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Why I Give
By Vanda B. McMurtry, Chair, Board of Trustees
I support Hartford Seminary with time and treasure because I believe so strongly in its mission. Differences among the faiths through which people approach God are seen too often, almost reflexively so, as sources of conflict, even reasons for hatred. Hartford Seminary adamantly rejects that world view. Rather, it sees in God-created differences among faithful people a great opportunity for learning, one that, if pursued diligently, leads to true self-examination and a deepening of one’s own faith. The Greek philosopher Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. More than any other educational institution I can name, Hartford Seminary carries that Socratic principle forward in its intensive study of faithful living in the modern world.
Fulkersons Make Donation for International Peacemaking Programs
Hartford Seminary’s commitment to religious peacemaking has received a major boost through a $60,000 donation by a local alumna and her spouse. Lynn Fulkerson, who has a Master of Arts from the Seminary and is a founder of the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network, and John Fulkerson, a knee and shoulder surgeon with Orthopedic Associates of Hartford and past president of the Litchfield Land Trust, said that they want to invest their resources wisely and could think of no better way than to support Hartford Seminary’s commitment to preparing peacemakers. “The Seminary plays such an important role internationally in religious peacemaking,” the Fulkersons said.
The donated funds will be used in the Seminary’s innovative International Peacemaking Program and to support an endowed faculty chair in Abrahamic Partnerships. The donation will pay for two students in the International Peacemaking Program. In this program, religious and lay leaders from countries in which there is interreligious conflict between Christians and Muslims spend a year at the Seminary, training in interfaith leadership. The gift also will provide funds toward the endowment of a chair that will secure a professorship in Abrahamic Partnerships at Hartford Seminary, whose primary focus will be on the theory and practice of Jewish-Christian- Muslim relations.
Heidi Hadsell, President of Hartford Seminary, said, “I am profoundly appreciative of the generosity of Lynn and John and their commitment to interfaith education. We live in troubling times, and it is so important that Hartford Seminary continue its work in interreligious dialogue and understanding. This gift will help make this possible.” The Fulkersons said, “Hartford Seminary offers a hopeful vision of the possibilities for peace. It brings together people of diverse religious perspectives and experiences in a unique environment of mutual respect and acceptance.”
International Peacemaking Program:
Hartford Seminary began the International Peacemaking Program (IPP) in 2004 with the support of Christian and Muslim leaders. In addition to this recent gift, funding for IPP has come from The David E. A. Carson and Sara F. Carson Fund, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and a dozen local churches and mosques. It costs approximately $22,000 to fully fund an IPP student.
The Abrahamic Partnerships chair builds on the Seminary’s Building Abrahamic Partnerships (BAP) program. This program trains religious leaders by a) promoting deeper understanding of the beliefs and practices of the three faith traditions, b) providing an innovative educational opportunity that prepares clergy and lay leaders to address issues of religious diversity, c) demonstrating how seminarians, clergy and religious educators can forge mutually beneficial relationships across communal boundaries, and d) helping participants develop skills necessary for interfaith ministry. The Seminary designed this program to be a resource for Jews, Christians, and Muslims who seek a solid foundation in interfaith ministry. It is an eight day intensive immersion in interfaith dialogue and understanding. The creation of an endowment to continue the Abrahamic Partnerships initiative affirms the Seminary’s commitment to making interreligious encounter a central part of each student’s experience.
Lynn Fulkerson has been involved with the Seminary not only as a student but also as a trustee and officer of the Alumni/ae Council. She began her ministry of caring for the environment while working on her M.A. at the Seminary. She is a leading activist in her home town of Litchfield. Lynn is co-founder of the Litchfield Energy Task Force whose mission is to reduce energy consumption and increase the use of clean renewable energy for the town, its residences and businesses. For ten years she served as Chair of the Episcopal Diocesan Committee on the Environment. She continues as co-chair of the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network, which is starting its second decade.
Besides his work as a physician with Orthopedic Associates of Hartford, John Fulkerson is a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Connecticut. He is founder of the Patellofemoral Foundation and was Medical Director of the Hartford Whalers and the Wolf Pack Hockey Club. He has served as president of the Herodicus Society, an academic sports medicine society. John is a committed land preservationist, serving until recently as President of the Litchfield Land Trust, an organization dedicated to preserving quality land in northwest Connecticut.
Vance Foundation Challenge Grant Met
The H.A. Vance Foundation of Hartford provided a challenge grant of $25,000 to complete the purchase and installation of mobile shelving in Hartford Seminary’s Library when the Seminary had successfully raised an additional $50,000 for the project.
The Seminary’s Library is at the heart of our institution’s mission to increase understanding among students, faculty, religious leaders, journalists, researchers and the general public. The mobile shelving project included the purchase and installation of nine new mobile book carriages to increase the shelving space available for current collections and future acquisitions.
Now complete, the mobile shelving has enabled the seminary to move 21,000 volumes into circulation, expanding the library collection by 30%, a significant increase with benefits to the entire community. We wish to thank the H.A. Vance Foundation in particular for their visionary support. We would also like to thank all the donors to the project and in particular the Ahearn Family Foundation and the Prior Family Foundation.
The Alavi Foundation of New York
The Alavi Foundation continues to be a generous funding partner, providing faculty salary support for Dr. Mahmoud Ayoub to continue to teach at Hartford Seminary. Dr. Ayoub, a noted scholar of Shi’ite Islam, has had a distinguished academic career, at Temple University and Hartford Seminary among many other institutionss, and is known for his belief in the importance of interfaith dialogue in today’s challenging world as we work to build harmonious and tolerant relationships among all peoples.
The Alavi Foundation has also taken a leadership role in Hartford Seminary’s campaign to secure funding to endow a faculty chair for the study of Shi’ite Islam. The Foundation recently provided major funding for a landmark conference last fall on “The State of the Study of Shi’ite Islam in North America and Europe” at which the endowment campaign was launched. The conference was brought together leading scholars of Shi’i Islam to share perspectives on their rich heritage within the broader Islamic world and to identify efforts to increase interest in the study of Shi’i Islam in North America. At the conference, Dr. Sayyed Hossein Nasr of George Washington University gave the keynote address.
The Alavi Foundation continues to fund important educational enterprises as a reflection of its mission “to promote charitable and philanthropic causes through educational, religious and cultural programs.” The Foundation does this by making contributions to not-for-profit organizations within the United States that support inter- and intra-faith dialogue, and promote Islamic culture and Persian language, literature and civilization.
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