One of the many reasons I haven’t been blogging for the past few months has been the intensity, and focus, of the home atmosphere while Margaret has been working on her doctoral dissertation ( = UK “thesis”). The pace of her writing has picked up since she arrived in September; as she drew near the end, she was wringing out a truly startling page count week on week. When she submitted the manuscript two weeks ago, the wave of relief and exhaustion overtook both of us and swept us along in a surge of jubilation, anxiety, and accumulated weariness.
Yesterday, Margaret defended her dissertation at Duke, and by all accounts it was adjudged a very strong effort. Her advisor said the defence was “great”; another committee member said the dissertation was “terrific”, and I haven’t heard specific comments from the others, but Margaret indicates that they were very favourably disposed. The committee voted that Margaret should be awarded the Ph.D.
We believe in ritual and order enough that we don’t accord Margaret a degree that has not yet been awarded; there is, for a few weeks anyway, only one “Dr Adam” in the house. But we do like the sound of “Dr Margaret B Adam”, and we now know that the degree will be awarded at Duke’s graduation in about five weeks. Margaret will graduate in the robes of the father of a family friend, another exciting and tradition-laden aspect of the process. It’s intensely satisfying to come to this point.
Margaret actually began working toward this degree more than twenty years ago, indeed almost thirty years ago. Her undergraduate major at Bowdoin College was in Religious Studies, and her grades were markedly better than mine. She audited courses when I was at Yale Divinity School and Duke Graduate School (where she took courses from Mary McClintock Fulkerson and Stan Hauerwas, two of her committee members); she copy-edited Modern Theology for a couple of years, indexed and edited a number of our friends’ books, read papers at AAR meetings, published an essay and short articles, participated in church life and endeavours such as the Ekklesia Project, all the while she home-schooled our children and oversaw our extended household. She returned to academic life as an MTS student at Seabury, and then (at long last) began her doctoral studies at Duke, took time out to teach full-time for two years in one of the strongest undergraduate theology departments in the US, eventually writing her dissertation for a committee of scholars all of whom she had known for more twenty years or more.
The White Queen may regularly believe six impossible things before breakfast — but leave it to Margaret to do what seemed impossible, and to do it handily. Hail, Margaret!