By Bruce Tomaso
Cynthia Fierro Harvey (M.Div. ’99), bishop of the Louisiana Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church, was chosen as the 2018 recipient of the Perkins School of Theology’s Distinguished Alumnus/a Award. The prestigious award was presented to Bishop Harvey at a dinner banquet on Nov. 12 at Perkins.
The Distinguished Alumnus/a Award recognizes Perkins graduates who have demonstrated effectiveness and integrity in service to the church, continuing support for the goals of Perkins and SMU, outstanding service to the community and exemplary character.
“At a time when our Houston-Galveston Extension Program is experiencing a resurgence, it is especially fitting that this year’s honor should go to one of its first graduates, Cynthia Fierro Harvey. Bishop Harvey epitomizes the best of a Perkins education through her outstanding leadership and commitment to developing relationships across all levels of the global church,” Perkins Dean Craig C. Hill said.
“Among countless other acts of service, she bore the weight for the denomination of the earthquake in Haiti and navigated recovery and support from numerous hurricanes and floods in her episcopal area,” he continued.
“Bishop Harvey has been a strong supporter of Perkins, both in and beyond Louisiana. Particularly noteworthy was her early advocacy for connecting Perkins with church-related colleges and universities in the region, beginning with Centenary College and leading to cooperative agreements last year with eight other schools. We could not ask for a better partner in our shared work,” Dean Hill added.
In nominating Harvey for the award, Bishop Kenneth Carter, episcopal leader of the Florida Annual Conference and president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, expressed his appreciation for her leadership and formation at Perkins.
“I know Cynthia’s mind to have been deeply shaped by the significant theological education she received at Perkins,” he said. “I also know her to be a woman of integrity who lives for others as a sacrificial and servant leader. (She) is an exemplary graduate of Perkins and a prominent example of the influence you are having in God’s world.”
The Rev. JoAnne Pounds, pastor of Mer Rouge United Methodist Church and Memorial Bastrop United Methodist Church, both in Louisiana, praised the bishop in her nomination letter for her “grace-filled” leadership.
“The day I first met Bishop Harvey I was immediately impressed,” wrote Pounds, herself a Perkins graduate (M.Div. ’14) and member of the Perkins Alumni/ae Council. “She makes the effort to not only know the names of the clergy, but also important human details about each of us. This fosters and models deep, rich relationships.”
“Her passion for the future of the church is evident in her investment in the youth of Louisiana, and the way in which she encourages, embraces and empowers young clergy such as myself,” she added. “She is absolutely remarkable and inspiring.”
Harvey has been bishop of the Louisiana Conference, which encompasses the entire state, since 2012. In that ministry, she serves as spiritual shepherd to more than 118,000 worshipers in 486 congregations.
Previously, she was associate pastor of The Foundry United Methodist Church in Houston (1992-1996), executive pastor of Memorial Drive United Methodist Church in Houston (1996-2008) and director of missional excellence for the Texas Annual Conference (2008-2010).
She served as deputy general secretary of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the church’s worldwide humanitarian relief organization.
She is a member of the SMU Board of Trustees and the Perkins Executive Board, which provides advice and counsel to the dean; supports relationships between faculty, students and the church community; aids in recruiting, monitors the school’s performance; and assists in networking at the local, regional and national levels.
Harvey was born on May 5, 1959, in Big Spring, Texas. In 1981, she married Dean Alan Harvey, a financial adviser. Their daughter, Elizabeth Grace, is married to Tyler Reames. They make their home in Dallas.
The recipient of the 2017 Perkins Distinguished Alumnus/a Award was Bishop Michael McKee (M.Th. ’78) of the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church.