Virginia Theological Seminary Awards Five with Honorary Degrees


Media Contact: Curtis Prather
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Alexandria, VA – Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) conferred honorary doctorates upon five distinguished recipients at its 191st commencement ceremony today. The Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, was awarded to Dr. Brent Blackwelder, Mr. F. Robertson Hershey and Dr.  J. Reilly Lewis; the Doctor in Divinity, honoris causa degree was awarded to Sister Margaret Farley and the Very Rev. Harry Pritchett.

VTS awards honorary degrees each year to recognize faithful and notable service as well as creative and innovative leadership in parish ministry, overseas missions, academia, and in ecumenical, social, diocesan, and national church ministries.

Brent Blackwelder, Ph.D., has been an influential environmental advocate for more than 40 years. One of the founders of the Environmental Policy Institute, for over four decades Blackwelder has actively lobbied Congress and regulatory agencies to prioritize environmental concerns. He recently retired as the president of Friends of the Earth where he was renowned for speaking truth to power.

Sister Margaret A. Farley, R.S.M., Ph.D. is an ethicist and retired professor who taught Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School from 1971 to 2007. The author of the book Just Love (2006), Farley co-founded the All-Africa Conference, a project intended to bring together religious African women to develop strategies for responding to the pandemic of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

F. Robertson Hershey is the 11th headmaster for Episcopal High School (EHS). He presently serves as immediate past board chair of The Association of Boarding Schools. He not only serve as headmaster, but teaches economics at EHS, where he finds great value in participating in students’ educations by teaching and working with them, rather than by simply leading from his office.

J. Reilly Lewis, D.M.A., a native of Washington, D.C., is the founding conductor of the Washington Bach Consort.  After earning his master’s and doctoral degrees from The Juilliard School, he returned home to conduct the Cathedral Choral Society, now for twenty-eight seasons. He is recognized internationally as a conductor and keyboard artist as well as a specialist in baroque music.

The Very Rev. Harry H. Pritchett, Jr. (’64) was the eighth dean of the cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City, from which he retired in 2001. Formerly Archdeacon of the Diocese of Alabama, Pritchett was the pastoral associate to the Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, GA, as well as pastoral associate to the Dean of Virginia Seminary from 2002-2004.

Click here to listen to Bishop Pritchett’s sermon delivered during the Service for the Mission of the Church, on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.

Founded in 1823 as a beacon of hope in a country new and finding its way, Virginia Theological Seminary is the flagship Seminary of the Episcopal Church. One of our first benefactors was Francis Scott Key whose poem provides the text for our national anthem. In the 191 years since being established, VTS has led the way in forming leaders of the Episcopal Church, including: the Most Rev. John E. Hines (VTS 1933, D.D. 1946), former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; the Rt. Rev. John T. Walker (VTS 1954, D.D. 1978), the first African-American bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington;  and theologian, author and lay preacher Ms. Verna J. Dozier (VTS D.D. 1978). Serving the worldwide Anglican Communion, Virginia Theological Seminary educates approximately 25% of those being ordained who received residential theological education. Visit us online at