Julia Shank Dawson '48
"Bucknell prepared me in so many ways. It stressed that we're all one, and we need to go on and try to make a difference in the world. It's not about money, it's about trying to make this world a little better."
A higher calling
To Julia Shank Dawson ’48, retirement is not a time to slow down.
At 81, she earned her doctorate of ministry in pastoral care and counseling from Drew University and wrote Hope and Healing: A Spiritual Treasury for Parents, a diverse collection of meditations and prayers devoted to parents of seriously ill children.
A retired minister, she spends her days at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Paterson, N.J., where she is a chaplain on staff. “It’s challenging work. But children are so vulnerable,and as long as I have the energy to keep going I will be working to help them,” says Dawson.
Her book is a reflection of the racial, cultural and religious diversity found in the patients of the hospital. It includes prayers and meditations for Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim faiths, as well as some Spanish language inclusions.
Dawson was inspired to follow this path by her own experiences as a mother of three children terminally ill with cystic fibrosis.At the time, hospitals did not have chaplains to counsel families and the need was apparent.
“Years ago hospitals weren’t really interested in mind, body and spirit so much as their primary responsibility of physical care. But we are people, we are more than just the body, we are also the spirit.”
When her husband, Chester ’48, died in 1991, Dawson decided to follow her calling and help others heal. She was ordained at 70 and became an associate pastor at Verona Presbyterian Church.
And after 60 years, her ties to Bucknell remain strong. She and her husband established the Jeffery, Julia Ann and Phillip Dawson Scholarship in honor of their children and to encourage today’s students to share some of their own Bucknell experiences. “Bucknell prepared me in so many ways. It stressed that we’re all one, and we need to go on and try to make a difference in the world. It’s not about money, it’s about trying to make this world a little better.”
Posted Winter 2009