Ivy George (2012)

Professor of Sociology

Just over a decade ago, on a rainy Saturday, I went to Westminster Abbey in London, primarily to visit N.T. Wright, the Dean of the Abbey and one of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars. About four years later, during a stop in San José, Costa Rica, I had coffee with one of the leading missionaries and seminary scholars in Costa Rica and Cuba. Two years ago, while in the province of Tamil Nadu, I met the regional bishop of the Church of South India, where we discussed education and social changes at Indian universities.

All three visits were linked, in some way, to the recipient of our Senior Faculty Award. Not long after my arrival at Gordon, she was the one who arranged for me to meet Dr. Wright at a dinner in Boston, and it was her friendship with the Costa Rican scholar that opened the door for me to discover more about Christian missionary and social work in Latin America. And I remember eating lunch at an Indian restaurant in Beverly when she gave me a clear overview of the various branches of the church in India, her place of birth. I think I still owe her another lunch for that.

What I do owe her—and what so many students owe her—is gratitude for the ways that she has continually stretched our intellectual horizons. As a sociologist and scholar on issues of women and world development, she has continually challenged us to rethink some of our assumptions, reconsidering questions from the perspectives of the marginalized or the unknown. With a wide network of friends in many parts of the scholarly and ecclesiastical world, she brings to teaching a strong passion to introduce new voices to our usual conversations, and her wide scope of reading usually leads to a steady stream of recommendations of timely articles and some of the most beautiful books. Over the last two decades, that passion to explore new questions and dimensions of life has been evident in her work at Gordon in many ways, such as leading study programs in South Africa, shaping some of our Convocation programs, and serving as chair of her department.

Provosts have lots of conversations with faculty about students, and you can imagine some of them. So, graduates, let me tell you that one of my most vibrant memories of Gordon will be enthusiasm and joy with which this professor has described her excitement about you—about the ways that your discoveries, your growth, your encounters with texts, dilemmas and ideas are invigorating and hopeful. And it is largely for that vision about the imaginative and restorative work that you can do in our world that I am pleased to present the Senior Distinguished Faculty Award to Professor Ivy George.

Ivy George