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Presbyterian Writers Guild’s legacy comes home to Agnes Scott College

Gift of 35-year-old organization’s endowment is dedicated at the PC(USA)-related school’s Center for Writing and Speaking

by Emily Enders Odom, Mission Communications | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Former members of the Presbyterian Writers Guild and friends. From left are Bill Lancaster, Betty Scott Noble, John Odom, Emily Enders Odom, Jerry Van Marter, Eva Stimson, Ron Jameson and Leslee Jameson. (Photo by Lee Davis)

DECATUR, Georgia — As a new generation of young writers looked on with gratitude toward the veteran members of the Presbyterian Writers Guild, who had gathered at Agnes Scott College’s Center for Writing and Speaking on April 5 to share in dedicating the Guild’s gift of its entire organizational endowment, emotions ran unexpectedly high.

“I didn’t think I’d tear up,” said the Rev. Jerry Van Marter, the Guild’s outgoing secretary and a member of the organization since its 1989 founding.

The Presbyterian Writers Guild, which was formed nearly 35 years ago to encourage and support Presbyterians who were called to write as a form of ministry, voted on Oct. 5, 2023, to dissolve as an organization and selected Agnes Scott College as the recipient of the Guild’s total assets.

Leocadia I. Zak is president of Agnes Scott College. (Photo by Emily Enders Odom)

“It is a profound honor to receive this gift from the Presbyterian Writers Guild,” said Leocadia I. Zak, president of Agnes Scott College. “As a community that not only embraces diversity of thought and expression, but encourages all voices to be heard, Agnes Scott College will continue to advance the Guild’s mission.”

Agnes Scott’s historic roots in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the similarity of purpose between the Guild and the College’s Center for Writing and Speaking were key factors in the Presbyterian Writers Guild’s decision.

“It is now God’s time for the Presbyterian Writers Guild to gracefully close, but not without a plan to allow our legacy to live on and to continue to be salt and light to future generations of writers,” said the Rev. Emily Enders Odom, the Guild’s outgoing president. “You are that plan.”

In her remarks, Odom recognized two “giants” among Presbyterian writers, Jane D. Hines and the late Vic Jameson, creators of the Guild’s Jameson-Hines Scholarship Fund, the original purpose of which was to further develop the writing skills of undergraduate or graduate students.

Two giants among Presbyterian writers, the late Vic Jameson and Jane D. Hines, are at the center of a Center for Writing and Speaking photo collage. (Photo by Emily Enders Odom)

Because Hines was unable to be present, she emailed Odom writing, “If I were able to travel to Agnes Scott and speak to the group myself, I would emphasize the importance of education for people who want to be writers.”

From her beginnings as an advertising copywriter to a television director of continuity to editing and writing for a public relations agency, Hines learned to use the skills she had been taught — skills that beautifully served the Presbyterian Church for decades. The Guild’s outgoing treasurer and a former president, the Rev. Bill Lancaster, called Hines “a model for others of us to try to follow.”

Jameson, who died in 2008 — and whose son, Ron, and daughter-in-law, Leslee, attended the ceremony — was hailed by Guild member and enewsletter editor, Eva Stimson, as the “best boss” she ever had.

Stimson, a recipient of the Guild’s David Steele Distinguished Writer Award, described Jameson, her mentor, as a “crusty old journalist” who was editor of Presbyterian Survey, a predecessor magazine to Presbyterians Today, for which Stimson later served as editor.

Natalie Villacorta directs the Center for Writing and Speaking at Agnes Scott College. (Photo by Emily Enders Odom)

Of Jameson, Van Marter, a former coordinator of the Presbyterian News Service and a recipient of the Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award, wrote: “I used to just love popping into Vic’s office for brief but always enlightening chats. He had a hand-typed sign with a quote from Walt Whitman taped to his office window just below his name. It read, ‘Journalism is the last refuge of the vaguely talented.’”

Van Marter added that when Jameson retired in 1991, he gave him the sign, which still hangs from the desk in Van Marter’s memorabilia room.

“The generous gift from the Guild will enable the Center for Writing and Speaking to keep offering the programming that makes our Center so special,” said Natalie Villacorta, the Center’s director. “Without donations like the Guild’s, the Center for Writing and Speaking would not be able to hire as many tutors as we do — tutors who make possible all the things we do.”

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