The HDS Alumni/Alumnae Council established the Peter J. Gomes STB ’68 Memorial Honors in 2013 to celebrate the outstanding contributions that HDS alumni make to their fields and to society, across the broad spectrum of professions and vocations HDS graduates pursue.
Leila Ahmed joined the faculty of Harvard Divinity School in 1999 as the first professor of women’s studies in religion and was named the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Divinity in 2003. Prior to her appointment at HDS, she was professor of women’s studies and Near Eastern studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. While there, she was director of the women’s studies program from 1992 to 1995 and director of the Near Eastern studies program from 1991 to 1992. Her latest book, A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence, from the Middle East to America, won the Grawemeyer Award in Religion for 2012. Her other publications include the books Women and Gender in Islam: The Historical Roots of a Modern Debate; A Border Passage: From Cairo to America—A Woman’s Journey; and Edward William Lane: A Study of His Life and Work and of British Ideas of the Middle East in the Nineteenth Century. Among her many articles are “Arab Culture and Writing Women’s Bodies” and “Between Two Worlds: The Formation of a Turn of the Century Egyptian Feminist.” Her current research and writing interests include Islam and gender in America, and issues of gender, race, and class in the Middle East in the late colonial era. Ahmed holds a BA, MA, and PhD from the University of Cambridge, the United Kingdom.
Shaun A. Casey, MDiv '83, ThD '98, is the special representative for religion and global affairs at the U.S. Department of State and associate professor of Christian ethics and director of the National Capital Semester for Seminarians at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. His research interests include ethics and international affairs, the public implications of religious belief, and the intersection of religion and politics. Casey has written on the ethics of the war in Iraq, as well as on the role of religion in American presidential politics. His book, The Making of a Catholic President: Kennedy vs. Nixon 1960, was published by Oxford University Press in 2009. Casey is a member of the American Academy of Religion and served as chair of its Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion. He was a visiting scholar at the Center for American Progress and a subject matter expert in religion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Casey holds a master’s in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School and a bachelor of arts degree from Abilene Christian University.
Charles W. Collier, MTS '73, is the former senior philanthropic adviser at Harvard University, where he served for 25 years. He has also held positions at Brown, Andover, Dartmouth, and Princeton and has served as a speaker and consultant for organizations ranging from universities and independent schools to private banks and community foundations. Amherst College, Groton, Goldman, Sachs & Co., and Rockefeller & Co. have been among his clients. A nationally recognized expert in planned giving, family philanthropy, and family wealth counseling, Collier has lectured widely and spoken at conferences for the American Bar Association, Wharton Executive Education Programs, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, National Public Radio stations, and many others. In 2004, he was named to The NonProfit Times Power and Influence Top 50 list. The third edition of his book, Wealth in Families, was published by Harvard University in 2012. That same year, he received the Harvard Medal, which honors “extraordinary service to the University.” Collier was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2008. Since then, he has become an advocate for Alzheimer’s sufferers everywhere, working with the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund and promoting awareness and open discussion about the disease. Collier is a graduate of Phillips Academy, Andover, and holds a BA from Dartmouth College.
Janet Cooper Nelson, MDiv '80, is chaplain of the university, director of the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life, and a member of the faculty at Brown University. Her 1990 appointment to these responsibilities followed comparable posts at Vassar and Mount Holyoke Colleges and service as associate pastor at the Church of Christ at Dartmouth College. She is past president of the Association for College and University Religious Affairs and edits its journal, Dialogue. Her board responsibilities include: AIDS Project Rhode Island, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Brown/ RISD Hillel Foundation, and the Open and Affirming Task Force of the Rhode Island Conference of the United Church of Christ. She established and maintains the Network of United Church of Christ Ministries in Higher Education and also teaches regularly at the Rhode Island State Adult Correctional Institution. She received her undergraduate degree in United States studies and history from Wellesley College, and she also holds a master’s degree in education from Tufts University. Ordained in 1980 by the United Church of Christ, she preaches extensively and serves as consultant to both religious and academic institutions, especially undergraduate programs on religious life and independent school leadership.
Rakesh Rajani, MTS ’91, directs the Ford Foundation’s Democratic Participation and Governance unit. A global leader on issues of social justice, Rajani currently serves on the board of the Hewlett Foundation, the board of directors at the International Budget Partnership, the advisory board of the Open Contracting Partnership, and the steering committee of Making All Voices Count. Before joining the Ford Foundation in 2015, Rakesh was based in Tanzania, where he served as head of Twaweza (“We Can Make It Happen”), an organization he founded to promote basic learning, advance access to information, and increase government responsiveness. Previously, Rajani served as the lead civil society chair for the Open Government Partnership, an initiative to promote government transparency and accountability. He founded and served as executive director for HakiElimu (“Education Rights”), combining pioneering research with humor and satire to engage citizens in education reform. An earlier venture, Kuleana Centre for Children’s Rights, which Rakesh cofounded in his hometown of Mwanza, Tanzania, became one of Africa’s leading centers for children’s rights and established Tanzania’s first center for sexual health, linking work on HIV/AIDS, sexuality, youth, gender, and human rights. Rajani earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and English and American literature from Brandeis University.