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General Seminary Celebrates 184th Commencement

Posted on: May 19, 2006 2:27 PM
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Brokaw, Kearon, Pagels, Seoka Receive Honorary Doctorates

New York City - A total of sixty men and women were graduated yesterday, May 17, at the 184th commencement exercises of the Episcopal Church's oldest seminary, The General Theological Seminarry doctorate to four persons with distinguished and faithful ministries in the world beyond the Episcopal Church:  Thomas J. Brokaw, the Rev. Canon Kenneth A. Kearon, Elaine H. Pagels, and the Rt. Rev. Dr. Johannes Thomas Seoka. A festive atmosphere prevailed as a quartet of brass players performed majestic music and the Seminary's trustees and faculty members in colorful academic regalia strolled the lush green lawns. First-time visitors were treated to the beauty of a perfect spring day on the Seminary's square-block garden, known as the Close, located in the Chelsea district of Manhattan.

The ceremonies began at 11 am in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd with General's Dean and President, the Very Rev. Ward B. Ewing conferring the degrees and honors during the stately service, recited in Latin according to a form unchanged from the late nineteenth century.  He then presented the prestigious Clement Clarke Moore medal to James L. Koster II and Samuel G. White.  The four honorary doctorates were bestowed last of all in the service.

Thomas J. Brokaw graduated from the University of South Dakota with a degree in political science before joining NBC News in 1966. In 1983 he became the sole anchor of NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw. A winner of every major award in broadcast journalism, including two DuPonts, a Peabody Award, and several Emmys, Mr. Brokaw covered the fall of the Berlin Wall through to the national tragedies of the Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11th attacks. He often reported from the front lines of global conflict, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. The author of four best-selling books, his reporting has chronicled the impact of religious leadership and religious conflict on peace and international development.

Kenneth A. Kearon, current Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, was born in Dublin and educated at Mountjoy School, Trinity College Dublin, The Church of Ireland Theological College, Jesus College Cambridge, and later, The Irish School of Ecumenics. He was ordained deacon in 1981 and priest in 1982, afterwards serving a large suburban parish in North Dublin where young families and youth activities were the main focus. Becoming in 1999 Director of the Irish School of Ecumenics and a member of the Irish Council for Bioethics, he authored Medical Ethics: an Introduction and contributed to a number of volumes on education, family and medical ethics. As Secretary General of the Anglican Communion he has identified the innovative steps that a church must take to reverse the process of divisions and move toward reconciliation and peace. His leadership amidst the polarizing circumstances of our times has helped to delineate a path toward reconciliation and peace.

Elaine H. Pagels is the author of The Gnostic Gospels, The Origin of Satan, Adam, Eve and the Serpent, and most recently, Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, which has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 19 weeks and has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. A graduate of Stanford and Harvard Universities, she taught at Barnard before joining the Princeton faculty in 1982, shortly after receiving a MacArthur Fellowship. The Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University, Dr. Pagels has been praised for her concise elucidations of early Christian texts, a happy marriage of elegant scholarship and lucid prose.

Johannes Thomas Seoka was ordained deacon in 1974, a priest in 1975, and a Bishop in 1998.  He began studying for the priesthood at age 19, and after seminary studied in South Africa, Germany and the USA, before returning to South Africa with his Doctorate in Ministry in 1992. He was consecrated the 10th Bishop of Pretoria, the first black to be thus elevated there. During the years of the Apartheid struggles he was an integral part of the Black Consciousness Movement. His work on conflict management and his compassion for those who are socially marginalized represent the kind of visionary leadership our communion and our world so sorely needs.

In addition to awarding honorary doctorates, the Seminary conferred its Clement Clarke Moore medal for extraordinary services to James L. Koster II and Samuel G. White. Mr. Koster, the Senior Managing Director of Staubach Financial Services, has contributed countless hours assisting the Seminary with its redevelopment plans, attracting many of the city's finest developers and guiding the Seminary through many periods of challenging negotiations.

Mr. White, a partner in the firm of Platt Byard Dovell, has practiced architecture since 1974. Great-grandson of the noted architect Stanford White, Samuel White is a distinguished preservationist, lecturing regularly to museum and preservation groups.  He has faithfully served GTS as a volunteer on the Chelsea Square Redevelopment Committee and on several task groups dealing with architectural issues, generously giving hours of his invaluable expertise.

Clement Clarke Moore, author of the famous poem, which begins, 'T'was the Night Before Christmas,' was the donor of the land upon which the Seminary is built and was a professor during its earliest days.

For photographs of this event please contact GTS Communications at Available are group photos of the honorary doctoral recipients and Moore medalists with Dean Ewing and photos of each individual receiving their degree or award. 

Source: The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church

For further information contact: Bruce Parker (Director of Communications): email -