Commencement2016Pacific School of Religion’s spring Commencement ceremony will be held on May 20, 2018 at 4pm at First Congregational Church of Oakland (2501 Harrison Street, Oakland, CA).

We are thrilled to announce our keynote speaker will be distinguished alumnus Rev. Dr. Dorsey O. Blake, Faculty Associate, Leadership and Social Transformation at Pacific School of Religion, and Presiding Minister, the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples. Dr. Randi Walker will deliver the valedictory address as she prepares for her June retirement, after 25 years of service to Pacific School of Religion. Dr. Walker is Pacific School of Religion’s Ronald Soucey Professor of Transcendental Christianity, Professor of Church History, and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program.

The commencement theme is Dear Exiles: We Are a Future With Hope.

Faculty, staff, trustees, and officials from the Graduate Theological Union participate in the event. A reception follows the ceremony. Seating is limited; students are issued reserved seating tickets for friends and family. Commencement is organized by the Office of Community Life, the Dean’s Office and the Worship Department.

In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, the faculty and trustees approve the list of graduates. In May, the Yinger Preaching Award and the Koinonia Awards are also given at the graduation and the graduating class usually announces its gift to the school. In July, the registrar mails each student their diploma.

If you have any questions, please contact the Office of Community Life.

Rev. Dr. Dorsey BlakeCommencement Speaker: Rev. Dr. Dorsey Odell Blake

Rev. Dr. Dorsey Odell Blake, Faculty Associate, Leadership and Social Transformation, was officially installed as Presiding Minister of The Church for The Fellowship of All Peoples in October, 1994. During Dr. Blake’s installation service, Mrs. Sue Bailey Thurman presented Dr. Howard Thurman’s robe — which had not been worn since his death – to Dr. Blake as a symbol of her trust in his leading the congregation “so that there will be no past greater than our future.”

Dr. Blake served as Dean of Faculty and Visiting Professor of Spirituality and Prophetic Justice at Starr King School for the Ministry for six years. He continued to serve on the Core Faculty until his resignation January of 2015.

Prior to joining the faculty at Starr King, Dr. Blake served as Founding Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program and later as Vice President for Community Learning at the University of Creation Spirituality. In addition to responsibilities for curriculum, student and faculty development, he helped to initiate the Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration initially held at Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church that annually draws over 1,000 people.

Rev. Blake served as the Director of the Center for Urban-Black Studies at the Graduate Theological Union and Core Faculty Member at the GTU; Co-Director, United Campus Ministry, The Ohio University, Athens; and, Program Director of the Howard Thurman Educational Trust, San Francisco. He was also the first full-time Black male professor at The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, 1972-77 where he taught in the Religious Studies Department and designed a major in Black Studies.

Dr. Blake has conducted seminars and workshops locally and nationally. He is the recipient of numerous community service awards, including the first Martin Luther King Award for his work with International Students while at The Ohio University where he established the International Students Emergency Fund; The Negro Spirituals Heritage Keepers Award, Friends of Negro Spirituals, 2008; the Faculty, Staff Support Award, Afro-American Association, The University of Alabama, 1977, 1976, 1973, 1972 ( the only times the award was presented); and the Distinguished Alum Award from Pacific School of Religion, 2007. He received academic grants from the Fund for Theological Education and the Danforth Foundation.

He has extensive field ministry experience with interfaith groups addressing justice and peace issues, including the California People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, The Interfaith Alliance for Prison Reform, Genesis and The San Francisco Interfaith Council. He served as a member of the steering committee of Religious Witness with Homeless People and has been in the forefront of peace and justice activities, speaking to small audiences and rallies that have drawn over 200,000 people. In May – June, 2000, he traveled to Morocco with an interfaith delegation of Muslims, Jews, and Christians in a quest to promote interfaith respect and cooperation. In October 2010 he met His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and served on an interfaith panel responding to his teachings. Currently, he serves as Board Chair for IDA, a social networking platform that seeks to empower women and communities of color most affected by today’s economic crisis.

Valedictory Charge: Rev. Dr. Randi Walker

Dr. Randi WalkerRev. Dr. Randi Walker, Ronald Soucey Professor of Transcendental Christianity, Professor of Church History, and Director, Doctor of Ministry Program, is ordained in the United Church of Christ and served as a pastor in the Southern California Conference before teaching at PSR.

Dr. Walker’s scholarship focuses on the histories of Christianity in the Pacific World including narratives of why people are/were attracted to Christianity, how Christianity interacts with other religious and various cultures, and what kind of spiritualities emerge in Christianity in Pacific contexts. She is the author of The Evolution of a UCC Style: Ruminations on History and Ecclesiology of the United Church of Christ (2005) and various other books and articles.

Graduation Form for May 2018 Commencement

If you intend to graduate from Pacific School of Religion in May 2018, you must fill out this form by Friday, March 2, 2018. If you prefer to use a .pdf, please fill this out.

Name as you want it to appear on your degree and in the commencement program. NOTE: Titles, such as Rev., Dr., Sr., Jr. will not be included.
A). List Previous degree bachelors & up (include field/area if PhD or Master's-level). B). List school granting the degree and C.) List the City/State of School.
Do you plan on attending Commencement on Sunday, May 20th at First Congregational Church of Oakland**? If NO, you may proceed to item 11; If YES, please continue to item 5. **This location is still to be confirmed.
You are required to wear a robe. The hood for the degree granted by PSR is included in the rental fee, but it must be returned at the end of Commencement. If you are receiving a certificate, you do not need to rent a hood. You can also wear your own robe.
A. Enter height in feet/inches. Please don't use a different metric system. B. Enter weight in pounds (lbs.). Please estimate upwards so your robe fits comfortably.
Answer this question ONLY if you filled out Section 3 of this from (about previous degrees). If you have a previous Master/Doctoral degree, and would like to wear it on stage, would you like to rent an additional hood for the degree for $25?
If more than one degree is listed in item 3, indicate which school and particular degree.
Each graduating senior is granted up to 10 PRIORITY SEATING TICKETS for family and guests (tickets will be inserted in the 10 announcements).
There is NO GUARANTEE that you will be able to obtain extra tickets. Students requesting extras will have their names put on a waiting list (so submit your forms ASAP). Availability is dependent upon the number of tickets returned to the Office of Community Life and will be distributed on a *first-requested, first-served* basis. If you learn your guests aren't attending, PLEASE return the tickets immediately to the Office of Community Life for redistribution.
We do not have graduation "invitations"--that is, an invitation made especially for each of our individual guests. Instead, we have generic graduation announcement cards that outline the graduation date, time, location, and speaker.
NOTE: If you are renting a robe, announcements are reserved for you at NO cost (10 maximum).
If you are NOT renting a robe (item 5 on form) through Community Life, you still may reserve a maximum of 10 announcements for $5. Please indicate in the box provided whether or not you want to reserve announcements for $5 and, if so, how many you desire.
Some graduating seniors order extra announcements (in addition to the free 10). For instance, if they request more than their allotted 10 priority seating tickets, they need more announcements to go with the extra tickets. OR, they order extra announcements to officially let family and friends (not attending the graduation) know that they are graduating. You may order additional announcements at a cost of $0.50 each. Please fill in the number of extra announcements desired and the total (N x $0.50 = ____) in the box provided; leave blank if you don't want to order.
If you answered Yes to either Free or Purchased announcements, please check one of the boxes indicated.
Pay by cash or check at Holbrook 123, 125c, or mailbox H-3. Make checks payable to "Pacific School of Religion" and note on the check reason for payment.
In box provided, enter $50 if renting a robe/hood from PSR; $30 for robe rental ONLY; N/A if not applicable.
In box provided, enter $25 if you would like to rent an *additional* hood signifying previous Master/Doctoral degree(s), or N/A if not applicable.
Enter $5 if you would like to purchase (10 or fewer) announcements AND ARE NOT renting a robe through PSR.
Enter the total cost of the desired number of additional announcements, e.g., # multiplied by $0.50 = cost to be entered into the box provided.
Please enter your email address and PSR mailbox number so the Office of Community Life can notify you when the robe, hood, commencement announcements and priority seating tickets are available for pick up.

How to pick up your robe and hood: If you order a rented robe and hood through PSR, pick them up at Holbrook 125C (Mz. Ann will let you know when they arrive). Otherwise, pick them up in the “robe room” at the Commencement ceremony just before rehearsal.

Return robes and hoods: All must be returned right after the Commencement ceremony! They are rented, you may not buy or keep them. If you are planning to purchase a robe or hood to keep, read about how to purchase them in the FAQ memo.

Each year, Pacific School of Religion honors student excellence in building community, preaching, and queering religion and theology. These awards will be presented at the Senior Chapel on Tuesday, May 15.

Koinonia Award

To nominate a student: Students, faculty, and staff may nominate a graduating student* leader using the 2018 Koinonia Awards Nomination Form. Nominations are due April 6, 2018.

With the Koinonia Award, the Pacific School of Religion Alumni/ae Association honors two graduating students who have strengthened PSR through outstanding contributions of spirit, insight, and intellect during their time at the school. The Greek word koinonia, which appears frequently in the New Testament, is variously translated as “community,” “fellowship,” and “sharing.”

Nomination Criteria (*A graduating student is one whose name appears on the preliminary list of graduates which can be obtained from the Office of Community Life. The list includes those who graduated last December):

(1) Student has made a significant contribution to and greatly enriched the spiritual, social, and community life of PSR through their presence and efforts;

(2) Student has served the school through active participation in campus life, institutional committees, and/or by helping to create new possibilities for community involvement;

(3) Student has demonstrated academic excellence, thereby contributing to and enhancing the scholarly reputation of PSR.

KOINonia nomination form

Paul Wesley Yinger Preaching Award

To nominate a student: Faculty may email nominations to Dr. Sharon Fennema,, by April 2, 2018.

yinger-1976-GrenwichThe Paul Wesley Yinger Preaching Award is presented each spring to the senior Master of Divinity student at Pacific School of Religion judged to be the most outstanding preacher with demonstrated dramatic skills. The recipient of the award is selected each year by a committee chaired by the professor of homiletics, other faculty who teach courses in homiletics at PSR, and the dean of the faculty. The endowed award was established by the family and friends of Dr. Yinger, a noted United Church of Christ preacher who served as a trustee of Pacific School of Religion from 1962 to 1985.

The Marcella Althaus-Reid Award: Best Student Essay on Queering Religion & Theology

To nominate a student: Faculty may email essays to Dr. Bernard Schlager at, by April 2, 2018.

Marcella_Althaus-Reid-painting2To honor the pioneering theological vision of Marcella Althaus-Reid, Pacific School of Religion’s Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion presents an award in her honor to the best student essay on “queering religion and theology.”

Marcella Althaus-Reid was born in Rosario, Argentina, and received her first degree through a center in Buenos Aires for the study of liberation theology in Latin America. She earned her Ph.D. in 1994 from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and eventually became a professor of contextual theology at the Divinity School of the University of Edinburgh. She also trained for the ministry of the Methodist Church of Argentina, where she developed expertise in the method of “conscientization,” pioneered by the Brazilian educator and activist Paulo Freire. Her first book, Indecent Theology (2000), quickly raised her profile throughout the theological world, and with the publication of Queer God, she was on the forefront of a brand new, exciting, as well as controversial field in the academic study of theology. Professor Althaus-Reid passed away on February 22, 2009.

Freda Smith Feminist Preaching Prize

To nominate a student: Faculty may email nominations to Dr. Sharon Fennema,, by April 2, 2018.

Rev Elder Freda SmithHonoring Rev. Elder Freda Smith, the first woman ordained in Metropolitan Community Churches who was known for her groundbreaking feminist preaching, this prize is awarded for a prophetic, innovative and transformational feminist sermon. Feminist is understood here as meaning advocating for the full humanity and well-being of women (including transgender women). This award, which includes a monetary prize, is open to people of all genders and gender identities.

If you have taken out a Federal Direct Loan during your time at PSR, federal regulations require that you complete the Federal Exit Counseling either online or attend an in-person session prior to graduating. There are three ways to complete this exit counseling:

    • Online exit counseling can be completed here using your FSA ID login and password. PSR will be notified by the US Dept. of Education Federal Student Aid electronically when completed.
    • Join the April 18th Federal Loan Repayment Strategies Workshop that satisfies the Federal Loan Exit Counseling Requirement. This session is being offered at the GTU Library Collaborative Learning Space from 11:00am to 12:15pm. RSVP by March 28.
    • If you are unable to complete the online counseling or attend the GTU session, please contact Cora Manuel, Co-Director of Admissions, Enrollment and Financial Aid, at (510) 849-8931 or to arrange a time to meet.

If the Federal Direct Loan Exit Counseling requirement has not been met by May 18, 2018, a Financial Aid Office hold will be placed on your student account preventing transcript requests or from receiving your certificate/degree.