The Life and Legacy of Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley
How Did this Scholarship Program Begin?
The UU community lost an inspiring spiritual leader with the death of Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley in late 2006. Among her many accomplishments and contributions were her service on the UUWF board and as a member of the Equity and Justice Grants panel.
She was also a valued mentor of women preparing for our UU ministry, especially those who identified as women of color, Latina, or Hispanic. In keeping with the spirit of this aspect of Marjorie’s work, the scholarship program named in her honor provides financial support to these women.
In addition to funds UUWF has budgeted for this purpose, the program is also supported by donations made to the UUA in Marjorie’s memory. For when the UUA asked her husband, Rev. Clyde Grubbs, to suggest an appropriate use for those funds, he recommended that they go toward the scholarship program. The first four scholarships were given in 2009.
Who was Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley?
The fourth of 10 children, Marjorie spent most of her childhood in Philadelphia but was acculturated in the ways of the south and the Caribbean through the heritage of her parents. She graduated from Dobbins Vocational-Technical School in 1967, majoring in Business Education.
She began her college career at Temple University at age 25, double majoring in Radio, TV and Film, and in Pan-African Studies. An M.A. degree in International Development and Visual Media followed.
Marjorie’s first career was in public television and included production work on the programs “Black Perspective on the News” and “Evening Exchange.” She was nominated for an Emmy for a program she produced with writer Maya Angelou and received the World Hunger Media Ward for her hour-long documentary “After the Rains,” which explored drought and environmental decay across the Sahara desert.
After seven years in the media, she felt a calling toward work that expressed her religious values and found a position with the UU Service Committee in Boston, She also accepted a position as a program officer for the Veatch Program at the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, NY.
Ultimately this work, plus her independent study of the theology and ministry of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and of Howard Thurman, led her to a personal calling to the ministry. She attended Wesley Theological Seminary from 1991 to 1994; earned a Master of Divinity Degree (cum laude); and was ordained at her home congregation, All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington, D.C.
Marjorie served congregations in New York City, Austin, Tampa and had accepted a call to serve the First Unitarian Church in San Diego, but withdrew because of illness. She succumbed to cancer on December 10, 2006. She was married to the Rev. Clyde Grubbs and had one daughter, Talibah, from a previous marriage.