Alumna Miriam Notehelfer and Professor Marianne Meye Thompson share reflections
The annual Fuller Women’s Legacy Award Luncheon was held on Fuller’s Pasadena campus on Tuesday, April 7, celebrating the role of women in Fuller’s past, present and future. Truly a “family affair,” the luncheon featured two speakers who are not only related to each other but both members of the “Fuller family”: Miriam Notehelfer, a 1959 graduate and one of the first female students at Fuller; and her niece Marianne Meye Thompson, Fuller’s George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament, who has experienced the seminary over the years as both student and faculty member.
Funds raised through the luncheon support the Fuller Women’s Legacy Award scholarship, given annually to three women students at Fuller—one from each school—to help further their study and spiritual development. The three 2008 award recipients were honored at the luncheon: Sarita Gallagher, PhD student in the School of Intercultural Studies, who is involved in the missional training of national pastors and leaders in Papua New Guinea and Australia; Jeanette Lantz, clinical PhD student in the School of Psychology, who has an interest in cross-cultural psychology and empowering marginalized people groups; and Doris Torres, MDiv student and El Salvador native, who wishes to serve the emerging church in Turkey.
“It is such a blessing to be here among you ladies who have gone ahead of us,” said Gallagher. “In so many ways you have made my time at Fuller possible,” Lantz affirmed.
Miriam Notehelfer, who earned her master’s degree in Religious Education in 1959, shared memories of seminary life in the 1950s—a time when only a handful of women attended Fuller, Slessor Hall was their dormitory, and students ate all their meals together in the cafeteria. Although a lot has changed since then, much hasn’t, said Notehelfer: “In each generation there are those whom the Spirit draws to a place where they can seek out God’s call on their lives. That’s why many people came, and are coming, to Fuller.”
“We students were like raindrops and rivulets who came down the mountains through the valleys into the bigger river God had formed here at Fuller,” she reflected, making reference to the hymn "Like a River Glorious." “Fuller—with its three schools, its thousands of students, and its tens of thousands of alumni/ae—is like a mighty river which is fuller every day and grows deeper all the way."
Marianne Meye Thompson, who first came to Fuller as a student in 1975, recounted that Fuller was a lot smaller—“and cozier”—in the 1970s era as well. Although the numbers of women had grown, “there still weren’t a lot of us,” she shared, and classes were predominantly male. Thompson returned to Fuller in 1985 as a professor and by then, classes were much larger—a fact that was daunting to her as a new faculty member and one who was actually younger than many of the seminary students. Today, nearly 25 years later, Thompson commented, “Times are very different. In many ways, Fuller is a place that is more hospitable to women . . . and there are a lot more of us!”
“Who knows,” she mused, “what’s next for women at Fuller?”