Faculty Marshall Yahya Michot led 70 graduates to the white tent on Hartford Seminary’s front lawn on Friday, May 12, where they prayed, sang and received their diplomas during an inspiring two-hour ceremony.
The graduates heard first from Professor Benjamin Watts, who gave the opening prayer, and from Board of Trustee representative Dr. Abubaker Al Shingieti, who told the graduates: “You have made significant achievements. We are proud of you.”
President Heidi Hadsell then addressed the gathering, characterizing Hartford Seminary as a “student-centered place.”
“Our students are talented, dedicated and life-giving people,” she said. “We know that whatever area of the world you end up in, you will be there in leadership and service to others.”
President Hadsell introduced the graduation speaker, the Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary General to the Anglican Communion, a family of churches in 165 countries with 85 million members. Dr. Fearon, who is originally from Nigeria, is a graduate of the Doctor of Ministry program at Hartford Seminary.
“I am here as a friend, and I am here as a very proud member of the Hartford family,” Dr. Fearon said before turning to the graduates and asking, “What will you do with the next chapter of your life?”
Citing passages from the Qu’ran and the Bible, Dr. Fearon said Jews, Christians and Muslims “look back to move ahead. We look to the deepest wells of our spiritual traditions.”
Dr. Fearon challenged the graduates to be bridge-builders and sources of healing in a troubled world.
“The voices of disrespect and intolerance are loud and growing louder. Social injustice is bad and getting worse. Politicians and religious leaders all over the world are encouraging us to gather in our tribes. Build walls. Tear down the bridges. That is the message we are hearing.”
Hartford Seminary, he said, is a place that trainers leaders to resist those trends, to form bonds and to bring knowledge where there is ignorance.
“What will you do in the next chapter of your life? Only you can answer these questions, and the answer will be different for every one of you.”
But all, he said, will be bright lights in a “dark and hurting world.”
After the awarding of leadership certificates, graduate certificates and degrees, three prizes were presented for the top student papers written this year. The awards went to Tanya Andrysiak, a Master of Arts in Religious Studies graduate, Jennifer Leigh Lewis, an International Peacemaking Program graduate, and Scott Gardner, a Master of Arts in Religious Studies graduate.
The 13th Annual Celie J. Terry Prize is awarded to a student who demonstrates a commitment to academic achievement and excellence in interfaith community work in Greater Hartford. The prize went to Joshua Salaam, a graduate of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program.
Honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees were awarded to Mahmoud Ayoub, a longtime faculty member of Hartford Seminary, and Father Patrick J. Ryan of Fordham University.
The graduation photos below were taken by award-winning photographer Shana Sureck. Click on the first photo and then look for the arrows to scroll through the gallery. The complete gallery can be viewed at this link. To download web-sized photos for personal use, click on the download symbol on each photo and enter your email and PIN 2579. Prints can be ordered by clicking on the shopping cart visible on each image.