Prof Praises Inclusiveness of Quaker Faith and College

May 31, 2019

Susan Lucas to Speak at Cincinnati Church about ‘Being Gay and Teaching at a Quaker College’

Susan Lucas shared the story of how she experienced the range of emotions from exhilaration to despondency within moments of landing her “dream job” of joining the faculty at her alma mater. She was unsure how being openly gay would be received.

PICTURED: Susan Lucas, assistant professor of marketing

Lucas, assistant professor of marketing at Wilmington College, will speak at Cincinnati Friends Meeting (CFM) Sunday (June 2), addressing the topic “Being Gay and Teaching at a Quaker College.”

CFM, one of the largest Religious Society of Friends churches in the region, invited Lucas to discuss her personal experience with the inclusive nature of the Quaker faith. Friends founded Wilmington College in 1870 and maintain a close affiliation with the institution.

Lucas recalled the mixed feelings she had when “dressing the part,” rather than portraying her individual style, for her campus interview in 2017, and then getting the subsequent phone call offering her the marketing faculty position — “only to get off the phone and have my heart sink into my feet.”

“How in the world was I going to reveal who I truly was once school started?” she said, noting, as a petite gay woman her clothing style normally features wearing a bowtie, boy-cut jeans and a hat.

“Would I get fired? How do Quakers feel about people in the LGBTQ community? I had a million questions eating me alive.”

Lucas recalled that, as a Wilmington College student from 1996 through 2000, she learned the Quaker religion was a tolerant one that embraced diversity and taught social justice. She delved into Friends journals in seeking knowledge of the faith’s doctrine on sexual orientation. She found on the Human Rights Campaign website that the Friends General Conference stated in 2004 that LGTBQ people were welcome in the Quaker religious community — indeed, their participation has “immeasurably enriched” it.

“My heart slowly made its way out of my feet and began to ascend back to its rightful place in my chest,” she said.

Lucas also found comfort in the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s policy of seeking “a society free from discrimination, including discrimination based on gender, creed or sexual orientation.” Another prominent Quaker organization, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning American Friends Service Committee’s recommitment to equality stated in 1999 that it “deplores any attack on the civil rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons couched in religious terms or attributed to scriptures.”

Lucas quickly became more and more impressed with this religion of inclusion, tolerance and equality.

“I sat back in my chair wondering what it would have been like to be raised in a church that had such a clear understanding of basic human rights,” she said. “I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear.”

The first day of school that August, a confident Lucas dressed as she normally would — bowtie and all — trusting the research she conducted on the Quaker faith. She quickly realized her previous feelings of trepidation were unfounded, as the campus welcomed her for the talents, skills and personality she would share with the College community.

“Putting my career, financial security and the safety of my family in the hands of the Quaker religion has been one of the best decisions of my life,” she said. “My Quaker friends have shown me an example of a religion that is loving and accepting.

“They have softened my heart in ways that I never thought possible. I am happy to say that Wilmington College is my ‘home.’”