oday-story.jpgDr. Gail O’Day was a colleague, mentor and friend.  My initial encounter with Gail was in 1994 as she incessantly grilled me during my interview at Candler School of Theology.  At times, it seemed like we were the only ones in the room until I responded, “Haven’t I already answered that?” and she sat back with that sometimes cynical, sometimes mischievous smile on her face, crossed her arms and slowly shook her head. My initial thought was “Who in the world does she think she is? I cannot work with that woman.”

Our sixteen year journey as Candler colleagues answered my query and initial evaluation.  Our relationship was complicated, enlightening, necessary and durable.  Depending on the day, class, topic, issue, event, program, committee, review, search, promotion, or guild our relationship was fire and water, nurturing and critiquing, agreement and disagreement, active listening and urgent interruptions, behind the scenes and in your face, catch up in the hallway and email encouragement, friendly sharing and measured distance, Gloria Steinem and Barbara Jordan, feminist and womanist, with just a touch of Murphy Brown and Annalise Keating.

Gail was a consummate academic, brilliant scholar, woman of faith, justice advocate, subtle mentor, lover of people, with a standard of excellence few could meet. I will miss the Dr. Gail O’Day I was blessed to meet in that marathon homiletics interview twenty four years ago. I will miss her eccentricities, her careful shepherding me through my first few years at Candler, her questions about fashion and our shoe game, her need for personal protected space, her close whisper of essential information, her professional boundaries and tenacious calculations, her determined recommendations for dismantling academic barriers and her willingness to walk with me through doors others tried to lock, her vision for theological education, her fierceness, her wit, her love of God, and above all our unique friendship. Rest in Peace, my friend.

Read the tribute to O'Day from Wake Forest. A celebration of life for O'Day will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, October 8 in Wait Chapel on the campus of Wake Forest University. A live stream will be available here

Read the Winston-Salem Journal obituary for O'Day.