When Dr. Hilary Dow Ward (MAR, ‘11) moved to Memphis with her husband, she’d recently completed an undergraduate degree in music performance and was looking for an opportunity to continue her studies in a graduate school setting. “My work in music had primarily been done in churches and that was a great segue towards my curiosity to engage in a seminary degree.”
Dr. Dow Ward knew she wasn’t seeking ordination, but wanted academic training that would “help feed me and grow my perspective, broaden my understanding of how different denominations worship and do things the way they do, and learn to be a better servant leader,” she says.
“Ultimately, I decided that a seminary degree was exactly what I needed,” Dow Ward says. “Being part of a seminary community isn’t a common opportunity. Many people have to uproot and move or commute to have that opportunity. For me, God moved us practically right to the front door of MTS so having the chance to be a student there was a gift and opportunity I couldn’t take for granted.”
Dow Ward is an Episcopalian and has worked in an Episcopal Church or School in some capacity for over 20 years. After graduating from MTS, she earned two more graduate degrees, another masters degree in education, and then a doctorate degree in education administration, leadership, and policy.
“Like many people who work in ministry, my path cut a wide cloth,” Dow Ward says. After working in K-12 education in Kansas, Tennessee, New York City, and Philadelphia for almost 15 years, she shifted to working in higher education at Sewanee, the University of the South (the only Episcopal University in the USA) where she has been since 2016.
“In Sewanee, I’ve had the opportunity to teach in undergraduate and graduate classrooms, run the University’s largest non-degree and summer program and now my primary position is as the Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations through the Office of Advancement. I work with faculty and staff university wide (both in the college and through our graduate programs, including our seminary) to seek funding for curricular projects and programs.”
Dow Ward also teaches Christian Education and Parish Formation to future clergy and lay leaders in the School of Theology. “After teaching in the schoolhouse and church house setting, it is a great privilege to have the opportunity to teach future clergy how to be teachers and build curriculums for their parishes, for diocese wide programming, and church schools (as school chaplains), as well as for students with learning differences,” Dow Ward says. “My love of teaching started long ago with my love of playing the piano. Some folks in Memphis might remember I taught piano and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to also teach piano at the undergraduate level at Sewanee.”
“In any portion of my path, I could never have imagined what the next step would be, but at this point, it’s amazing how the pieces all add up. When I look back to my time as a student at MTS, I couldn’t have dreamed I’d be where I am today,” Dow Ward says. “I think it is natural for us to all have ‘hope’ in our path and a strong desire for where God will lead us when we commit to working in this field, but I also think there is power in the opportunity that exposure to education and conversation in the classroom can provide us. With God’s help, our education has the capacity to lead us anywhere. I thought I had a strong ‘strategic plan’ for where my intentional steps, both with work and education would lead me, but God did it better. Always does.”