Two to receive honorary degrees at Seminary of the Southwest commencement

April 21, 2008

The Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, will award honorary doctoral degrees to two women graduates of Smith College at its May 13 Commencement.

Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, New Testament scholar and author, will be awarded the honorary doctor of divinity degree. Leila Clark Wynn, a member of St. James' Church in Greenville, Mississippi, will receive the honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

The Very Rev. Alan Jones, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, will preach the sermon for the service.

ESS’s 41-member Class of 2008 represents 17 Episcopal dioceses, from Hawaii and Los Angeles to Southwest Florida and Virginia. The graduating class represents eight denominations and includes students from Pakistan and Mexico.

Levine is professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Department of Religious Studies and Graduate Department of Religion. She holds a B.A. from Smith College, an M.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University and an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Richmond. Levine has held office in the Society of Biblical Literature, the Catholic Biblical Association and the Association for Jewish Studies.

Her most recent publications include The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus; the edited collection The Historical Jesus in Context; and the 14-volume series, Feminist Companion to the New Testament and Early Christian Writings. Author of scores of essays and articles and frequent lecturer throughout the United States and abroad, Professor Levine taught at Swarthmore College before joining the Vanderbilt faculty in 1994.

Professor Levine presented the Harvey Lectures last year at the Seminary of the Southwest.

Wynn, a native of Austin, has served on several diocesan committees since she came to Mississippi in the mid-1950s. Her service to the Seminary of the Southwest includes work on its development board for several years. Her gifts have helped rebuild the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, supported education at three institutions of higher learning and bolstered the work of her parish and diocese.

Millsaps College, of which she has been a trustee for two decades, awarded her an honorary doctorate in recognition of her public service. Her philanthropic interests are centered mostly in Mississippi and she serves on several boards in support of Southern culture and literature.

Wynn has donated her collection of first-edition books by William Faulkner to the University of Mississippi and has served on the supporting board of the Faulkner Center in Oxford. She is editor of The Time Has Come: The Greenville Literary Tradition, a selection of readings from works by early Greenville writers.

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