August 2022 News Perspective Online

Alumna Profile: Elisabeth Kincaid

Over the course of her education and career, Elisabeth Rain Kincaid has studied or taught at a half dozen institutions of higher education. She earned a B.A. at Rice University, a J.D. at the University of Texas Law School, and a Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame, and served on the faculty of the Aquinas Institute of Theology and Nashotah House Theological Seminary. 

But Perkins School of Theology, where she earned an M.T.S. in 2012, is the place that feels most like home.

“The mentoring from the faculty that’s continued so impressively in my life and the academic excellence and rigor that I received as an M.T.S. student at Perkins have served me so well as a professional theologian,” she said. “I’m so grateful for that. The faculty has continued to care for me and support me — so much that people sometimes forget that I didn’t do my Ph.D. at Perkins.”

Kincaid’s journey to Perkins was an unconventional one. In her first career, she was an attorney, practicing in a law firm and later working in private equity. During that time, she got involved with International Justice Mission, a nonprofit that focuses on human rights and human trafficking. That experience led to a time of questioning and discernment.

“I started asking, ‘What do I want to do with my life?’” she said. “I grew up in the church and have always been a committed Christian.  I started to think about how my faith and work overlapped.”

She left the corporate world and took a job leading InterVarsity Fellowship’s graduate student ministry at SMU. She tried to entice Perkins students to attend events hosted by the ministry, with no luck, so she called on a Perkins professor, the late Billy Abraham, for advice. She had gotten to know Abraham while attending his Bible study. When Kincaid asked Abraham why Perkins students weren’t attending InterVarsity events, Abraham replied, “They don’t know you. Why don’t you apply to attend Perkins part-time?”

Kincaid applied, and shortly after, got a call from Tracy Anne Allred. If Kincaid was willing to attend full-time, Allred said, scholarships would cover her tuition and expenses. Kincaid accepted and continued to work full-time at the campus ministry while attending Perkins full-time.

Immediately, she fell in love with the study of theology.

“Somehow, I convinced Bruce Marshall to let me take a doctoral seminar in the History of Doctrine,” she said. “That was my first taste, and right away I realized this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I loved the intellectual stimulation, the chance to go deeper, the relationship between my faith in Jesus and my work and passion. I had been a layperson; until then, I didn’t know you could spend your time studying this.”

After graduating from Perkins, she earned a Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame, and launched her career as a theologian. She spent a year as Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Aquinas Institute and three years as Assistant Professor of Ethics and Moral Theology at Nashotah House.

This fall, Kincaid starts a new position at Loyola University New Orleans, as the Legendre-Soulé Chair in Business Ethics & Director of the Center for Ethics and Economic Justice. That offers a chance to pursue her interests in the relationship between law, business ethics, and moral theology, as well as connecting moral theology to on-the-ground challenges in parishes and professional settings.  She expects to draw on her years in the corporate world in her new position.

“As an attorney, I worked in white collar criminal defense, and then I worked in finance,” she said. “I have become convicted of the importance of formation of character.  Very rarely does someone set out to be unethical; instead, I saw people who stumbled into unethical behavior. The journey to ethical failure is a series of small steps. You have to become the type of person who won’t fall into ethical error before the ethical challenges presents themselves. Nobody is invulnerable.”

On the personal side, Kincaid grew up in Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas, but is now an active in the Episcopal Church, at the local and national level.

“I had a wonderful faith formation,” she said. “My parents are committed Christians, and I was given the opportunity to explore and grow into my own faith, to claim my faith as my own, intellectually and spiritually.”

Kincaid is married to the Rev. Thomas Kincaid, an Episcopal priest; they have two adopted children. During her doctoral studies at the University of Notre Dame, she was selected as an Episcopal Church Foundation Fellow. She currently serves as the Vice President of the Corporation of the Anglican Theological Review.

When asked about her most formative experiences while at Perkins, she said, “The list is too long!”  Her continued contact with Perkins faculty and staff after graduation has also been extensive. Charlies Curran invited her to participate in SMU events related to ethics. Rebekah Miles, Steve Long and Robin Lovin mentored her and invited her to participate in edited volumes.  Bruce Marshall also continues to be a mentor; she meets with him regularly and has returned to audit more of his classes. She continues to collaborate on projects with Dallas Gingles, who was the teaching assistant in her Introduction to Christian Studies class.  Jim Lee assisted her with her Notre Dame application; Anthony Elia helped her find books; Ruben Habito assisted her with research. And of course, she stayed in touch with Billy Abraham until he passed away in 2021.

“All of those people have been wonderful mentors,” she said. “They are a continuing gift. Perkins continues to be my intellectual community and home. It’s like I never left.”