Katharine Jefferts Schori named Stanford Baccalaureate speaker

The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, head of the Episcopal Church until November 2015, will serve as the 2016 Stanford Baccalaureate speaker on June 11. Jefferts Schori graduated from Stanford in 1974 with a degree in biology.

The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to serve as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, has been named Stanford's 2016 Baccalaureate speaker.

Magnus Aronson/IKONKatharine Jefferts Schori

Alumna Katharine Jefferts Schori, former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, will be this year's Baccalaureate speaker.

Baccalaureate is a multifaith, end-of-the-year celebration for graduating students, their families and the university community. The event, held the day before Commencement, is student-led and designed to recognize the vital role of spirituality in education. Organized by the Office for Religious Life, Baccalaureate will be held June 11 at 10 a.m. on the Main Quadrangle.

For nine years (2006-2015), Jefferts Schori served as chief pastor to the Episcopal Church's more than 2 million members in 17 countries and 109 dioceses. As presiding bishop, she was responsible for initiating and developing policy for the Episcopal Church and for speaking on behalf of the church on issues ranging from the church's mission to its commitment to alleviating poverty and combating climate change. As such, Jefferts Schori was one of the most visible women in Christianity worldwide.

"Katharine Jefferts Schori is a person of great courage, conviction and integrity," said the Rev. Professor Jane Shaw, dean for religious life at Stanford. "She brought extraordinary brilliance and bravery to a very demanding position at a crucial point in the history of the Episcopal Church. Her story is one of faith, perseverance and strength, and it is an important one for students to hear as they find ways to create their own change in the world."

Jefferts Schori earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Stanford in 1974. She later earned a doctorate in oceanography from Oregon State University and a Master of Divinity degree from Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley. She pursued a career in oceanography before being ordained as a priest in 1994. Before becoming presiding bishop, Jefferts Schori was the 9th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada.

As presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Jefferts Schori steered the church through internal struggles as its members came to terms with issues of inclusivity, including the role of women, the ordination of gays and same-sex marriage. In a piece recapping her tenure in June 2015, the Washington Post called her "a tough leader."

Jefferts Schori also focused attention on the Episcopal Church's social justice priorities, including the United Nations Millennium Goals, issues of domestic poverty, climate change and care for Earth. As a scientist, Jefferts Schori was an articulate spokesperson for the need to raise awareness of global climate change. She has called it "decidedly wrong to use resources that have been given into our collective care in ways that diminish the ability of others to share in abundant life."

Jefferts Schori told Stanford magazine in 2007 that her interest in oceanography was partly spurred by a class she took at Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove. Her experiences at Stanford – particularly with Memorial Church – also proved helpful to Jefferts Schori as she sorted out her sometimes conflicting feelings about science and religion.

"I was still at a pretty youthful faith-development stage," she said, "and there was all this great stuff I was learning in science. There was a disconnect, and I knew MemChu was a place where people wrestled, so I would go there in the middle of the night. I'd just sit."