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Portrait of Margaret Farley unveiled at Alumni Tea

By Lisa Levy ’11 M.Div.

On a humid, overcast Monday on the first day of Convocation 2008, during the Alumni Tea on Sterling Divinity Quadrangle, Yale Divinity School graduates were treated to the first formal glimpse of the portrait of Margaret Farley that now hangs in the Common Room, alongside portraits of other YDS luminaries of decades past.

Many of Farley’s friends, colleagues, and former students gathered beneath a large tent set up for the tea to see the portrait, engage with Farley, and hear artist Gerald York ’81 B.A. speak briefly about painting Farley, the Gilbert L. Stark Professor Emerita of Christian Ethics.

FarleyDescribing Farley as a “renowned scholar and teacher and ethicist and an outstanding human being and a remarkable counselor,” York explained how difficult it was to capture so dynamic a personality on a flat piece of canvas.  York said he decided to focus on the aspect of Farley that touched him personally, “her relationship to Christ, which is very deep and very sincere and transformative.” He suggested that Farley is one of those rare individuals “able to lift the veil between the eternal and the temporal and to allow grace to flow into our lives.”

The portrait of Farley, depicting her in her trademark dark suit standing in the sun-dappled Quad, was hung in the Divinity School Common Room on Oct. 24, alongside the portrait of her former colleague, the late Letty Russell.

Many former students at the tea enthusiastically echoed York’s impressions of Farley, who was feted in a more academic way during a two-day celebration of her life and ministry held in 2005.  Farley was the recipient of the 2008 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for her book Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics (Continuum, 2006).

Ann Jensen ’88 M.Div., whose current ministry focuses on churches in transition, called Farley “the best teacher I had.” In her work as interim rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Oakland, CA, Jensen says, she still strives “to hold together the intellect and the spirit,” a lesson embodied by Farley’s capacity for balancing a life in the academy with a life lived in the world.

Janet Carroll ’89 M.A. of Maryknoll, NY, who, like Farley, is a Sister of Mercy, agreed with Jensen’s assessment, saying Farley combined “marvelous intellectual content with relevance to one’s lived experience.” Carroll recalls choosing to study international relations at Yale in large part because of her desire to study with Farley, whom she calls “the most influential professor” she ever had

Karen Murphey ’88 M.Div. of Lebanon, NJ noted the deep and lasting impact Farley had on her life when she said, “At the most critical juncture of my priestly career, I had Margaret Farley’s voice in my ear. She helped me choose the right thing to do.” Murphey named her first dog, a Golden Retriever, “Farley.”

Farley Oil Painting

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