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Thiel College to award honorary degree to ELCA’s first female presiding bishop


Thiel College to award honorary degree to ELCA’s first female presiding bishop

GREENVILLE, Pa.—Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton, M.Div., the first female presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), will be given an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree and address 235 graduates at Thiel College’s May 3 commencement.

Eaton will celebrate the academic achievements during Thiel College’s 141st commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. at the William A. Passavant Memorial Center on campus. The title of her address is “Religion vs. Reason.”

“At Thiel College, we are committed to providing a commencement exercise fit to mark this watershed educational accomplishment for many students. We strive to provide inspiring and relevant people from the Thiel College community and the world,” President Troy D. VanAken, Ph.D., said. “Bishop Eaton provides the rare opportunity for our graduates and their families and friends to hear directly from a trailblazing pioneer. We are confident Bishop Eaton’s words will serve as a great launching point for our graduates as they embark on their own trailblazing journey.”

Along with the conferring of undergraduate degrees and Bishop Eaton’s honorary degree, Thiel College Professor of Psychology Beth Parkinson, Ph.D., will be awarded distinguished emerita faculty honors. She is retiring after 29 years of teaching at Thiel College.

Along with the students, about 1,500 friends and family of the graduates and Thiel College faculty and staff will join in this celebration of academic excellence and achievement. Prior to Commencement, Eaton will preside at a Baccalaureate service at 10 a.m. in the Passavant Center.

Eaton is the fourth presiding Bishop of the ELCA. The Cleveland, Ohio native attended the College of Wooster, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education in 1977, and then went to Harvard Divinity School, where she received a Master of Divinity degree. She was ordained in 1981, became the first female bishop of the Northeast Ohio Synod in 2006 and was elected the presiding bishop of the ELCA on November 1, 2013.

The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with about 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Thiel College history is firmly rooted in the Lutheran tradition. Thiel College was formed in 1866 under the leadership of the Lutheran pastor William A. Passavant. During its first decades, Thiel College was led by the brothers Henry and Theophilus Roth, Lutheran pastors who served respectively as Thiel president from 1870 to 1887 and 1893 to 1902, all but six of the first 32 years of the College.

About Thiel College

Thiel College is a private liberal arts institution founded in the Lutheran tradition. Located in Greenville, Pa., the College offers 60 majors and minors, 24 varsity sports, and an 11:1 student-faculty ratio. A dedicated faculty paired with dynamic research and internship opportunities produce numerous graduate school and job placements. Coeducational from its beginnings, the College celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2016 and remains committed to combining tradition with innovation.

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