choices for women.  In 2006, she and her husband founded the Christian Relief and Development Trust which seeks to offer widows and displaced children nutritional, educational, and psychosocial support and HIV/AIDS prevention services. In 2007 she served as a representative to the UN Observer’s Office and also became president of the Mother’s Union of Harare. At one meeting some thirty-two hundred women were in attendance, some who had travelled from 250K away.  

The Rt. Rev. Sebastian Bakare serves as Acting Bishop of Harare Zimbabwe.  As the political situation in Zimbabwe has worsened, Bishop Bakare has led the church with remarkable grace and courage in the face of a hostile government.  While leading his own church and standing up for his people against political oppression, Bishop Bakare has continued to maintain relationships with the Anglican Communion. Prior to his ministry in Harare, he served as Bishop of Manicaland where he achieved remarkable success in social welfare and development projects, and served as President of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches.  Before becoming a bishop, he was professor and chaplain at the University of Harare.  His theological interests include Christianity in its cultural context (particularly on African issues), ecumenism, and the theology of land reform.  During the last years of Rhodesia in the early 1980’s, at the end of 18 years in exile Bakare brought his family to Berkeley, California, where he did advanced studies at the Graduate Theological Union. 

The Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne, KBE FRS, was born in 1930 in Weston-super-Mare, England. He is a priest of the Church of England, a particle physicist and theologian, and has written extensively on matters concerning science and faith. He read Mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1952 and then earned his PhD in physics in 1955.  After two years as a Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, he returned to Cambridge in 1958, and was elected Professor of Mathematical Physics in 1968. During his 25 years as a theoretical physicist, Dr. Polkinghorne worked on theories of elementary particles and played a significant role in the discovery of the quark. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1974. He resigned his professorial chair to study for the priesthood at Cambridge and was ordained in 1982. He returned to Cambridge to be Dean of the Chapel at Trinity Hall, 1986-1989. He then became the President of Queens’ College, Cambridge, a position from which he retired in 1996. In 1997 he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) and in 2002 was awarded the Templeton Prize for his contributions to research at the interface between science and religion. 

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo was elected in May of 2008 to a six-year term as bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Metropolitan New York Synod.  Born in Joliet, Illinois, Bishop Rimbo graduated from Christ Seminary-Seminex, St. Louis, and served two years as executive assistant to the project director of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship, New York, which produced the Lutheran Book of Worship.  He was pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Valley Stream, New York, and of St. James Lutheran Church, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, and was an assistant to the bishop of the ELCA Southeast Michigan Synod from 1991 to 1996.  When elected bishop of the ELCA Southeast Michigan Synod in 1998, he was pastor of Antioch Lutheran Church, Farmington Hills, Michigan.  He left the office of bishop in 2005 to become pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, New York City.  Rimbo and his wife Lois are parents of two adult children.  The ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod consists of approximately 80,000 Lutherans in over 200 congregations in 14 New York counties.

The Rev. Canon J. Robert Wright, D.Phil., is St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery Professor of Ecclesiastical History at The General Theological Seminary. A specialist in patristic studies and in Anglicanism, Dr. Wright is also a leading authority on the Book of Common Prayer and on Russian Orthodox (and other) icons.  He is an internationally known figure in ecumenical dialogue between the Episcopal Church and other churches, particularly the Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, and Russian Orthodox churches, as well as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Dr. Wright did his undergraduate work at the University of the South and received his doctorate at Oxford University.  In 2006 on the occasion of his seventieth birthday a festschrift was published: One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism: Studies in Christian Ecclesiality and Ecumenism in honor of J. Robert Wright. His own most recent book, published in 2008, is A Companion to Bede, a major commentary on the ecclesiastical history of the Venerable Bede.  Dr. Wright is the president of the Anglican Society, chaplain to the Guild of Scholars of The Episcopal Church, and the Episcopal Church’s official Historiographer. In 2007, he was awarded the Archbishop of Canterbury's Cross of St. Augustine for his scholarly contributions to ecumenical dialogue.

Co-recipients of the 2010 Clement Clarke Moore Medal, Mr. David N. Redden and Mrs. Jennette Redden have given countless hours to the service of General Seminary, where they have resided since 2004. They co-chair the Chelsea Square Conservancy executive committee, which seeks to raise awareness of the beauty and importance of the Seminary’s historic home. Mrs. Redden has personally donated many years of service in the Seminary gardens, tending and planting and teaching other volunteers, as well. She has long been associated with the Garden Club of America and with the Garden Club of Orange and Dutchess Counties. Mr. Redden has also taken a special interest in the Seminary library, providing leadership to its organization of Friends. He is Vice Chairman of Sotheby’s, where he has directed prestigious sales including that of the Estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the Declaration of Independence, and the recent sale of Magna Carta for $21.3 million dollars. 

The General Theological Seminary, founded in 1817, prepares women and men for both ordained and lay ministries through a wide variety of degree and certificate programs. Its historic campus in the heart of New York City is also home to the Desmond Tutu Center, a modern, full-service conference facility. The Seminary conferred its first honorary degree in 1885. The ceremonies of Commencement, including the sections recited in Latin, were devised during this period and continue to be used today with few changes. 

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