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The 159th Commencement

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary is excited to celebrate its 159th Commencement on May 13, 2016. This year's commencement speaker will be founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman. Garrett-Evangelical will also be honoring two distiguished alums and over 70 graduates. Graduation events begin with Senior Chapel on May 12th at 7:00 p.m. in the Chapel of the Unnamed Faithful at Garrett-Evangelical. Commencement is on May 13th at 10:00 a.m. at First United Methodist Church with a reception to follow.


For those unable to be in Evanston, Illinois for Commencement, a live webcast will be available at The webcast will begin at 9:55 a.m. on Friday, May 13th.

Marian Wright Edelman
Founder and President of the Children's Defense Fund

Marian Wright Edelman, african american womanMarian Wright Edelman has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life.  Under her leadership, the Children’s Defense Fund has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families.  The Children's Defense Fund’s Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.

Mrs. Edelman, a graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, began her career in the mid-60s when, as the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi.  In l968, she moved to Washington, D.C., as counsel for the Poor People's Campaign that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began organizing before his death.  She founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm and the parent body of the Children's Defense Fund.  For two years she served as the Director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University and in 1973 began CDF.

Mrs. Edelman served on the Board of Trustees of Spelman College which she chaired from 1976 to 1987 and was the first woman elected by alumni as a member of the Yale University Corporation on which she served from 1971 to 1977. She has received over a hundred honorary degrees and many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, and a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship. In 2000, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings which include:  Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change; The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours; Guide My Feet: Meditations and Prayers on Loving and Working for Children; Stand for Children; Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors; Hold My Hand:  Prayers for Building a Movement to Leave No Child Behind; I'm Your Child, God:  Prayers for Our Children; I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children; and The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation.

She is a board member of the Robin Hood Foundation and the Association to Benefit Children, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Marian Wright Edelman is married to Peter Edelman, a Professor at Georgetown University Law Center. They have three sons and four grandchildren.

Each year, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary chooses two alumni to be honored as Distinguished Alumni at our Commencement Ceremony. One alumnus is chosen from the most recent 25 years of graduates, and one alumnus is chosen from all those alumni who graduated over 25 years ago. For our 159th Commencement, Garrett-Evangelical is pleased to honor Rev. Dr. Tracy Smith Malone and Bishop Donald A. Ott as our Distinguished Alumni.

Tracy Smith Malone
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary 1993

Rev. Dr. Tracy Smith Malone first made a conscious decision to serve in the church when she was 13 years old. Her calling led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in religious studies at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, a master of divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, and a doctor of ministry degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

Malone currently serves as the District Superintendent of the Chicago Southern District and Dean of the Cabinet of the Northern Illinois Conference. Prior to being appointed district superintendent, Malone served at First United Methodist Church of Lombard, Illinois; Southlawn United Methodist Church in Chicago, Illinois; Wesley United Methodist Church in Aurora, Illinois; and Gary United Methodist Church in Wheaton, Illinois, several of which were cross-cultural appointments.

Malone has been actively involved in Black Methodists for Church Renewal, the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race, and the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. She has been elected by her colleagues to be a delegate to General Conferences in 2008, 2012, and for the upcoming General Conference of 2016. On September 27, 2015, the Northern Illinois Conference General and Jurisdictional Conference Delegation announced the endorsement of Malone for the episcopacy in 2016 and on November 9, 2015 the Northern Illinois Conference unanimously approved the delegation’s endorsement.

Malone joined the Garrett-Evangelical board of trustees in 2012 and currently serves on the development committee. She is also the chairperson of the board of visitors for the Center for the Church and the Black Experience. Malone’s service as a pastor, District Superintendent, conference delegate, and member of several boards have earned her a high level of stature and influence in both the church and her communities.

Malone and her husband Derrick live in Flossmoor, Illinois, with their two daughters, Alexis, 17, and Ashley, 13.



Donald A. Ott
Garrett Theological Seminary 1965

Bishop Donald A. Ott is a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He graduated from Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin, with a Bachelor of Arts degree and attended Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 1965, he was awarded a Master of Divinity from Garrett Theological Seminary. 

In 1992, the North Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church elected Rev. Ott to the episcopacy. From 1992 to 2000, he was appointed to serve the Detroit and West Michigan Conferences for two consecutive terms. Prior to his election as bishop, Ott served as district superintendent for the Milwaukee District in the Wisconsin Annual Conference. Ott has also served as pastor of four Wisconsin congregations, while also serving five years as associate council director and three years as council director for the Wisconsin Annual Conference.

Ott’s service to the church is complimented by his service to the local communities in which he lived and served. He has been a highly valued board member of Green Bay’s Board of Family Service Association and the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. In addition, Ott’s mission travel has included Bolivia, Japan, England, Kenya, Soviet Union (Estonia and Russia), Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Israel, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Ott joined the Garrett-Evangelical board of trustees in 1999 and was chair of the academic affairs committee from 2003 to 2010. In 2012, he was elected as a Garrett-Evangelical life trustee and received an honorary doctor of divinity degree from the seminary. Ott and his wife, Jan, also established the Bishop Don and Jan Ott Scholarship at Garrett-Evangelical to help students meet the financial challenges of a seminary education.

Ott currently resides in Muskego, Wisconsin. His wife, Jan, passed away in June 2015.  He has two grown children, Denise (Mrs. Thomas) Shircel and Duane (Megan) Ott, and grandchildren Tyler, Amy, and Cora Shircel and Nicola, Madelyn, Brady, and Kennedy Ott.

Wednesday, May 11th

12:00 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.
Graduate's Luncheon
Great Hall | First United Methodist Church, 516 Church St, Evanston, IL
(use Church Street entrance)

1:30 p.m. - 2:15 p.m.     
Cap, gown, and hood pickup
First United Methodist Church, Dining Room
516 Church St, Evanston, IL

2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.     
Commencement rehearsal and class pictures
First United Methodist Church, Sanctuary
516 Church Street, Evanston, IL

4:00 p.m.
Senior Chapel rehearsal (only participants need to come)

Thursday, May 12th

8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.     
Cap, gown, hood pick-up in the Registrar's Office

5:15 p.m.                        
Trustee and 50th Alum Reunion Dinner
Loder Hall of Garrett-Evangelical
2121 Sheridan Rd, Evanston, IL

7:00 p.m.
Senior Chapel for the Garrett-Evangelical community, graduates, and their families
Chapel of the Unnamed Faithful at Garrett-Evangelical
2121 Sheridan Rd, Evanston, IL

Friday, May 13th

8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.     
Graduates assemble for Commencement line-up with caps, gowns,
and hoods in the Dining Room of First United Methodist Church

10:00 a.m.                      
158th Commencement
First United Methodist Church of Evanston
516 Church Street, Evanston, IL

Reception in the Great Hall immediately following Commencement

12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.    
Return cap, gowns, and hoods to Dining Room of First United Methodist Church


For campus map and directions to Garrett-Evangelical, click here.

For directions to First United Methodist Church, click here.


Parking for Senior Chapel on Thursday, May 12, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

  • We have arranged for a moratorium on parking tickets after 4:30 p.m., which means people will be able to use the Northwestern University lot to our south free of charge.

Parking for Commencement on Friday, May 13, 10:00 a.m.

  • Across the street from First Church Evanston is the Church St. Self Park, a multi-level garage at the intersection of Church St. and Chicago Ave. Parking is free for the first hour. For a city map and pricing information for public garages, go to Lots & Garages on the City of Evanston's website.