OXFORD - The Oxford College family said farewell and good luck to one of its most influential staff members this past week.
The Rev. Judy Shema, the first woman to serve as chaplain at Oxford College, left her post this week to take another position in Texas.
Faculty, students and staff honored her Tuesday with a send-off celebration before she left later in the week to start her new life as pastor of Agape United Methodist Church in Lubbock, Texas.
"Judy has brought all of the members of the Oxford community together in ways that have been transformative," said Oxford College Dean Stephen Bowen in a press release.
Shema, who was on her way to Texas as of Friday, left a long-lasting impression on the students at Oxford and in the community - and likely other communities as well.
"Her joy in service and compassion for all persons have had a profound impact on Oxford," Bowen said.
During her time at Oxford, she took volunteer student groups from Oxford to build post-Hurricane Katrina homes on the Gulf Coast, led interfaith activities and was involved in many other student and staff activities, in addition to leading weekly chapel services and handling her other duties. In 2006, she also founded Global Connections, which takes students and staff to national and international locations to learn more about peace, hunger, human rights and the environment.
She was so close to many of the students that they called her "Rev" or "Rev Judy."
"Although she is a United Methodist chaplain by training and ordination, she has been a chaplain, counselor and friend for all students," Bowen said, adding that she reached out to all faiths and those with no faith.
Before joining Oxford as chaplain in 2003, she also served as a campus minister at Tulane University in New Orleans and had experience in teaching, inner-city social work and traveling abroad.
The college is advertising for a new chaplain but has not yet named a replacement.
Michelle Floyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.