HDS Alumni/Alumnae Council Announces New Membership and Leadership

June 4, 2014
HDS Alumni/Alumnae Council Announces New Membership and Leadership
Sarah Taylor Peck, MDiv '07, and S. Joshua Thomas, MTS '02. Photo: Justin Knight

The HDS Alumni/Alumnae Council (AAC) is pleased to announce four new members, who will begin terms of service on July 1, 2014.They are Richard A. Coutinho, MTS '94, LLM '02, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Quardricos Bernard Driskell, MTS '08, of Alexandria, Virginia; Nise Guzman Nekheba, MDiv '94, JD '94, of Orlando, Florida; and Mary Roodkowsky, MTS '77, of Cliffside Park, New Jersey.

Sarah Taylor Peck, MDiv '07, senior pastor at Community Christian Church in North Canton, Ohioand a member of the AAC for the past five yearswill assume the chairpersonship on July 1.

"I am honored to take on this role for the coming year and excited as I consider the many things that we can do to connect alumni with each other, with current students, and with the School," Peck said. "HDS is a community that is centered in Cambridge but reaches far beyond Francis Avenue. I am eager to get as many of our more than six thousand alumni involved as possible."

S. Joshua Thomas, MTS '02, a philosophy professor at St. John's University in New York City, will succeed her as vice-chairperson in the year ahead.

"It's been a very rewarding experience serving on the AAC for the past several years, alongside such vibrant, talented, and conscientious people, deeply concerned with the Divinity School and its alumni/ae body," Thomas said. "I'm excited and honored to be serving in this new capacity."

More than 50 alumni were nominated or self-nominated for only four open positions.

"I continue to be heartened by the incredible interest HDS alumni show for getting involved and giving back to the School via service on the AAC," remarked Michael Goetz, the annual giving and alumni relations staff liaison within the Office of Development and External Relations. "We receive incredibly enthusiastic and heartfelt nominations each year."

Mary Roodkowsky, MTS '77, is recently retired from a long career with the United Nations, most of which was spent working in international locations for UNICEF.

"I am so looking forward to serving on the AAC and to connect in this new way with the HDS community," she remarked upon learning of her selection. "There is so much we can do to support alums in relating the spirituality and meaning we studied and lived at HDS, to the challenges of the day-to-day world, both those that pose ethical concerns and our more mundane activities as well."

"As Harvard Divinity School is part of me, and gave so much to me, I am grateful to be able to give a small part back to HDS and my fellow alumni/ae through my contributions to the AAC," remarked incoming member Richard Coutinho, MTS '94, LLM '02, counsel in the Office of the Public Guardian and trustee in the Ministry of the Attorney General for Ontario, Canada.

"Graduating from HDS 20 years ago has provided me with a chance to reflect just how much HDS has been a formative experience in my life. Not only did I develop skills in critical thinking and analysis in my field of comparative religion but, as importantly, I developed respect for diversity, pluralism, and friendship that guide me throughout my subsequent career and personal life."

Quardricos Bernard Driskell, MTS '08, a lobbyist for the National Psoriasis Foundation and associate minister at Beulah Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, said of HDS and his upcoming service on the Council:

"My HDS education continues to have tremendous impact on my daily life and my work as I approach policy and religion with a humane and ethical framework. Because of my experience, serving on the AAC at such a salubrious time in the School's history is in a small way giving back. I am very excited and pledge to give my time and creative energy to my fellow alumni/alumnae and to the larger Harvard community."

Nise Guzman Nekheba, MDiv '94, JD '94, an Associate Professor of Law at Florida A&M University hopes to "engender a broader presence for HDS, where its curriculum and events positively impact not only alumni, faculty, and students, but especially the national and international community," during her time on the AAC.

Julia Whitcavitch-DeVoy, MTS '94, who will complete her term as chairperson on June 30, lead the AAC through the second year of its highly popular Divinity Dialogues series and the second awarding of the Peter J. Gomes STB '68 Memorial Honors.

Under her leadership, the AAC also consulted with HDS leadership in advance of the launch of the Campaign for Harvard Divinity School in April, and initiated a new program in conjunction with the Office of Admissions that enlisted the help of more than 160 alumni in yielding the incoming class of HDS students. She will become a School-appointed director to the Harvard Alumni Association on July 1.

"I am so proud of our work together this year. We continue to see more and more alumni connect with the Schoolwhether that is through attending events like Divinity Dialogues or viewing them online, nominating worthy alumni for the Gomes Honors, making a gift to the School, or connecting with admitted students," reflected Whitcavitch-DeVoy.  "I look forward to continuing my service to HDS and to Harvard in my new role as an HAA board member come the fall. I know that Sarah, Joshua, and next year’s AAC members are poised to do great things."