Author, activist to give commencement address

Author, activist to give commencement address

April 25, 2014

Award-winning author, naturalist and activist Janisse Ray will be the speaker for this year's commencement ceremonies, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. May 17 on the college's Residential Quad.

The Rev. Herbert Robinson Marbury, Associate Professor   of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near East at Vanderbilt University, will deliver the baccalaureate address at 5 p.m. May 16 at First United Methodist Church.

Janisse Ray
Janisse Ray

Janisse Ray's first book, " Ecology of a Cracker Childhood , " earned her the Southeastern Booksellers Award for Nonfiction, an American Book Award,the Southern Environmental Law Center Award for Outstanding Writing and a Southern Book Critics Circle Award. The Georgia Center for the Book named it a book all Georgians should read.

The work is a memoir about growing up on a junkyard in the ruined longleaf pine ecosystem of south Georgia, and takes a hard look at family, mental illness, poverty and fundamentalism. The author also advocates for the protection and restoration of the pine flatwoods of the South.

In calling Ray's book "ambitious and arresting, " The New York Times reviewer said, "The forests of the South find their Rachel Carson."

Ray's second book, "Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Chance on Home," describes what happens when she returns to the land of her childhood. Her third book, "Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land," tells the story of the 750,000-acre wildland corridor between south Georgia and north Florida. It was named to the Top 25 Books by Living Georgia Writers list by the Georgia Center for the Book.

She also is the author of "Drifting into Darien," "A House of Branches" (poetry) and "The Seed Underground."

This is not the first time Ray has visited the college. In 2009, she was the featured speaker at the Friends of the LaGrange College Library meeting as part of the Defining Moment campaign.

In addition to her books, Ray writes poetry and fiction, and her essays have appeared in a wide range of publications, including Audubon, The Washington Post, Sierra and Oprah magazines.

She is a founding board member of Altamaha Riverkeeper and is on the board of the Environmental Leadership Center of Warren Wilson College and Satilla Riverkeeper. She also helped form the Georgia Nature-Based Tourism Association.

Ray holds a master of fine arts degree from the University of Montana, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Unity College in Maine in 2007. She has been visiting professor at Coastal Carolina University, scholar-in-residence at Florida Gulf Coast University and writer-in-residence at Keene State College and Green Mountain College. She was the John and Renee Grisham writer-in-residence for the 2003-04 academic year at the University of Mississippi.   She is on the faculty of Chatham University's low-residency MFA program and is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow.

Ray attempts to live a simple, sustainable life on an organic farm near Reidsville with her husband, Raven Waters, and their daughter.

Dr. Herbert Robinson Marbury
Dr. Herbert Robinson Marbury

Dr. Herbert Robinson Marbury is a native of Atlanta, and is a fifth-generation Methodist minister. He holds a doctorate in religion from Vanderbilt University, and a master's of divinity degree from Gammon Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center. He spent his undergraduate years at Emory University studying English and African American Studies.

An ordained elder in the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, Dr. Marbury is the former pastor of Old National United Methodist Church in Riverdale, Ga.  Prior to moving to Nashville, he served as University Chaplain at Clark Atlanta where in 2004, he was named the Chaplain of the Year by the United Methodist Higher Education Foundation.

Dr. Marbury has taught Hebrew and Biblical Interpretation at American Baptist College and Vanderbilt University. He has served as a mentor in the Doctor of Ministry Program at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, for the program group " The Black Church and Social and Civic Empowerment." He has lectured at campuses, professional conferences and churches around the globe.

He is the author of two books: " Imperial Dominion and Priestly Genius " and " Pillars of Cloud and Fire: The Book of Exodus and the African American Struggle for Freedom, " forthcoming from University Press.

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