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Georgia Harkness Giving Day

Georgia Harkness Giving Day April 17, 2018

Georgia Harkness Giving Day is a 24-hour giving event to recognize the impact of Dr. Georgia Harkness, the first female full professor of theology at a seminary in the United States, and support current and future generations of trailblazing professors and students at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary through gifts to the Annual Fund. 

Every gift made to the Annual Fund on April 17th will be matched by a generous donor with a gift to the Georgia Harkness Chair for Applied Theology up to $30,000!

We invite you to donate on Georgia Harkness Giving Day as a way to continue Garrett-Evangelical’s legacy of teaching, employing, and empowering those who are traditionally left on the margins. In this way, we continue to make the voices of theological education and the leadership in our church and world more diverse, inclusive, and empowered.

Your gift to the Annual Fund on April 17th will not only help Garrett-Evangelical live into its mission of preparing skilled, bold, and articulate leaders who share the transforming love of Jesus Christ, but it will also be matched with a gift to the Georgia Harkness chair of Applied Theology at Garrett-Evangelical (up to $30,000). That’s a win for today’s students, for future faculty, and for the legacy of Georgia Harkness!

Who was Georgia Harkness?

Georgia Harkness was the first woman to teach theology in an American seminary, first at Garrett Biblical Institute (a predecessor institution of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary) and later at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California.

Harkness grew up attending many religious revivals at churches near her family’s farm in Harkness, New York. Although many of her ancestors were Quaker, her great-grandmother’s red coat and other modern clothing horrified the Society of Friends and caused the family to join the Methodist Church. Harkness was an avid student and passed all her high school exams by age 14. After spending a few more years at home, Harkness went to college at one of the only coeducational schools in American at that time, Cornell University. Here Harkness joined the Student Christian Association and the Student Volunteer Movement which emphasized service as foreign missionaries.

After graduating from Cornell in 1912, Harkness taught high school but stayed involved with Christian education at her church and the local junior league. She found herself drawn to religious education and decided to leave behind her pledge to be a Christian missionary that she made in college. Instead, Harkness enrolled in the School of Religious Education and Social Service at Boston University to study theology. When Harkness began to pursue a PhD, her mentor, Edgar Brightman, was hesitant to take Harkness on as a student. Harkness remembers that Brightman believed she “had the preparation, probably the brains, but that I lacked the stick-to-it-iveness.” Harkness replied, “if that was all, I would see to that.” And she did. (Days of my Years, Harkness, 18)

Harkness went on to work at Elmira College and also travel around the world attending church conferences. Harkness developed a pacifist worldview and even attended the Geneva Conference prior to World War Two to voice her opposition to the impending conflict.

Harkness also pursued ordination within the Methodist Church. She was ordained as a local deacon in 1926, and 12 years later she became a local elder; however, for Harkness and all other Methodist women called to ministry, it was not until 1956 when women obtaining full clergy rights within the denomination that she would have been allowed to serve a church. However, working in academia, this did not seem to stop Harkness from her pursuits.

In 1940, Harkness was invited to Garrett Biblical Institute to serve as the professor of applied theology, becoming the first woman hired to teach theology at any seminary in the United States. While serving at Garrett Biblical Institute, Harkness began experiencing a number of medical problems that led her to write The Dark Night of the Soul. She served at Garrett for nine years before accepting a position at The Pacific School of Religion in Berkley, California.

Harkness spent the last years of her life writing books, collections of poetry, and hymns. She died in 1974 in Claremont, California. Now, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary remembers Harkness through the Georgia Harkness chair for Applied Theology, currently held by Dr. Nancy Bedford, and through a tradition of students wearing red shoes to graduation, a movement inspired by Harkness’ great-grandmother whose bold red coat forever changed the course of Georgia Harkness’ life.

How can I participate?

A white dollar sign within a purple circleGIVE a gift of any amount to the Annual Fund; your gift will be matched with a gift to the Georgia Harkness Chair for Applied Theology, up to $30,000. Encourage your fellow alumni and friends to give as well! 

You can give online through our CrowdRise fundraising page and see real-time updates towards our giving and donor goal! You can also give at (be sure to put your gift for the Annual Fund so it an be counted towards the matching goal). If you prefer, you can mail a check, made payable to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, on or before April 17th to: Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary Development Office, 2121 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60201. Please make sure to date the check April 17th and include “Giving Day” in the memo line so it can be counted towards our Giving Day total and be matched.


a purple megaphone

SHARE your meaningful stories on social media community using #GETSGivingDay. Know an Evangelical, Garrett, or Garrett-Evangelical alum that is paving the way like Dr. Harkness? Tell us about it and tag your friends!


four different types of red shoesWEAR your Red Shoes and share a selfie with your network. Don't forget to use #GETSGivingDay, #GeorgiaHarkness, and/or #GETSRedShoes.


What does the Annual Fund support?

The Annual Fund meets the areas of greatest need across the seminary immediately. This includes student scholarships, library resources, staff and faculty salaries, and maintaining seminary apartments and classrooms. These gifts are needed and spent each fiscal year (July 1 through June 30), and they are a flexible, immediate, and essential source of funds for the seminary. It is the "living endowment" of Garrett-Evangelical! A gift of $100 to the Annual Fund is the equivalent to a $2,000 gift to the endowment. A $500 gift to the Annual Fund is equivalent to a $10,000 gift to the endowment.

Join the #GETSGivingDay Screen Team

Help us make Georgia Harkness Giving Day a success with your enthusiasm and networks. Share, tag, like, comment! Activate your circles of influence across your social media presence and invite others to share, tag, like, comment! Make sure you're following Garrett-Evangelical on Facebook and Twitter.

By joining the #GETSGivingDay Screen Team, you volunteer to share information about this exciting giving opportunity on your social media profiles. We’ll take care of making the memes, filters, and posts and you share those pieces that fit your social media followers.

Join the Screen Team