July 9, 2015

I Am Starr King: Interview with Dee Ward

Dee Ward

Coordinator of Academic Programs

Assistant to the Dean of Faculty

Dee at GA 2015Why did you decide to work for Starr King?

Well it is kind of interesting how I ended up here…I was transitioning out of working for myself in my home-based business. I wanted to get back out into the work force, but at the same time wanted to find something that would give me the flexibility to continue my home business. So, I started working as a temp, through a temporary agency, and they asked me to come to Starr King to fill in at an event—the second Starr King Symposium. (And now the Symposium is my baby). I came in to help and it was such a great connection and relationship that Starr King decided to bring me on board. And it became a great marriage—and that is why I am still here.

What has been your most memorable or meaningful experience at Starr King?

There have been quite a few… Initially, just getting here and being in an environment where I can say “Praise the Lord” and have it not be considered a challenge or held to the standards of corporate America. That has probably been one of the things that kept me here the most. Because I am allowed to practice my faith and love my God, and it not be scrutinized. And I am thankful for that. So that stands out the most for me.

More recently, the inauguration of our new president, The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, and witnessing the way that she is helping Starr King transform to the next level is memorable for me. Working with The Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker was so rewarding. But to see how the school is morphing and changing now is very enriching to be a part of.

You mentioned that at Starr King you have the capacity to practice your faith in your work. How have you been able to bring your faith and your work together?

Well… It’s funny how God works. Just a couple of weeks ago I was walking into my church and I saw some of the students from Starr King out front. And it was nice to be able to see the students coming into my church, into my spiritual home, at First AME. They were there with our partner The Chaplaincy Institute. It was Father’s Day. It was wonderful to see them join us in our worship service, which was right after the shooting of the South Carolina Nine. And as an AME, it was really meaningful to have the students there to share with us some of the heart-wrenching things that have occurred recently and to also be in partnership with us, to hold hands with us, as we are mourning those who were gunned down and massacred in South Carolina.

So the blending of practicing my faith and Starr King has evolved over time. I have seen other students visit my church over my time at Starr King; but this time it was a larger number—about 25 people—who came. So it was really nice to have that.

The environment of Starr King allows me to share my feelings about who I am and what I am. And it is also an opportunity for me to explore my feelings and to grow. I used to be a little closed-minded in my thinking, and did not embrace people as much. I was more judgmental than I should have been. And I see how I have evolved and become a better person. And I really understand now that God’s word says to love, just love.

And that is what Starr King is allowing me to do. Because it is allowing me to love everybody, like God said to. And that is what is important to me. That has always been my spirit, and I didn’t know how it was supposed to come out. But it has, and it keeps evolving and growing as time goes on. So I am thankful to Starr King for that reason. The school is stretching me. Everybody needs to learn, and everybody needs to learn in his or her own way. And so I am thankful for the fact that Starr King is really teaching me. I am very grateful for that.

In witnessing and participating in the work of the school, what role would you say Starr King has in progressive religion?

I think it has a huge impact. I have been watching the students as they have come through Starr King and seen how their minds have expanded—from the youngest of students I have encountered to the oldest. There is a great blend of people in ethnicity and religious backgrounds at Starr King.

If permitted, as permitted by the world, I think that our students are going to expand the minds of people. Because many people seem to have their blinders on and only see one thing. But if people take the blinders off they will really see what the world is in its wholeness, in its purity. And the people of Starr King will allow them to grow and be better for it, and really learn how to give back and love each other as we are supposed to. Because every sacred text I know of says to love. It doesn’t matter what you worship to or what your particular beliefs are—it all stands for love.

And I know that the people of Starr King, the students of Starr King, embrace, embody and present that to the world. And that will bring about a huge change for the world—not just the US. And it will not start with one; it will be the masses. And it will allow people to come to know us and become better people for knowing us.


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