FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2006
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Birmingham-Southern is presenting five individuals with honorary degrees at its Sesquicentennial year Commencement ceremony May 27 in recognition of distinguished careers and service to the college. Commencement is set for 3:30 p.m. at Boutwell Auditorium in downtown Birmingham.
Rebecca Gilman of Chicago, a 1987 BSC graduate and award-winning playwright, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree.
Carol A. Newsom of Atlanta, a 1971 BSC graduate and Charles Howard Candler Professor of Old Testament at the Candler School of Theology and the graduate division of religion at Emory University, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.
David Shipler of Chevy Chase, Md., a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
William H. Willimon of Birmingham, bishop of the United Methodist Church North Alabama Conference, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.
Odessa Woolfolk of Birmingham, founder and president emeritus of the board of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
Gilman, a Trussville native, is known internationally. She earned a master's degree from the University of Virginia and the University of Iowa. She has been profiled by “The New York Times,” “Time” magazine, “New York” magazine, and others. In 2000, “Entertainment Weekly” named her one of 100 people who “represent the future of entertainment.”
Newsom is a native of Birmingham. She earned a master's degree and doctorate from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard University. She has been a member of the faculty at Emory since 1980. She is an author, editor, and co-editor of nine books and is considered the first female translator of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Shipler, a native of Chatham, N.J., earned a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College. He was a correspondent for the “New York Times” for more than 20 years. He is considered a leading expert on poverty in America following the publishing of his most recent book “The Working Poor: Invisible in America.” He was awarded the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for “Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land.”
Willimon was elected as bishop of the United Methodist Church in July 2004. He leads the North Alabama Conference, which includes some 792 pastors. He holds a bachelor's degree from Wofford College, a master's degree from Yale Divinity School, and a doctorate from Emory University. He has pastured churches across Georgia and South Carolina, and taught divinity classes at Duke University. He is the author of more than 60 books, and more than one million copies of his books have been sold. A 1996 study by Baylor University named Willimon “One of the Twelve Most Effective Preachers in the English-speaking world.” According to a 2005 study by the Pulpit and Pew Research Center, he is “the second most widely read author by mainline Protestant pastors.”
Woolfolk, who grew up in the Titusville community and attended Birmingham public schools, received a bachelor's degree from Talladega College and a master's degree from Occidental College in California. She completed additional graduate studies at the University of Chicago and Yale University. Her professional career includes senior level positions with the Urban Reinvestment Task Force in Washington, D.C.; executive director of the Birmingham Opportunity Industrialization Center; associate executive director for the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity; and 10 years as director of the UAB Center for Urban Affairs. She is now a civic volunteer and lecturer.