Two events in November highlighted the groundbreaking contributions of women at Candler during the school's first century. The dedication of a classroom in honor of Roberta Bondi followed by the annual Women's Forum sponsored by Candler's Women, Theology and Ministry program provided opportunities to recognize the accomplishments of Candler's female pioneers, celebrate the work of today's female students and faculty, and address the work of the future.

Jan Love and Roberta BondiOn Thursday, November 6, room 501 in the Rita Anne Rollins Building was dedicated in honor of Professor Emerita of Church History Roberta C. Bondi. Bondi joined Candler's faculty in 1978 and taught until her retirement in 2006, becoming the first tenured female faculty member along the way. Dean Jan Love welcomed guests, which included Bondi and her family, as well as Candler alumni, faculty and faculty emeriti. Karen D. Scheib, associate professor of pastoral care and pastoral theology and director of Candler's Women, Theology and Ministry program, facilitated the event.

Bondi was praised by former Candler faculty member Lewis Ayres, now professor of Catholic and historical theology at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom, and Tere Canzoneri 81T, who was a student in the first course that Bondi taught at Candler. Karen Scheib also read a letter of congratulations from Hoo-Jung Lee 91G, professor of historical theology at Methodist Theological University in Seoul, South Korea. Following the unveiling of her portrait that now hangs in the classroom, Bondi spoke briefly. "I am touched at my very core," she told the audience.

On Friday, November 7, Candler's Women, Theology and Ministry program hosted its annual Women's Forum with the theme of "Celebrating the Past, Claiming the Present, Creating the Future." Designed to dovetail with Candler's yearlong Centennial celebration, the forum featured professors Carol A. Newsom and Teresa L. Fry Brown presenting talks on the history of women at Candler, along with alumnae who shared what their experiences had been like as students.

Carol NewsomIn her address, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Old Testament Carol A. Newsom, Candler's second tenured female professor, tracked the history of women at Candler through stories of the school's first female students and faculty. Newsom praised former Candler Dean James T. Laney, later president of Emory University, and his successor James L. Waits for recognizing the importance of welcoming women into the academic community during the late 1960s and 1970s. She acknowledged the female students of those decades as trailblazers, who "banded together to support one another and to teach both their male peers and male faculty members how to make a place for women in this institution and in their theological thinking."

"While one could tell the story of women at Candler as women's transformation of Candler," Newsom said, "it is important to recognize Candler's transformation of women."

"One of the most striking things is that Candler has been an incubator for preparing women for leadership in academic administration," she said, noting a number of Candler female faculty members who have risen to senior positions within higher education, including Jane McAuliffe, Rebecca Chopp, Gail O'Day and Mary Elizabeth Moore.

Professor of Homiletics and Director of Black Church Studies Teresa L. Fry Brown, the first tenured African American woman on Candler's faculty, spoke about the journey of African American women at Candler, including her own.

Teresa Fry Brown"In my culture," Fry Brown said, "we are taught to honor the elders by saying their names." She then read the name of every female African American Candler graduate from 1974 to 1994, a total of 50 women. "Their contributions to Candler are inestimable. They prioritized or balanced children, church and course work; balanced spouses, divorce and fatigue; endured and fought sexism and racism to achieve their degrees. They stood in the gap for generations to come. They charted new territory in the church and the academy....Black women students taught Candler School of Theology about African American women's intelligence, voices and abilities...without receiving teaching assistant or course credit."

For African American women, Fry Brown said, attending seminary is like preparing to go mountain climbing, "the ultimate challenge of strength, endurance and sacrifice." She asserted that preparing for a climb has many of the same attributes as theological education. "Do your research. Assess your mental strength. Acquire the gear. Get training. Keep improving your skills. Find a good guide. Prepare for the trip. Understand what's involved. Begin climbing."

Both seasoned professors spoke of the challenges still to be overcome, but the hope that they have in the future of women at Candler and in the church.

"As Candler becomes more diverse, new generations of women raise new issues about their place in the church and seek full recognition of their ministries," Newsom said. "If we were to reassemble ten years from now, I hope we would see the full recognition of all women's leadership within the church, within theological education, and throughout the world."

Said Fry Brown: "My challenge to each of us today is to continue to climb, jump, and run for the next generation."