Ralph and Barbara Cushing: Religious Studies degree inspires couple to endow lecture series at UDM
A lengthy and illustrious medical career wasn't enough for Ralph Cushing, M.D. '99, and his wife, Barbara Cushing, M.D. '02.
Ralph is currently an infectious disease specialist at Beaumont Hospital in Grosse Pointe, while Barbara, a pediatric hematologist- oncologist, has practiced at Children's Hospital of Michigan, for the past 35 years. Though both physicians also hold faculty appointments at Wayne State University School of Medicine, they decided several years ago that they wanted more—academically and spiritually.
So, back to the classroom they went—this time to University of Detroit Mercy, where both earned master's degrees in Religious Studies. Ralph received his degree in 1999, and Barbara followed in 2002.
Their experiences were so positive that the Cushings have chosen to give back to the University community with a series of endowed lectures. Beginning in 2008, UDM's Department of Religious Studies will present the Ralph and Barbara Cushing Distinguished Lectures in Religious Studies.
The program will consist of a yearly visiting professor whose area is ethics, scriptural studies, or literature and theology. These three areas were chosen in memory of George Pickering, former UDM Professor of Ethics, and in honor of current Religious Studies faculty, Professor Jane Schaberg and Associate Professor Justin Kelly, S.J.
According to the Cushings, the specific topical focus of the lecture series will rotate on a three-year cycle, and Religious Studies faculty will select the lecturers. The lectures are, in the Cushings' words, "intended for the intellectual enrichment of students, faculty and the community."
For Ralph, an interest in ethics prompted his return to the classroom, while Barbara sought to learn more in the areas of spirituality and theology. Ralph says, "My specific area of study arose from ongoing work experience in medical ethics during years of teaching and practice." At UDM, he pursued scriptural studies and ethics, both historical and contemporary.
Barbara's religious interest stemmed from years as a pediatrician. "As an oncologist, I developed an interest in the way children develop the spiritual part of the self and its potential for transformation," she says. Consequently, her course load emphasized scriptural studies with a focus on the human understanding of God.
The first George Pickering Memorial Lecture, scheduled for March 19, 2008, will feature Gary Dorrien, professor of Religion at Columbia University and the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Dorrien will speak about "The Making of Social Ethics: Peabody, Pickering, and the Politics of the Color Line".
Barbara and Ralph have high praise for UDM. According to Barbara, "These lectures are meant to express our gratitude for the education we received in the Religious Studies department."