Courage and Compassion in a Volatile World

April 8, 2021
The Gomes Honors

In a year unlike any other, HDS celebrates the diversity of alumni impact in the public sphere with the 2021 Gomes Honors.

Each year, the HDS Alumni/Alumnae Council (AAC) recognizes the Peter J. Gomes, STB ’68 Distinguished Alumni Honors, celebrating Harvard Divinity School graduates whose excellence in life, work, and service pays homage to the mission and values of the School, and the legacy of the Rev. Peter Gomes. The 2021 Gomes Honorees are members of the HDS community who show profound courage and compassion in their personal and professional lives, and dedication to constancy of service in a volatile world. They represent the impact HDS graduates have as they live to make the world better.

“The 2021 Gomes Honorees engage in essential work that reveals truth, promotes justice, deepens compassion, and fosters understanding. Their efforts exemplify the impact of HDS alumni who pursue moral purpose to the betterment of our communities and to the healing of our planet,” says Acting Dean David Holland. “I want to extend a heartfelt welcome to them as they join the ranks of Harvard Divinity School’s honored graduates.”

This year, the Council recognizes:

  • Joshua Eaton, MDiv ’10: A journalist whose stories have held the powerful accountable and given a voice to the vulnerable, Joshua Eaton is an investigative reporter based in Washington, D.C., who worked on investigations teams at CQ Roll Call and ThinkProgress.

  • Dr. Omar Sultan Haque, MTS ’04, MD ’08: A Christian physician, social scientist, and philosopher who studies questions ranging across social medicine, religion, and bioethics, Omar Sultan Haque is a faculty member at Harvard Medical School in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, the Program in Psychiatry and the Law, and is co-director, UNESCO Chair in Bioethics, American Unit. He has also earned his STM degree from Yale University and PhD from Brown University.

  • Robin Coste Lewis, MTS ’97: A 2015 National Book Award winner in poetry for her debut collection Voyage of the Sable Venus, Robin Coste Lewis just completed her tenure as the poet laureate of Los Angeles.

  • Lama Rod Owens, MDiv ’17: An author, activist, and authorized Lama (Buddhist teacher) in the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism, Lama Rod Owens is considered one of the leaders of his generation of Buddhist teachers.

As they have in years past, the AAC also honors a non-alumna/us member of the HDS community. This year, the Council recognizes Drew Gilpin Faust, President Emerita of Harvard University, the Arthur Kingsley Porter University Professor, and longtime partner and advocate for the Divinity School.

“President Emerita Faust has played a critical role in the advancement of HDS,” says Dean David N. Hempton. “In addition to her work as a distinguished historian and her inspiring leadership, she has recognized the role religion plays in the human experience and supported the vital ways in which HDS and its community of alumni and scholars advance knowledge of global religions, prepare faith leaders, and educate ethical and religiously literate leaders in all fields.”

The 2021 Gomes Honorees: from left, Joshua Eaton, Omar Sultan Haque, Robin Coste Lewis, Rod Owens, and Drew Gilpin Faust

Typically, honorees are selected using a theme to help guide the selection process of nominated alumni. This year, the Council chose to spotlight alumni who have committed to transformational work without setting a theme in advance. For AAC Chairperson Bjorn C. Sorenson, MTS ’02, no one theme could capture the needs of the moment.

“At the same time the global health pandemic highlighted our interconnectedness, the spring and summer of 2020 focused the HDS Alumni/Alumnae Council's attention on the constancy of racial, social, economic, and climate iniquities and injustice,” says Sorenson. “This year’s honorees are recognized for the salience and impact of their work in the context of these emergent complex needs.”

Selection Committee Chair Sahar Shahid, MDiv ’17, says that this year’s honorees showcase the variety and difference in how alumni take their HDS education and put it to use in the public sphere, and also carry forward the legacy of Peter Gomes.

“This year’s honorees are committed to making great change and helping great causes in their communities. One of the things about Peter Gomes is that he was committed to serving the needs of nature and society. The people represented here make a name for themselves in the hearts of their communities just as Peter Gomes did,” says Shahid.

The AAC will recognize the alumni honorees during an event scheduled for May 4. A separate Friend of the School event featuring a conversation between Faust and Hempton will take place May 11.