Shortly after Rev. Dr. Candace Lewis was named the President-Dean at Gammon Theological Seminary in February, she established the goal of reducing the cost for students to attend there.
She has many partners in that mission, including Bishop Ken Carter of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. The two worked together most recently when Lewis served as superintendent of the Conference's Gulf Central District.
That partnership produced the initial Geraldine Williams-McClellan Scholarship, a continuing grant for students from the Florida Conference to receive their theological training at Gammon. Bishop Carter dedicated the annual Bishop's Offering from churches throughout the Conference toward that goal. An anonymous donor enhanced it with a $10,000 gift.
|Bishop Ken Carter, Rev. and Gammon President-Dean Dr. Candace Lewis, and Rev. Geraldine Williams-McClellan|
"We hope this inspires persons reading this article and others to create momentum toward this worthy cause," the Bishop said.
The goal is to raise $100,000 by the end of this year to establish the endowment to allow the scholarship to exist in perpetuity.
The need is great.
As the Washington Post reported, "Historically Black colleges, after generations of inequitable funding, lack substantial endowments to provide generous scholarships but serve a population in dire need of financial support.
Without that assistance, their students rely heavily on loans that can exacerbate racial wealth disparities by making it more difficult to save and invest. The financial instability also places students at great risk of dropping out."
President Lewis knows that situation all too well at Gammon.
"I am learning many of the current Gammon students have not been able to re-enroll due to existing debt," she said. "They are not able to afford the current cost of tuition, which is about $10,164 per semester for a full-time student.
"Currently, Gammon cannot offer every student financial assistance as other seminaries are endowed and able to do."
Naming the scholarship for Rev. Geraldine Williams-McClellan, a pioneer and ground-breaker in the Florida Conference, is a natural.
"I literally felt nudged by the Holy Spirit to shape the scholarship and honor Rev. Williams-McClellan as a Gammon grad and a Bethune-Cookman grad," President Lewis said.
"She was the first Black woman to be ordained in the Conference, the first Black woman as a District Superintendent, and she mentors other Black pastors and me. I mentioned this leading to Bishop Carter, and he thought that was a great way to shape the scholarship."
Rev. Williams-McClellan's parents also are Gammon alums. Her grandfather and her father's two brothers graduated from there.
There's one other thing: When the position of President-Dean at Gammon opened, McClellan was the first to tell Lewis she should apply. And now, she is the first woman to hold that job in a line of succession at the school that dates to 18837.
"Rev. Geraldine McClellan is a pioneer and continues to resource and mentor emerging Black pastors in pastoral ministry in the Florida Conference," Lewis said.
"As a proud Gammon alumnus and supporter of Gammon, we believe naming this first endowed fund in honor of Rev. Geraldine's contributions to the Florida Conference is a way to share her story and legacy while creating a pathway for her ministry to live on."
Rev. McClellan was overwhelmed by the gesture.
"Wow," she said. "I literally stayed speechless for a while, and humbled. It brought me to tears because I'm not good at honors. I try my best to stay out of the limelight and try to help. I never wanted my name posted around for doing anything. God has charged me to do what I can to help people, and that's it.
"As the song says, may the work I've done speak for me. My life has been a life of helping others. It's not done for praise, honor, or glory. It's done because others did that for me."
Bishop Carter believes the scholarship will honor President Lewis' leadership and Rev. McClellan's foundational legacy.
"I am thrilled to imagine a Williams McClellan Scholar at Gammon Theological Seminary, supported by the Florida Conference through prayers and financial gifts, who then returns to our Conference to take up this mantle," he said.
"And of course, this person would mentor and strengthen the Black church in Florida, just as President Lewis and Rev. McClellan have done."
Click here to donate to this year's Bishop's Offering in support of Gammon Theological Seminary & Africa University. Donations also can be made through the United Methodist Foundation.
Joe Henderson is the News Content Editor for FLUMC.org