YDS alumni garner Association of Yale Alumni Board of Governors Excellence Awards

Yale Divinity School alumni have garnered two major Association of Yale Alumni Board of Governors Excellence Awards.   The awards—one for “outstanding school event” and the other for “best marketing, branding, and communications”—were formally announced on Friday, Nov. 18, during ceremonies at the AYA annual assembly.

GroupThe school event award was presented in recognition of  “Honoring the Past, Challenging the Future: Celebrating 8 Decades of Women at Yale Divinity School,” which highlighted Convocation and Reunions 2010 and helped bring a record number of alumni back to campus in 2010.  This “women’s reunion” documented and praised the presence of women at YDS through lectures, worship, song, panels, and meals—from the earliest days of women on campus in the early 1930s up until the present.

The marketing award recognized communications surrounding YDS’s 2011 Lenten initiative, entitled “Mobilizing Faith, Fighting Poverty,” which spanned the 40 days of Lent.  The initiative was kicked off by an anti-poverty conversation held on Ash Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington co-sponsored with International Relief and Development, headed by YDS alum Arthur B. Keys Jr. ’73 M.Div.

The “Outstanding Graduate and Professional School Event Award” was presented “for the G&P event that exhibits overall excellence in participation, marketing, educational experience, and implementation.”

Talitha Arnold ’80 M.Div., chair of the women’s reunion and senior pastor at The United Church of Santa Fe (UCC) in Santa Fe, NM, said, “Planning the ‘8 Decades of Women’ Reunion was a lot of work, because we wanted to make sure everyone was included and honored—from the pioneering alumnae of the 1930's through early 1970's to the current and emerita faculty and staff to present-day students and those of us who graduated a few decades ago. We also wanted to include and recognize those men who offered support and encouragement along the way.

“And it was worth every minute of that planning to see the interaction among the 50-year alumnae and new students, hear the stories of the challenges faced (and overcome) across generations, and recommit together to the future of women at YDS and in ministry in all its forms.

Event Award PhotoAccepting the award at the AYA assembly was Joan Cooper Burnett ’04 M.Div., a member of the Alumni Board and one of the organizers of the “8 Decades” celebration.

The “Best Marketing, Branding, and Communications Effort” award was presented for “a successful communications effort based on design, creativity, implementation, and response.” "I'm thrilled that YDS—and particularly the collaboration among alumni, administration and staff—has been recognized by the AYA leadership and honored with this award!” said Alumni Board Chair Jerry Henry ’80 M.Div.

“Not only does this award recognize YDS's creative and engaging marketing of the Lenten campaign, but, more importantly, it recognizes the coming together of YDS alums and friends to communicate an important social justice message,” added Henry, a partner in the Atlanta philanthropic fundraising firm Alexander Haas.  “I'm grateful to all the YDS alumni and staff who made ‘Mobilizing Faith, Fighting Poverty’ a truly international event."
The “Celebrating 8 Decades of Women” event formally began with an announcement by Dean Harold Attridge during Commencement 2010, followed by a flurry of activities at Convocation and Reunions 2010, and continued through publication in spring 2011 with an issue of YDS’s magazine of theological and ethical reflection, Reflections, entitled “Women’s Journeys: Progress and Peril,” which included a number of articles by YDS alumna.

Among the highlights of the year-long celebration were presentations at Convocation 2010 by pioneering YDS alumnae from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s who challenged younger alums and current students to blaze new paths for a new generation of church women and presentations by younger alumnae who described some of the delights and continuing struggles of contemporary church life.

Keynote speakers at the event included Margaret Farley, the first tenured woman faculty member, and Joan Bates Forsberg, the school’s first advocate and dean of students.  Other presenters included Serene Jones  '85 M.Div. '91 Ph.D., the fist woman president of Union Theological Seminary, and Emilie Townes, the first woman associate dean of academic affairs at YDS.

The women’s celebration resulted in creation of the “Eight Decades of Women” endowment fund aimed at providing scholarships for women at YDS, especially from those faith traditions that do not yet support women in ministry.

Marketing AwardThe “Mobilizing Faith, Fighting Poverty” Lenten 2011 campaign was positioned not only to gather alumni as a group but to market and communicate an important social justice message to the broader population, while at the same time lifting up the image of YDS, its mission, and Yale University.

The 40-day initiative began with a gathering on Ash Wednesday, March 9, at the National Press Club, attended by some 100 persons in the fields of ministry, law, government, and the non-profit sector, almost half of whom were YDS alumni.  The event also served to launch the fall 2010 issue of YDS’s Reflections magazine, entitled “No More Excuses: Confronting Poverty,” as primary speakers at the event included writers from that issue.  The keynote speaker was newly elected U.S. Senator Chris Coons ’92 M.A.R., ’92 J.D. of Delaware.

Following the Washington event, the Lenten campaign continued to urge a church focus on poverty through an ongoing marketing campaign via the internet, through a special “Poverty Teach-In” web site as well as a “Mobilizing Faith, Fighting Poverty” Facebook page.  During each of the 40 days of Lent, anti-poverty messages were posted on both sites. The Facebook page in particular, which received about 1,000 views on every posting, sparked interest beyond YDS in combatting poverty, prompting other organizations to promote the campaign, such as Church World Service, the National Council of Churches, the Dallas Area Progressive Alliance, the Beatitudes Society, and America magazine.

In addition to the regular postings on these two sites, videos of the Press Club event were posted on the University’s YouTube page, recording more than 600 viewings by the middle of the summer.

Providing strong support in organizing and hosting the event was Arthur B. Keyes Jr. ’73 M.Div., who volunteered the services of his staff at International Relief and Development, a Washington-based organization that he heads.  IRD underwrote the entire cost of the event, and IRD staff worked with YDS in planning and executing all aspects of he event, from sending invitations, to contacting press, to providing audio-/visual and catering arrangements.  Keyes was one of the contributors to the fall 2010 Reflections and was among the panelists at the National Press Club event.

Arnold said, “I'm grateful to the outpouring of interest on the part of YDS alums, both women and men, for the ‘8 Decades Celebration’ and deeply appreciative to the current YDS staff and faculty, especially Dean Attridge, Dean Townes, and Professor Emerita Margaret Farley for their support. Many and deep thanks to Director of Development Connie Royster and her staff for hours of preparation, encouragement, and attention to detail. Thanks also to Alumni Director Gail Briggs who'd only been on the job for two months before the Reunion and Director of External Affairs John Lindner for supporting the project every step of the way.”

Posted: 12/01/2011