We are here today to celebrate the beginning of the new academic year and to honor Bishop Barbara C. Harris, the recipient of this year’s Blackwell award.
Bishop Harris is a woman not unlike Elizabeth Blackwell. With an inquisitive mind, keen intelligence, dedication to task, commitment to an ideal, indomitable spirit, and determination to overcome odds and accomplish goals, Bishop Harris joins a long and distinguished list of honorees, all of whom we are proud to have as members of our community.
A native of Philadelphia, Barbara Clementine Harris graduated from the Charles Morris Price School of Advertising and Journalism. She joined the public relations firm Joseph V. Baker Associates Inc. in 1949, eventually serving as the company’s president. In 1968, she moved to the Sun Company, where she was named manager of community and urban affairs. She headed the public relations department until 1977, when she became a senior staff consultant at Sun’s corporate headquarters.
In spite of her busy career, she always managed to continue with volunteer work within her church – an activity that would become a mainstay of her life and eventually lead her to devote herself full time to “doing the Lord’s work” as her dear parents had taught her.
Harris was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1980. While assigned to St. Augustine of Hippo Church in Norristown, Pa., she served as Philadelphia County prison chaplain, and counseled corporations on public policy issues and social concerns. She was later named executive director of the Episcopal Church Publishing Company and publisher of The Witness magazine.
In 1988, Harris was named suffragan (assisting) bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts. A year later, she became the first woman ordained a bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
A member of the Union of Black Episcopalians and past president of the Episcopal Urban Caucus, Harris has represented the Church on several committees and commissions. She is a trustee of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., and past vice president of Episcopal City Mission.
Bishop Harris attended Villanova University, studied at the Urban Theology Unit in Sheffield, England, and is a graduate of the Pennsylvania Foundation for Pastoral Counseling. She has received honorary degrees from numerous universities and theological schools, including Yale University and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific.
Although she retired in 2002, she currently serves as an assisting bishop within the Washington, D.C., diocese.
Bishop Harris, your distinguished career and spirit of justice and civic activism – from marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma to speaking out for inequities for people of all races, genders and affiliations – place you among the great leaders for social change of our time. We thank you for the many gifts you have brought to your Church, your community and our country.
Maureen Zupan '72, Vice Chair, Board of Trustees
Convocation, September 7, 2004