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Look up

Look up

Michelle Tedford March 18, 2020

Years ago, our daughter looked up at the moon shining silver and full in the night sky and asked a question: “Who was the first woman to walk up there?”

When I answered that no woman had set foot on the moon, she was furious — and immediately pledged to fix this wrong with her own size 4 feet.

She wanted a role model, a woman she could look up to as plainly as she looked toward the moon. Today, she has amassed an army of women whose boldness guide the pursuits of her life: Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, suffragist Susan B. Anthony, soccer player Alex Morgan (she and our daughter both wear No. 13, which may explain how Morgan beat out her pink-haired teammate Megan Rapinoe). The list continues to grow, thanks to her rapacious reading and a book she got for her birthday, Rad Women Worldwide. I hope that their trials as well as triumphs will take root in our daughter’s pre-teen brain and help her remember she is also rad.

I recently learned of another woman of bold conviction thanks to the research of Dara Delgado ’19 [pictured]. Delgado, a December graduate of the Department of Religious Studies doctoral program, for her dissertation illuminated the life of Bishop Ida Bell Robinson of the American Pentecostal Church-Holiness. Robinson founded the Mount Sinai Holy Church of America and pastored her flock through the Great Depression and World War II, a time when it was uncommon for a black woman to have organizational, economic and spiritual power.

Delgado herself is a trailblazer, one of four women to receive UD doctorates this December in a field that is less than 40% female. “We’re smashing the stained glass ceiling wide open,” she said. “It speaks volumes that women are attracted to this particular institution, this particular program — and they’re finishing strong.”

Delgado credits the Marianist custom of welcoming all to the table, and she intends to bring that practice with her as an assistant professor of religious studies at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where she begins this fall. It’s a dream long held and one that crystalized for her on a particular night, as she finished edits to a graduate paper while rocking her infant daughter in a baby seat with her foot. She remembers thinking, in that moment, “Let’s do it.”

We all have our own moonshot, an ambitious venture fraught with risk but big on reward. We don’t do it alone. Instead, we’re in the company of all those whose boldness guides us, whose stories share lessons, and whose trials and triumphs propel us

No matter the size of your feet, remember to always look up.


Learn more about Delgado's work