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Impact

 

Adele S. Bonney

 

Junior Erin Walley may be more typical of past students than many present-day Cornellians. Few today can say, as she does, “I don’t remember a time when I haven’t known Christ” or have as full a background in their church’s youth activities. With a scholarship from her United Methodist Church in Leavenworth, Kan., Walley arrived at Cornell and plunged into her academic work—aiming at a career in architecture—and the religious life of the campus. In her first year, she served as chapel liturgist and joined the Peer Ministry Team and Stand Tall, a performance ministry group. She has become the college chaplain’s assistant and helped launch Shine, a student group that meets weekly for worship and Bible study.

Before her freshman year was out, Walley had traded architecture for a new goal: to attend seminary and become a Methodist deacon, with a specialized focus on urban development. Inspired in part by sociology professor Mary Olson’s course on “Civil Rights and Western Racism,” she designed an interdisciplinary major in politics and sociology. Her interest in multicultural issues gained a broader perspective when President Les Garner selected her to attend the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges, and Universities. The meeting was held in England, with a special, two-day trip to Belfast for the student representatives. Walley loved meeting people from all over the world and seeing her culture through the eyes of new friends from Korea, India, and Portugal.

The development of her faith has been influenced by Walley’s classroom experiences and her interactions with peers, who she says possess a diversity of values that may not be readily apparent. “I haven’t necessarily changed my opinions and ideas,” she says, “but I understand why I believe what I do.” Her studies are supported by the United Methodist Church General Board’s “Gift of Hope” Scholarship for students pursuing careers in ministry and she plans to reapply for the scholarship to attend St. Paul’s School of Theology in Kansas City.

Kelly Thornburg ’99 credits Cornell’s “openness to diversity” with supporting her wide-ranging spiritual explorations. Influenced by childhood experiences with poverty and domestic violence, raised by a devout Catholic mother, Thornburg arrived at Cornell determined to major in women’s studies and political science and then attend law school. Classes in her first two years, however, stimulated the deepest questioning of her career plans and her spiritual devotion, until she discovered in an internship with the Feminist Majority in Washington, D.C., that her faith, values, and personal activism might complement each other. Now Thornburg can look back on the evolution of her faith during her college years.

“In the beginning, God was a habit,” she recalls. “In the middle, He was a power I refused to acknowledge as a result of my own quest to be a force the world had to reckon with. And at the end, She was the long-lost friend whose faith in me held us together.”

After graduation, Thornburg accepted a Truman Fellowship (one of seven awarded nationally) working for the USDA’s National Rural Development Partnership. Having recently clarified for herself that “direct service makes me happiest,” she has applied to the Teach for America program and will teach middle-schoolers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Meanwhile, her faith journey continues to evolve, “a long and unfinished road …”

Sharon Goodwin Fogleman ’75 has relied on her faith to overcome obstacles and move in uncharted directions. After three attempts, she was accepted into medical school. She developed a desire to work overseas, met her medical student husband in the Dominican Republic, and “after much prayer and many applications,” they joined the church’s General Board of Global Ministries. Their assignment? Maua, Kenya, where for 10 years they served a population of 350,000 through the only Methodist hospital in the country.

Sharon Fogleman '75 participates in a Christmas party skit at the hospital she and her husband served in Maua, Kenya, for 10 years.  


She worked by kerosene lantern, dealt with water shortages and no telephone service, and performed surgery despite being trained only as a surgical assistant. But when they left Maua in 1997, “Dr Sharon” and “Dr. Lynn” left a 180-bed hospital with electricity, phone and water systems, a new outpatient department, and a nursing school that was training RNs. Their stay in Africa gave them an adopted daughter, a unique appreciation of community, and “a thankfulness for each day, learned from people who had so little by our standards.” The Foglemans now practice in Southeastern Kentucky at the Red Bird Mission Medical Center and volunteer at Henderson Settlement, both United Methodist institutions. They hope to serve overseas again.

 

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