Video: A Service in Thanksgiving for the Life of Constance Hall Buchanan

December 17, 2020
Constance Buchanan
Constance Buchanan, a former director of the WSRP who developed the program into a permanent part of the School and University, died September 16, 2020. / Photo: Steve Gilbert

Constance Hall Buchanan, a former director of the Women’s Studies in Religion Program (WSRP) at Harvard Divinity School who developed the program into a permanent part of the School and University, died September 16, 2020. She was 73. (Read HDS obituary.)

A faculty member and associate dean at HDS for 20 years, Buchanan was trailblazer whose leadership helped steer the school toward a more inclusive future. She inspired countless students, visiting scholars, and colleagues, and after her time at HDS, she continued her transformative influence on the study of religion as a Senior Program Officer at the Ford Foundation.

Connie’s historic impact has been observed in obituaries in the Boston Globe, the New York Times. This virtual memorial service was held November 23, 2020.

Remarks by Leila Ahmed (PDF) and Crissy Atkinson (PDF). Read a reflection from Bonnie J. Morris, PhD, (WRSP 1990-91).



The poet Robert Hayden, who was the first Black American to be appointed as consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, wrote the following in a poem entitled "Those Winter Sundays".

"Sundays, too, my father got up early and put his clothes on in the blue-black cold. Then with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather, made banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

"I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. When the rooms were warm, he'd call and slowly I'd rise and dress, fearing the chronic angers of that house. Speaking indifferently to him, who had driven out the cold, and polished my good shoes as well. What did I know? What did I know of love's austere and lonely offices?"

I met Connie as she tended the warming fires for women at Harvard Divinity School in the late 70s. What I knew was student activism for feminism and structural change were the center of her professional obligation. And its location, in that time, was clearly at the periphery of HDS in every sense but one.

Her work was the brightest. And the warmth in the fire drew many women and men to study and to teach at 45 Frances Avenue. As I prepared these prayers, Hayden's closing question came to the center of my thinking.

How cold were those days to which she brought radiance. How cracked were her hands and heart from the labors and fears. What did I know of her loving austere and lonely office, that she occupied with such faithfulness and built to the blazing fires of new scholarship and structure and vision.

Clearing the space and generating the warmth for structures of women who study and pursue their vocation with clarity in our HDS family now. What did I know dear Connie, of this work. How could we see then, did you see, the impact that your life would have on so many. What did love's austere and lonely offices require?

Simone Weil suggests what it requires of us. She says, "Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity." So friends, I call you to attention and to gratitude for the life of Constance Hall Buchanan. Let us pray.

Hearts yearning for more time. Souls full, we come in gratitude and grief into your presence. You who keep the chronicle of the fullness of all of Earth.

We are gathered by Connie's life and work, a great work now complete. Your beloved, brilliant daughter, loaned to us for a season to be our sister, our teacher, our colleague, our mentor, our friend, and so much more. To alter for the good of all, women at the structures of faith and all who look to them. The face in the form of her generation.

We raise high our gratitude and thanksgiving for Connie. Especially for her capacity to envision the never before. To create and to sustain daily access for women, in ways that were simple and broad.

To the paths that we were seeking for equity and influence, she brought light and encouragement and a map. To the declarations that promoted reliable, surprising, endless confidence, she brought warmth and laughter and a sense of of course. And on Eagle's wings, she flew articulately into the face of ridicule, injustice, and erasure, showing us the way.

She created durable, structural change, even at Harvard, even at Ford. God help us, even in religion. She created new scholars and scholarship. And she helped display a dazzling set of administrative dance steps that were adequate to the task of wresting lasting change for many who now benefit and yet never knew the full cost and the importance of her brave work.

But today, we who gather to remember and give thanks for her life declare proudly that we are Connie's legacy. Her friends, her students, her grateful colleagues, her admirers with attention we gather to bear witness to this sacred, warm, fiery indelibility of her life and her work.

Our love and admiration give us eyes to see the tracks her life began to trace for us and that she has left in the world, in our work and in our souls. We do mourn her death. We yearn for more time.

But we Marvel and give thanks for her life of faith, formed early in family and friendship, now complete. Its radiant impact only now beginning to shine fully. We raise our hearts. We raise our voices.

Not to claim her perfection, but to declare without equivocation that she lived and worked to reverse real ills that devastated the possibilities for women's ministry and leadership in scholarship, in faith, and in families throughout the world. We gather to declare the implicit and dazzling historic capacity in women that she saw so vividly.

We marvel at her capacity to seek to relegate misogyny to history's dustbin, even in the academy. And to continue always and ever to build inclusion. We do, in gentleness and with glad acclaim, hold high a dear daughter of your own redeeming. A brilliant woman whose radiance continues to shine in many.

And in the continuing work for justice and full humanity for all. May our gratitude for her memory be fuel for all these endeavors in our lives and in the work of the world. We ask that you be our stay, our constants, in the formation of a full circle of sacred inclusion. This day, in peace, in Connie's memory, and in her honor, always and Amen.

Hello, everyone. I'm David Hempton, Dean of the Harvard Divinity School. And I'm delighted to welcome you to the service of thanksgiving for the life of Constance Hall Buchanan, who passed away on September 16 of this year. Faculty member, associate dean, and director of the Women's Studies and Religion Program for two decades, Connie Buchanan was an educational pioneer who has left an indelible mark on Harvard Divinity School and Harvard University.

Although Connie had left HDS before I got here, I was able to meet up with her on several occasions. And was always inspired by her passion for the Women and Religion Program, a passion which she communicated to hundreds of people throughout the whole country.

One of my earliest memories of HDS was wandering around the Brown room. Peering at the portraits of past worthy's. Almost all of them white men of a certain age, I'm very familiar with that demographic. But among the portraits is the unforgettable one of Connie, resplendent in her blue jacket.

Her expression is one of friendly calm assurance, as if to say to the onlooker I know who I am and I know I've made a difference to this institution for the good of others. A few years later, when I became dean I inherited four framed photographs of the faculty of the Divinity School, for 1922, 1955, 1966, and 1979. Even as late as 1966, only half a century ago, there's not a single female faculty member and only one person of color.

By 1979 however, there are signs of change. On the third row of the photo, taken outside Memorial Church, right there standing behind President Derek Bok, Dean George Rupp, and Dick Niebuhr is Courtney Buchanan, standing alongside Peter Gomes and Margaret Miles. 40 years later, look at the photo of the faculty of the Divinity School from last year on our school website.

A social revolution on our faculty, staff, and students has taken place, and Connie Buchanan was a trailblazer. But her influence over HDS goes even deeper than that. In the years I've been at Harvard, I've welcomed over 50 research associates at the WSRP, who have come to HDS, taught our students, written path-breaking books, and helped transform the study of religion throughout the United States and around the world.

The significance of this program and giving voice to women past, present and future, is truly incalculable. Very few people get to make the kind of impact over people's lives that Connie Buchanan has. We remember her with enormous fondness and gratitude.

Thank you for joining us. Thank you for the heartfelt tributes to come later in the service. And thank you for continuing to help us preserve the legacy of Connie's unstinting passion for the cause of women's education and the WSRP program at Harvard. Thank you.

Good afternoon. I first knew Connie as a fellow in the Religious Studies and Religion program. And then served as a consultant occasionally for her at Ford Foundation. But most importantly, Connie was a friend over many years. Today, what I'd like to do is read a selection from her book, Choosing to Lead: Women in the Crisis of American Values.

"As modern women face the continuing challenge of becoming full participants in American public life, contemplation of the public tradition of organized women should correct any tendency we might have to identify access as a sufficient goal. By its achievements, and limitations, this tradition reminds us that culture plays a powerful role in shaping social reality and in determining what must be addressed to change women's social situation.

"This tradition helps us see the efforts at social change today must take into account a complex set of dominant cultural values and meanings linked to gender that are still shaping the social roles and status of American women, of modern American women. In all their racial, ethnic, and economic diversity.

"At the heart of these values, is the cultural belief that continues to deny women authority by denying them moral equality. Engaging in transformative belief requires that women assert their full moral agency in following a public agenda of their own. Women are poised," Connie writes, "to shape American values publicly on a scale which they have never before had access. Much is riding on whether, and how, they choose to lead."

I'm Bernadette Brooten, and I'm grateful to have known Connie Buchannan, my mentor, colleague, friend, and supporter of 42 years, first at Harvard and then at the Ford Foundation and of course later in her retirement. Connie always wanted us, but especially women, to be more vocal, to do bold research, to have a public voice, and to lead.

Many of us here are Connie's legacy. Without Connie, how many of us would not have completed our publications? Not receive tenure. Not been ordained or led religious communities. Not become successful activists. Led less effective nonprofits. I know that without Connie, my work and I would have been much diminished.

I hold dear memories of Connie in her elegant suits and signature sculpted gold earrings. Realistic about the steep mountain slope and resolute in leading us up to as high as we could go. I'd like to end with the words of poet Hannah Senesh.

"There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth, though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world, even though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind."

Hi, I'm Chrissy Atkinson and I was a friend and colleague of Connie's for more than 40 years. It's nice to see so many old friends, I wish we were really together but this is 2020. And I'm very glad to see you wherever you are.

Can't say very much about a 40 year friendship in a couple of minutes. So I'll bracket what I have to say with a couple of phone conversations, phone encounters, with Connie one at the very beginning and one near the end. To begin at the beginning was almost exactly 41 years ago that I met Connie over the phone, not in person.

She called me at my desk at my one year fill-in appointment at BU, introduced herself and urged me to apply for an opening at the Harvard Divinity School. I was interested, of course. And we soon met in person and began to become friends.

All went well, as Connie steered me through the application process, reminding me regularly that I was just the right person for the job and that I was doing brilliantly. The first problem we had came when we got to the job talk and she told me I had to get Martin Luther into it somewhere. Connie, I said, I'm talking about medieval women and virginity.

That's fine she said just stick him in somewhere. I told her it couldn't be done, but then somehow I did it. And that was Connie. She made you find connections that you had never seen in your own work and would never have imagined. The upshot was that I got the job as Connie intended.

It's a mixed blessing in some ways, but an unmixed blessing was Connie's friendship. We were close colleagues for a couple of decades and what a lot of fun we had, along with all the tears and the struggles. We howled with laughter as we plotted and planned. And all along, I watched her encourage other women as she had encouraged me. Telling us, of course we could. So we did.

When Connie went off to shine in a new orbit at the Ford Foundation, how I missed her. But of course, we stayed friends. In the last few years, our visits took place in her apartment in New York, and more frequently over the phone. As her strength dwindled, her spirit did not.

Ever since the beginning of the pandemic in March, I was always sort of afraid to call. I was worried about her vulnerability. I was afraid I'd find something new to worry about at the other end of the phone. But Connie was always the same, when I asked anxiously how are you, she'd respond hanging in, how are you.

Last spoke to her early in September. And as always, she said she was OK. And then she went on to castigate Donald Trump. We didn't talk very long, because her voice got tired. But I learned in that call, like as I had in the others, so much about courage, about patience, about endurance. Qualities we need so much right now. I so wish that there could be more such calls. I know we all do. Thank you.

I'm Mercy Amba Oduyoye. I got to know Connie through the Harvard Divinity School program that was called Women in Religion, Women's Studies in Religion and Culture. I was invited in at the point where Brigalia Bam, of the World Council of Churches, was on her committee. And as Brigalia says in this book, that we did in Africa to honor Connie, she doesn't know what kind of battles Connie fought in the Harvard boardroom to enable African women to be invited to this program.

In actual fact, I have a book that doesn't believe that I was once on that program and that I had been a visiting lecturer and research associate in Harvard Divinity School. Because it wasn't normal for an African woman to be in a position like that. And for that, I do thank Connie for believing in us, African women.

Counting with us in that program that she established. I'm also grateful to Connie, and all of us, all the women who have worked with me in religion and culture in Africa. They honor Connie.

Because it is through her that we were able to go further after establishing the cycle of consent African women theologians to go further to establish the Institute of African Women in Religion and Culture. But for Connie, these would have been dreams. I was in Connie's office telling him my dreams.

And ending by saying, but you know something I don't know where the funds are coming from. And Connie looked me straight in the eye and said, go ahead. Where the money will come from is not your problem.

And that is what has brought me this far. The encouragement Connie gave me, not to think of funds first but to think of the idea and what it would mean to this continent, maybe even to other women beyond this continent. Connie's person affects all of us. But Connie's life has enriched all of us. We thank God for her life.

My name is Michelle Clayman. I first met Connie in the early 1990s. And she had a profound impact on my life.

Arlene Hirschfeld and I met at the same time and we became the volunteer chairs for the leadership group of donors for the Women's Studies and Religion Program. So what was so amazing to me about Connie, was she suddenly made me realize that religion and spirituality was the missing part of the women's movement. And it really reinforced to me that that's how, in some ways, the women's movement went wrong, by ignoring a group of mainstream women who are very interested in religious and spiritual matters.

So Connie introduced me to amazing work. She led me to evaluate texts critically. I met incredible scholars and read their works. And I know many of you are on the call today. And for each of us volunteers, she encouraged us to be our best selves and to lead our best lives.

So for some of us, it meant going back and getting further education in an area that really interested us. And for others of us, including me, it really made us focus on our philanthropy and how we wanted to make our philanthropy work for the betterment of all people, and particularly women. I will miss Connie tremendously. She was an extraordinary visionary and intellect.

Constance Buchanan was bigger than life. She had a commanding presence. She was charismatic. She was an inspirational leader.

When Connie spoke, everyone listened. I remember hosting a dinner to introduce Connie and WSRP. We gathered at 7:00 PM and it wasn't until 11:00 when the first person got up to leave. I met Connie in 1992 when she came to Denver to deliver a lecture on behalf of the Harvard Divinity School Women's Studies and Religion Program.

Meeting Connie and being introduced to the mission of WSRP was a pivotal moment for me and my philanthropic work on behalf of women. Connie opened my eyes to the WSRP, and to the impact of religious traditions on women's roles. She had the ability to effectively communicate the WSRP mission, the importance, and the relevance of the program to people like me who are part of the broader community outside the Academy.

She brought together WSRP research associates and supporters so that we could learn from and appreciate each other's contributions as we work for the common goal of the ultimate success of the WSRP. Connie's legacy is the groundbreaking program she helped bring to the world. Connie inspired each of us in our philanthropic and professional lives. I am grateful for Connie's presence in my life and deeply appreciate the gift it was and will be forever.


I am Frances Smith Foster. I was a research associate in the Women's Studies in Religion Program in 1991, 92. I also served some years afterward on the advisory committee.

I think that remarks at a Memorial should focus on the dearly departed. But as I tried to write my remarks on this occasion, I found myself using more first person singular pronouns than I think proper. It took several drafts to make me realize that was how Connie wanted it to be for me.

And I suspect that many of us have the same experience when thinking about Constance "Connie" Buchanan. To me she was both. Constance, a name meaning she who knows and firm of purpose. And Connie, adjectives for whom includes smart, caring, helpful, with high ability to persuade.

I called her and I think of her as Connie, but I really worked for and with Constance. Connie Buchanan and had an uncanny ability to make me feel that I was really important to her. Not just as an individual, but as a scholar who could and would make a difference in this world.

Constance Buchanan validated my belief that 18th and 19th century African-American women and afro-protestantism were not fringe or frivolous topics. She persuaded me that if religious studies were to be accessible, applicable, and relevant, not merely in Divinity Schools and the larger Academy, but to society at large, topics such as my own were essential.

I was more a disciple or compatriot, than a colleague and friend with Connie. But when I left my research associate there, I took part of Constance "Connie" Buchanan with me as I practiced. Focusing on the individual, listening intently, asking questions that led to a better understanding of the potential of that person's scholarship, realistically and idealistically simultaneously.

In retrospect, I realize that Constance and Connie were one and the same. She knew how to mix grace and humor with intelligence, discipline, and political acumen, to get done what needed to get done. She evidenced, in a way new to me, how a woman can lead with authority and compassion.

She was, I think, an embodiment of what Jesus meant when teaching that a leader must be a servant. She made me and so many others choose to lead. Thank you, Connie.

My name is Jacob Olupona. Harvard Divinity School and the Department of African-American and African studies. Permit me to read from the book of Tributes, presented to Connie in 1913. I'd like to read a section from what I wrote. Let us now praise famous women. When I was a young boy, growing up in the Anglican church in Nigeria, my favorite theme appeared under an intriguing title, let us now praise famous men.

As I grew older, I often wondered why the song didn't ask us to praise women. As organizers, directors, mothers, and ordinary folk, women seem to me full of grace and unparalleled energy. As I've sang to him with others in my congregation, particularly in my father's church, I began to silently substitute the word women for men.

Despite the heinous decree to the contrary. It will still, in my adult years, at times I sing to him to myself, when thinking of a particularly influential woman, one such as Connie Buchanan. I first encountered you, Connie, in the early 1990s during my search for resources to study African immigrant's religious communities in the United States.

In your role as the Ford Foundation program officer, you generously funded my research. You also introduced me to an important dimension of scholars responsibility as public intellectuals. We need to respond to our communities of faith.

You were very much ahead of your time in thinking about religion's public role in contemporary life. A concern that dominates theological and religious studies scholarship today. And that was reflected in the projects you supported during your long term tenure at the Ford Foundation.

Moreover, Connie, you are an invaluable motivator who never hesitates to cultivate relationships with people of color and other minority immigrants in the United States. As a result of your outreach, you supported and mentored young scholars in their pursuit of a wide variety of careers, ensuring that they achieved excellence.

You've made a difference in the lives of others, particularly international scholars and scholars of color. I join hundreds of admirers and friends in saluting you, Connie Buchanana. An eminent scholar as well as a wonderful friend. And today, I will say, Connie may you rest in peace. And may your place of rest be of glory.

Good afternoon, everyone. I first met Connie Buchanan in the early to mid 1990s. And it was soon after that, that she invited me to join the WSRP advisory board. Serving on the board entailed review of research associate applications.

And attending annual meetings of the National Leadership Conference which brought together the research associates and the donors who supported the program, who flew in for the weekend from across the country. Many among the latter were themselves innovative thinkers and leaders of the world beyond academia.

And the event consequently, brilliantly presided over by Connie, was always a richly stimulating affair. At that point, I was teaching at the Women's Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts, at Amherst. A program which founded in 1975, was one of the oldest women's studies programs in the country. WSRP had been established a couple of years earlier.

But it would only be after Connie became its director in 1977, that it secured funding from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations and appointed its first full time research associates in 1980. I mention all these dates, because thinking about Connie, I find myself thinking also about the extraordinary history of women's studies, generally.

And of the importance of Connie's leadership role in that larger story, as well as in the history of women's studies at the Divinity School. As she did with me, Connie reached out to and drew in many scholars from various other campuses across the US. And her initiatives here, presiding over the stellar program she oversaw, had its ripple effects across the Academy.

Her achievements, consequently, grounded in her scholarship, the clarity of her vision, and her outstanding leadership were of importance then not only to the Divinity School, but also in the larger remarkable story of women's studies in our era. Those of us who remember how much tougher and bleaker the academic world was for women, and particularly for women who worked on women's issues, back in the 1980s, know very well that it took extraordinary gifts for Connie to achieve all she achieved.

And that indeed, she more than earned her place on the paneled walls of the brown room. By the time I joined the Divinity School, Connie had left for the Ford Foundation, so I never had the pleasure of working with on a daily basis. But I continued to see her, typically several times a year at the meeting she hosted with the Ford Foundation, and to which she kindly invited me.

On a personal level, Connie was, in my experience, almost in a category of her own in terms of her intellectual generosity and her unstinting willingness to discuss, engage with, and support the work of others. During the years I worked on my book Unveiling in the Middle East and America, I know for certain that, but Connie's support, the book would never have been completed.

And I owe her a measureless debt of gratitude. And so yes, thinking of Connie today, I think of the many gifts she gave to the Divinity School, to women's studies and religion, and to the field of women's studies more broadly. And I think of the great gifts she gave me and of my gratitude to her, and of my gratitude to, all together, that Connie was exactly who she was, and that she did exactly what she did. As I'm grateful, too, for the fact that I was lucky enough to have known her.

My name is Heidi Ravven. I am professor of Religious Studies at Hamilton College. I received a Ford Foundation fellowship from Connie for five years, 2004 to 2009. Connie had an enormous influence on me, changing my thinking and my direction at least three times by her small, but incisive comments or questions.

The first was in her office at the Divinity School, when I had applied for a fellowship, which I didn't get. She asked me what I meant that Spinoza developed a systems theory of ethics. That question led me to years of thinking through the meaning and practical implications of Spinoza's theory.

Second, and perhaps most momentous, was when Connie called me to discuss offering me a Ford Foundation grant in 2004. She gave me this instruction, ethics is a mess, fix it. 10 years later, after many meetings and discussions with her, and with the wonderful scholars and activists and movers and shakers and thinkers she brought together at the Ford Foundation, out popped my book.

And finally, the last time I saw Connie. She commented within earshot what begins in the University should not stay in the University. That principle instantly clarified my thinking about my own scholarship and path. And I have tried to live up to it ever since.

Good afternoon. We have heard so many wonderful ways in which Connie opened space for us. Opened space to be, opened space to do. And now in her honor, we have a few minutes to open space more personally, more privately. To feel into, really, what Connie.

Perhaps focus on one particular quality that Connie inspired in you, lit up in your life. And in order to do this, to offer this space, this quality, our most complete gift of attention, I invite you for a moment, if you feel it supports you, to sense into the contact, the actual contact, that you feel right in this moment with your seat.

That support and as possible, allow yourself to be supported. To be easy, be easy in your seat. Being easy is a way of being spacious. Being easy in your seat, easy in your breath. And take a moment just to-- if you feel your breath, you feel your life in this moment.

In this sacred moment, where we are gathered in a very special way, in love and honor of Connie. We have feelings. We can attend to them first by sensing into just the easy refreshment of your breath as it comes in, just naturally. As you let go, just naturally, there's space.

Now with your next in breath, feeling it come in, and gently bringing your attention to your own heart, your own heart. And in your heart, attend tenderly to whatever you feel. Perhaps grief, loss, inspiration. And beneath the waves of grief, or loss, or inspiration, there's a love. There's gratitude, is there not?

So take this sacred moment that we are all sharing. And that is also so very personal to rest your attention for a moment in your heart and feel the love for Connie. Whatever it is you feel. And open space to feel that, you are breathing life into a particular quality that she inspired in you.

It is alive right now. It is part of her legacy. Let's take a moment for that.

Feeling also, gratitude. Gratitude is a living dynamism, it animates us. That can expand from your heart to your whole body and being, your whole life, or life as a community.

And feeling that dynamism stir in your soul, in whatever way it does and will. And close with a moment of personal prayer that these qualities, inspired by Connie, will indeed continue. Will indeed be alive in you. Will serve the world.




(SINGING) I am resilient. I trust the movement. I negate the chaos, uplift the negative. I'll show up at the table again and again and again. I'll close my mouth and learn to listen.

These times are poignant. The winds have shifted. It's all we can do to stay uplifted. Pipelines through backyards, wolves howling out front. Yeah, I got my crew, but truth is all I want.

Realigned and on point, power to the peaceful. Prayers to the waters, women at the center. All vessels open to give and receive. Let's see the system brought down to its knees.

I'm made of thunder, I'm made of lightning, I'm made of dirt, made of the fine things. My father taught me that I'm a speck of dust. This world is made for me, so let's go and try our luck.

I've got my roots down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down deep. I've got my roots down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down deep. I've got my roots down, down, down deep. I've got my roots down, down, down deep.

So what are we doing here, what has been done. What are you going to do about it when the world comes undone. My voice feels tiny, I'm so sure does yours. Put us all together, make a mighty roar.

I am resilient. I trust the movement. I negate the chaos, uplift the negative. I'll show up at the table again and again and again. I'll close my mouth and learn to listen.

My name is Caryl Phillips and I'm a writer. And I'm very pleased to have been asked to make a short contribution towards the celebration of Connie's life. I first met Connie in Bellagio, Italy, at the Rockefeller Foundation retreat for writers and scholars in May, actually Monday the 16th of May, 1994.

We became firm friends there. We contrived to have some fun in the midst of what is a rather often staid and austere atmosphere. I really appreciated Connie's sense of irreverence. We were always the first for cocktail hour.

It was just great having Connie as a colleague and making a friendship with her there. When we came back to the United States, Connie back to Harvard, myself back to New York, we stayed in touch. And then eventually, when Connie moved to work at the Ford Foundation, we were able to meet more frequently.

Talk, indulge our shared passion for tennis and going to the US Open together at Flushing Meadow. And I was able to get to know Connie better, obviously. I began to realize how curious she was about other people, her belief in the role of women and women's ability to take a central stage in life.

In my own work, I was often writing about people who underestimated and underrepresented. I really appreciated the way in which Connie helped and endorsed a lot of the things I felt I was trying to touch upon. I loved her stoicism through the difficulties of being predeceased by her sister and her brother.

I also admire, greatly, the way in which she cared and looked after her mother with a great deal of devotion and determination. As her physical condition became more complicated, there was also another facet to Connie which I learned to really admire, which is her courage. She certainly was one of the most courageous people I've ever known.

It's been my privilege to know. The way in which Connie helped people, both at Harvard and at the Ford Foundation, by working behind the scenes, by having a consistent belief, enabled so many people. Belief in their projects, belief in them as individuals, enabled so many people to feel confident to push on to the next stage.

It's obviously a great loss, personally for so many people. It's a great loss for me, personally. But there's a lesson to be learned, she set the bar incredibly high in terms of her determination and in terms of her courage and in terms of her ability to just be a great, great friend. And she's missed, obviously.

One of the things I remember, from my 20 plus years of friendship with Connie, was the power of pirate's booty. We had just left the Ford Foundation to walk home to her apartment. And without warning, she froze.

Occasionally, a swing of the arms is all kind of needed to resume walking again. Or humming bits of a Beatles song. Or imagining that the sidewalk had graph paper squares on it. But this time, nothing seemed to help. It was already dusk and growing later by the moment. I know I was starting to get nervous.

What do you think might help get you going again? I asked her. She thought for half a second, and then responded pirate's booty. Someone had recently introduced her to it and she knew exactly where to get some. So with that destination in mind, she was off and going again.

Over the years, when dealing with something difficult, complex, or frustrating, the measuring stick was how many cases of pirate's booty would we need to get through it. Now of course, there's nothing magical about cheese flavored popcorn. The magic lay in Connie's interest. When something sparked her enthusiasm, it awakened a vitality in her.

In the later years, when walking was no longer possible, whenever her interest was roused, her speech strengthened, her face lit up, and laughter flowed more effortlessly. I suspect many of us have felt the gift of Connie's interest. The way it inserted a yes into a sea of self-doubting maybes and I don't knows.

Her interest encouraged me to look inward, to try to sense just what she was seeing that had her so animated. The scriptural passages which flowed into and out of our conversations echoed that theme of connecting inward and drawing on that to engage outward.

I'm thinking in particular of Isaiah 43 perceive in a way in the wilderness. Or the gospel of Thomas' urge to bring forth what is within you. And the gospel of Mary's reminder that the divine has prepared us and made us true human beings.

In recent years, so many of my conversations with Connie featured you. The work that each of you championed and the relationships she had had with you. The life you shared with Connie created pathways into the world for so many people. And I suspect, bringing it to mind kept her in contact with a source of vitality which sustained her in innumerable ways.

So yes, on that windy Second Avenue block, I learned that pirate's booty is powerful popcorn. But over time, I learned about something even more potent. All of you. The people who sparked her interest. I miss her dearly. And I'm sure you do, too. May our memories sustain us and encourage us, inwardly and outwardly, as well.

Good morning. It is morning in Seattle and I will apologize, some of us are back in school. You can see that I'm in my classroom and there are a lot of children playing outside. So, I apologize for the noise. I am Connie's niece, Kate Tytus. And I'm happy to be here today hearing all of your stories.

Connie once told me, I don't know much about what you're doing, but I know that you will do it well. Just like your mom. I didn't know my aunt, like many of you knew her. To you she was an educator, an activist, a person of faith, a loyal friend, a strong woman, a doer.

To me, she was a buddy, an adventurer, a fashion mentor, a book lover, a willing listener, an only solicited advice giver, an investor in relationships, and an unwavering champion. She was a constant and welcome reminder that I have always been just like my mom, who died of breast cancer in 1983 at the age of 39.

In 1995, Aunt Connie noted in the opening of her book that my mother had quote, "Ingrained in her the certainty that women are as responsible as men for shaping the world", end quote. And when I read these words, my freshman year of college, I found clarity in both what I had lost of my mother and what I had gained in my aunt Connie, who I realized had carried the torch of my upbringing, the flames of independence, critical thinking, and feminism.

While I had always been told that I was just like my mom by anyone who knew her, it was in Connie's words and later in her presence that I would come to know how I was just like her. And more importantly, how I could be more like her. In my adulthood, Connie's oft repeated refrain was a familiar blanket around my shoulders.

I cannot tell you how many conversations ended with you are just like your mom Katie, dear. And that is good. When I graduated from high school in Seattle, there was no question that I would end up in Boston for my undergraduate schooling.

Connie was in Cambridge, grandma was on the Cape, and I wanted nothing more than to spend the next four years at the confluence of Comm Ave and Beacon Street where, albeit a few miles west of the Boston College campus, decades before my mom had gotten her degree in education. And across the river from where Connie led the Divinity School at Harvard.

Aunt Connie knew that I would eventually become a teacher. We spoke of it often. In these early years of my adulthood, we would discuss at length the more tertiary aspects of education. The relationships, the values one could impart just by being a strong presence. The example of a hardworking, dedicated woman that children so desperately wanted.

The clear need for focus on equity and social justice. And still, it surprised no one and certainly not Connie that I came perilously close to failing some of my college courses. Notably, theology. My insistence on rowing, on studying rowing, living with rowers, practicing rowing, and racing most weekends on the Charles and throughout New England, could not shake Connie's faith in me.

And in fact, probably further secured it. You're just like your mom, she said, fierce. You'll figure it out. She always did. My summer trips to the Cape continued, even after Connie moved to New York and I moved home to Washington. First Spokane, and later back to Seattle. She would drive down to the Cape to spend the weekend with grandma and me.

And our adventures around Falmouth and Barnstable were great. Our escapes often included a trip to the fry shack. Grandma would insist on a turkey sandwich, no fries. And Connie knew well enough that we should in fact order extra fries. This is what your mom would do, she'd say. Life is too short.

In these later years, even as her Parkinson's progressed, Connie would insist on braving the mall. She would browse the stores with me, standing firm in her conviction that I needed clothes that were chic. All while walking backwards as her balance would allow, with no thought to pain or inconvenience.

We would select fabrics and colors, and I recall a mutual fondness for turtleneck sweaters, as evidenced by my outfit today. In these times, I was far better able to articulate my unwavering, if not disappointing belief and comfort over all other criteria for potential clothing purchases.

At this, Connie would shake her head, almost imperceptibly, and say again you're just like your mom Katie. As she'd inevitably, and emphatically, add a cashmere sweater to the pile. In more recent years, Connie loved to talk about my work. We would speak on the phone, weekly sometimes during the summers when I had more time, and monthly throughout the year. Often with my children screaming in the background.

Mercifully, Connie had forgotten that I had almost failed theology and perhaps more mercifully, no one else ever asked. In the early years of my teaching career, Connie and I would discuss the merits and demerits of Catholic education, where I have spent most of my adult life. Connie believed so deeply in educational equity and social justice.

She would ask critical, probing questions as we reviewed my lessons in civics and United States history. Offering insightful feedback that would add depth and meaning to the experience of the students in my classroom, for which I am forever grateful. Connie has shaped the way that I teach my young students, and the way that I've raised my children.

Every person who knew both my mother and me has, throughout my life, remarked with great conviction that I am just like her. That it was clear in the few short years my mom and I spent together, she had already instilled in me an awareness and a tender balance between strength and empathy.

In the absence of my mom, Connie took her role in my life even more seriously. It was Connie who ultimately taught me that strong women should not be held to blame for being intimidating by the people who were intimidated. That young girls should take the space they need, rather than the space they've been given.

And that my role as an educator would be critical in the development of a generation of complex, critical thinkers and activists. She was unflagging in her support of my path, as a teacher. And encouraged me every time we spoke to question, evaluate, and seek to understand the world and its leadership. I will miss her, and these conversations, greatly.

If you dig up an old address book and dial the number for Constance Buchanan, I will answer the telephone. I follow in her footsteps in more ways than I can name. I was teaching at a small college in Minnesota when Connie put me on the WSRP advisory committee. I wasn't at all sure I belonged there, but Connie was.

She had read my book, she told, me and she was sure. She would call me with a question about a faculty appointment or a fellowship application. And one of her endless attempts to pry open a space for women at Harvard. I can hear her voice. Annabelle, she would say, we need a historian, can you help.

That was trademark Connie. She was the only person ever to call me Annabelle. She would boost my confidence with that archaic feminine endearment and then she would charge. We need a historian. I was no longer a friend, or even a colleague. She called on me as an authority who could speak on behalf of an entire academic discipline.

A counterpoint to the all-male choir of disciplinary expertise. Before she went to Ford, Connie tapped me as her successor. Inducting me into one of the greatest adventures of my life. Although Connie chose to leave Harvard, she did not quickly come to peace with passing the reins of the program that she had nurtured with love, work, and sacrifice.

As painful as it was to lose her support at the very moment when I needed it most, I had something even more powerful, her example. Connie understood the power and privilege of her position. With her acute intelligence and laser sharp ethical vision, she deployed her title and her letterhead, as well as the entree to the halls of power that she knew she possessed, because of her race and her social location.

Her goal was to carve out a space for women intellectuals in all their diversity. Where they could explore topics previously dismissed or unimagined. With access to everything available in better resourced fields. As the leader who gave shape to the WSRP, and insisted that it become a permanent part of the University, Constance Buchanan leaves an immeasurable mark.

I am blessed every day to sit where she sat and to build on the foundation she laid. And to hold all the memories that all of you have shared today, part of the history of the WSRP.

I thank each of you here today for your part in carrying some piece of Connie's legacy forward. And I wish that I could see each of you in person. I remember Connie with love. And pray that my actions honor her. May her memory be a blessing.


(SINGING) For all the saints, who from their labors rest. Who thee, by faith before the world confessed. Thy name, oh Jesus, be forever blessed. Alleluia, alleluia.

O blest communion, fellowship divine. We feebly struggle, they in glory shine. Yet all are one in thee for all are thine. Alleluia, alleluia.

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long. Steale on the ear the distant triumph song. And hearts are brave, again, and arms are long. Alleluia, alleluia.

The golden evening brightens in the west. Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest. Sweet is the calm of our paradise the blessed. Alleluia, Alleluia.

It is so moving to be here today. With a community of people who are gathered together because each of us has been blessed, by the blessing of Connie Buchanan. And today, I offer this blessing as we end our time together.

Knowing that each of us has been transformed and changed, because we've known, learned from, been friends with, been connected to, been guided by Connie's wisdom. May the Holy Ancient One of old, who blessed our ancestors, whoever they may be, from whichever tradition we come, bless Connie's spirit today.

May that Holy Ancient One of old bless each of us in Connie's memory. May her memory, which is so profound to each of us, as a guiding light in our lives, in our souls, in our teaching, in our world, and in everything we do. May that Holy One continue to guide us.

Those of us who have been blessed by the blessing of Connie Buchanan, may we continue her work. Her vision of women's leadership. And of the presence of holiness found in the work of women's scholarship, and study, and holiness. May the connectivity that Connie believed in, the wisdom that she imparted to each of us, continue to feed us.

May her memory be a cathedral, a monument, a magnificent power in our lives, every day. And may our lives be a monument, a blessing to her memory every single day. May the Holy One continue to help us repair the world in ways that Connie would have appreciated. May her wisdom continue to feed us. May her memory never be forgotten. And let us all say, Amen.