Larry Ladd – Doctor of Humane Letters Degree Recipient


Larry Ladd serves as an administrator, trustee and consultant in higher education and is an active volunteer leader in Unitarian Universalism. He is the national director of the higher education practice of Grant Thornton LLP, the fifth largest accounting and consulting firm. Before joining Grant Thornton, he was the Director of Budget and Financial Planning at Harvard University, chief financial officer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Dean of Administration and Dean of the College of Special Studies at Tufts University, Assistant Provost at Boston University, and Assistant to the President of Duke University. He serves as a trustee of the Porter Foundation, having served previously as a trustee of the University of Massachusetts, Boston Architectural College, and Civic Education Foundation. He is a frequent speaker at organizations such as the American Zoo & Aquarium Association, Association of Jesuit Colleges & Universities, Association of Theological Schools, Greek Orthodox Church, Green Mountain Summit on Investor Responsibility, National Association of College & University Business Officers, Public Broadcasting Management Association, and Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes. He has been quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and other industry publications.

A third generation Unitarian Universalist, he is a member and former president of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Falmouth, Massachusetts, where he served as president. He is currently the Chair of the UUA Nominating Committee. He has served two terms as Financial Advisor of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and one term as a member of the UUA Commission on Appraisal. He also served on the board of the Connecticut Valley District (now Clara Barton District) and as treasurer of the Church of the Larger Fellowship. As a youth he was the continental president of Liberal Religious Youth, the predecessor of YRUU.

A Look Into The Life of a Seminarian

Shawna Foster is in her final year of the Master of Divinity program . Shawna will be graduating this Sunday. We asked Shawna to reflect on her time at Meadville Lombard as a seminarian. Get a glimpse into her life, and the life of our seminarians, in this blog post. And congratulations to all of the 2013 graduating class – we will see you this weekend!

Shawna FosterIf a month of my intern ministry were condensed into a week, it’d look like this:

On Sunday I’d preside over a worship service where the congregation will text their joys and concerns. I’d give a sermon about what the next generation of Unitarian Universalists need. After posting the sermon on YouTube, I’ll meet with a small group working on anti-racism in the congregation, Skyping a few members in. Then I’ll make a pastoral visit to a veteran who recently decided to remove his feeding tube. On Monday, I have a staff meeting and will discuss the youth mission trip’s fundraising success with the bookkeeper. That evening I’ll join choir practice before meeting with the UU-UNO committee about Human Rights Day coming up this December. The next day I’ll go to my clinical pastoral care site and visit with those who await surgery, or will be told that their cancer is inoperable. On Wednesday, I’ll take a break, but on Thursday I’ll lunch with colleagues in the region before my Google hangout with my peer praxis group. We’ll submit our assignment on family systems in congregations via LiveText after we co-create the memo.  That evening my teaching pastor and I will meet for our weekly advising appointment, and then I’ll discuss my progress with my lay committee. Friday, I’ll write a sermon about doomsday predictions and contribute to the Google doc my co-presenters created for a solidarity workshop we’re presenting at the upcoming regional conference. Saturday morning, I join the garden team to spruce up the church grounds for spring, meet with my entire seminary class cohort via teleconference, and that night my family and I are going to a Celtic dance benefit for the church. And Sunday – well it’s church again!

All this while still in seminary.

The strongest aspect of my ministerial formation is the praxis work. The principles I learn in intensives and during the year are immediately applied. I see and discuss the results among my peers and faculty. I have a three-year relationship with my teaching pastor who sees my formation through community, pastoral, and congregational ministry. As a mother of two kids starting kindergarten, the idea of finishing my Masters of Divinity and being ready to work for a congregation in as little as three years works for me. It also works to be a full time student and intern at community and congregational sites for 8-20 hours a week. All while learning from faculty who understand the multi-cultural, post-denominational, ministerial world I’m stepping into.

This year I’m graduating with 24 other seminarians who are going to be placed in congregations, hospice homes, legislative action ministries, human rights work, chaplain residencies, denominational vacancies, and internships. I will be working as an intern for International Bridges to Justice after I submit a grant proposal to the Unitarian Universalist Funding Panel to start a program connecting Unitarian Universalists with ways to prevent torture worldwide. My experience at Meadville took me to Suzuka, Japan, where I studied Shinto to Phoenix, Arizona, where I presented with faculty at Justice General Assembly about multi-cultural work in congregations. Even though I live in Omaha, Nebraska.  Meadville Lombard is oriented to the future, centered on progressive theology, and teaches what ministers need to know today. Looking back, I’m in awe of all I’ve learned, and looking forward, I know what to do with what I’ve learned – thanks to Meadville Lombard.

Rev. Arvid Straube – 2013 Recipient of Doctor of Divinity Honorary Degree


Born in Nebraska, Arvid Straube earned a B.A. degree from Ball State University in 1975, an M.A. in Divinity from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1978, and a Doctor of Ministry Degree from Meadville Lombard Theological School in 1979.  The title of his dissertation was Transcendentalism and the New Age:  The Inseparability of Spiritual Growth and Social Action.  The intersection between spiritual development and working for social change has been an abiding passion throughout his ministry.  Rev. Straube was ordained to the Unitarian Universalist ministry by the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, British Columbia in 1979.

Rev. Straube served as Associate Minister at the East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, Washington for three years, before beginning a 21 year ministry at the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Durham, North Carolina in 1983 .  He was that congregation’s first full time minister.  During that ministry, the congregation grew from 170 to over 700 members, built three new buildings, and helped found two new congregations.  During the 1980s Rev. Straube made three trips to Central America with the inter-faith group Witness For Peace, a group that witnessed and reported on the human cost of the U. S. sponsored wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador. He was active in a number of social justice causes, including working with an inter-faith coalition opposing a state constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage.

Rev. Straube has served as Lead Minister at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, a 725 member church founded in 1873.  During his ministry there, the church built a new community building and established a bi-lingual ministry at a second campus in Chula Vista, near the border with Mexico.  The church is very active as well in the struggle for marriage equality in California and for immigrant rights.

Rev. Straube has had a Buddhist meditation practice for 30 years.  He describes himself as well as a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth.

Commenting on what has motivated his long ministry, Rev. Straube said, “It breaks my heart that people have a chance to live a life of fulfillment, happiness, wisdom, and service and don’t take advantage of this precious opportunity.  I strongly believe that a full life is best lived in a religious community.  Our congregations heal lives so we can help heal the world.”

Meet Our 2013 Commencement Preacher

Riffat Hassan

Every year Meadville Lombard graduates and their families have the honor of hearing an amazing preacher –

and this year is no different. Meadville Lombard Theological School is thrilled to announce that the 2013 Commencement Preacher will be the inspiring Dr. Riffat Hassan. Dr. Hassan retired from a 33 year long career at the University of Louisville in 2009 where she taught Islamic Studies. However, Dr. Hassan taught the Quran in a way that shocked most Muslim and non-Muslim students – as a human rights document that calls for women’s equality. Even after her retirement, Dr. Hassan continues to spread this message through her organization the International Network for the Rights of Female Victims of Violence in Pakistan.

Dr. Riffat Hassan was born in Lahore in present-day Pakistan. She was educated at Cathedral High School, Anglican missionary school  and later attended St. Mary’s College at Durham University, where she studied philosophy and English. Dr. Hassan also received her PhD from Durham and her thesis on Muhammad Iqbal, one of the most important figures in Urdu Literature, became a catalyst for her life-long work.

After her schooling, Dr. Hassan returned home to Pakistan, where she found limited opportunities for women to teach in academic institutions. She then traveled to the United States and taught in a variety of American Institutions until she came to settle at the University of Louisville in 1976.

Dr. Hassan started her intensive study of the Quran in the 1970s. After a decade long research process she saw that, unlike Christian and Jewish texts, the Quran does not have a creation story that supports the concept of original sin. It also lacks the Adam and Eve rib story, which in the Judeo-Christian text is often used to symbolize a woman’s inferiority to men. Dr. Hassan’s studies have led her to the conclusion that the passages justifying the oppression of women are misinterpretations of Islamic words that have multiple roots and other meanings.

In her deep study of the Quran, Dr. Hassan saw another version of God, which she later reflected on in an essay: “The more I saw the justice and compassion of God reflected in the Quranic teachings regarding women, the more anguished and angry I became, seeing the injustice and inhumanity to which Muslim women, in general, are subjected in actual life.” It was this discovery that inspired Hassan to share her studies with Islamic scholars and has inspired many women around the world to see the Muslim faith differently – to feel empowered.

Dr. Riffat Hassan continues to work around the globe to educate activists, teachers, clerics, and many others to empower Muslim women.