New York City — Chimes from the bell tower will ring out and majestic brass music will fill the garden-like campus of The General Theological Seminary on May 18 as faculty members in colorful academic regalia are joined by friends, trustees, and students for the historic institution’s 189th Commencement Exercises. Forty women and men will receive degrees, diplomas, or certificates conferred by the Seminary’s Interim Dean, the Right Rev. Peter James Lee. Additionally, the Seminary’s honorary doctorate will be conferred on Michael Gecan, Co-Director, Industrial Areas Foundation; Kay Redfield Jamison, Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Joshua Mar Nicodimos, first Metropolitan of the newly formed Nilackal Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church; George Rupp, CEO & President, International Rescue Committee; and T. Dennis Sullivan II, President & CEO, Church Pension Group.
Michael Gecan is a community organizer in the Industrial Areas Foundation and was trained in part by Saul Alinsky. He is lead organizer for East Brooklyn Congregations and other New York based organizations as well as the Executive Director of United Power for Action and Justice, a Chicago Based Industrial Area Foundation affiliate. Mr. Gecan spent two decades wrestling with New York politicians in an impassioned effort against all odds to build three thousand new homes. His 2004 book, Going Public: An Organizer’s Guide to Citizen Action, tells how organized citizens can, with discipline and dignity, outmaneuver bureaucracies and generate change. Gecan’s vision of the richness of community life and the value of public action has roots in the rough Chicago neighborhood where he was raised.
Kay Redfield Jamison is Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and is an Honorary Professor of English at the University of St Andrews. A clinical psychologist and writer who is one of the foremost experts on bipolar disorder (as well as suffering from the disorder herself) she began her study of clinical psychology at University of California, Los Angeles in the late 1960s, receiving both B.A. and M.A. degrees in 1971. Receiving her Ph.D. in 1975, she became a faculty member at the university. Dr. Jamison was Distinguished Lecturer at Harvard University in 2002 and the Litchfield lecturer at the University of Oxford in 2003. Having won numerous awards and published over one hundred academic articles, she has been named one of the “Best Doctors in the United States” and was chosen by Time as a “Hero of Medicine.” Dr. Jamison is an Episcopalian and was married to Dr. Richard Wyatt until his death in 2002.
George Rupp became president of the International Rescue Committee on July 1, 2002. For the previous nine years, Dr. Rupp was president of Columbia University. Prior to his time at Columbia, Dr. Rupp served as president of Rice University. Earlier, he was the John Lord O’Brian Professor of Divinity and dean of the Harvard Divinity School. Under his leadership, the curriculum of the school was revised to address more directly the pluralistic character of contemporary religious life. Born in New Jersey, Dr. Rupp has studied and conducted research for extended periods in both Europe and Asia. He was awarded an A.B. from Princeton University in 1964, a B.D. from Yale Divinity School in 1967, and a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1972. He is the author of numerous articles and five books, including Globalization Challenged: Conviction, Conflict, Community (2006). George Rupp and his wife Nancy are the parents of two adult daughters who are teaching and writing with scholarly expertise in East Asian and African studies.
Dennis Sullivan became President of the Church Pension Group in June of 2004. A distinguished business and investment professional, his career has revolved around investments, finance and administration in the for-profit, not-for-profit and government sectors. He served as Financial Vice President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, President and Chief Investment Officer of Princeton University Investment Company, and Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Labor & Industry for the State of New Jersey. He also worked with J.P. Morgan Securities and served as Chief Financial Officer of the New York Public Library. His positions in the government sector include serving as Secretary of Finance for the State of Delaware, and Executive Director of the Municipal Assistance Corporation for the City of New York, a particularly critical role in the early 1980s. He has served as a trustee of the Prospect Park Alliance, and has served on the Russell 20-20 Association, the Research Council on Global Investment of the Conference Board, and the Advisory Committee for the New York State Common Retirement Fund. Mr. Sullivan holds a BA (Phi Beta Kappa) from Princeton University, and an MA from Oxford University, England.
Joshua Mar Nicodimos is first Metropolitan of the Newly Formed Nilackal Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Born in 1962, His Grace received a Masters degree from Kerala University, a B. D. from Serampoor University, a Master of Theology from the Indian Institute of Spirituality, and an S. T. M from The General Theological Seminary. An innovative and responsible leader in his church, he early took a lead in the preparation of teaching materials for Christian education at all levels, especially in the areas of Baptism, Eucharist, and the sacramental life. Before his consecration in the Mar Elia Cathedral, Kottayam on May 12, 2010, H.G. Joshua Mar Nicodimos served as Superior of the Holy Trinity Ashram, Ranni, India, where he served as spiritual leader of forty monks. He also served as Director, Holy Trinity Disabled Children’s Centre in Trivandrum, and as Local Manager of the Holy Trinity School, also in Trivandrum. Throughout centuries, the heads of Metropolitan sees have been considered by the Malankara Orthodox Church as the apostolic successors of St. Thomas.
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.