We drove up to Kentucky last weekend for Deane’s Ordination. (Our daughter Jennifer’s other mother.) Deane sent me this article from the Bowling Green newspaper. Good luck Deane and congratulations! She’s hoping now to find a church to serve and begin her new career. For now she still resides in Chicago where she was in school the last 4 years.
Oliva first person to be ordained at BG church
By ALICIA CARMICHAEL, The Daily News, firstname.lastname@example.org/783-3234
Monday, March 19, 2007 11:47 AM CDT
Psychologist Deane Oliva has done social service work, including in the southeast Bronx in New York during the summer welfare riots of 1969, when police had to escort her to work.
Psychologist Deane Oliva is the first person to be ordained by the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bowling Green in its nearly 50-year history.
She helped develop treatments for autistic children in a time when many thought there was no help for them.
She’s earned master’s and doctorate degrees in psychology, a field in which she worked in many areas before opening a computer learning lab and tutoring business in Bowling Green in the 1990s.
Now Oliva, who jokes that her formal, “Go to meet the queen name” is Claudene, is the first woman to have been ordained by the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bowling Green in its nearly 50-year history.
“We wanted to do her that honor” earlier this month, said Linda Pickle, president of the board of directors for the church, where Oliva, 62, is a member.
But more than that, the church wanted to have the “honor” of ordaining Oliva so they could “show our support for her and our affection for her,” Pickle said.
For the past four years, Oliva has been working on a master’s of divinity degree from Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, from which she’ll graduate in June. She’s also working on a certificate from the Institute for Spiritual Leadership in Chicago, from which she’ll also graduate this spring.
This fall, she’ll go into a parish as a called minister or on an interim basis.
It’s something she’s looking forward to.
“UUs are very social justice oriented,” she said, “and we believe that you must have deeds, not creeds. You have to live out your faith … so I look forward to living in a shared ministry where we work toward justice and compassion for all.”
Being ordained in a church that holds those tenants, as well as many friends for Oliva, was “extremely exciting” for her.
“Bowling Green has been a real strength to me and the ordination has been a wondrous occasion,” she said.
It’s something Oliva never dreamed of as a girl growing up in White Plains, N.Y.
In fact, the daughter of a truck driver and a waitress never dreamed she’d go to college until a high school chemistry teacher called her parents and told them she should.
At the time, her parents hadn’t thought of college for her, “because girls were supposed to get married at that time,” Oliva said.
But Oliva’s parents took her teacher’s words to heart, as did she, who began to look at colleges through a library.
Still, she wasn’t sure she was college material and told her mom and dad “if I didn’t get into college, I wanted to be a roller derby skater.”
Soon, however, Oliva was accepted to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, becoming the first person in her family to go to college.
“I loved to learn,” Oliva said. “I was curious about the world and I was very much into social service, too. I was going to be a settlement house worker and save young girls.”
At Antioch, which appealed to Oliva because it was a work study school, Oliva majored in psychology.
But she didn’t just work hard in the classroom.
Six months of each year, she worked off campus.
Once, she was assistant to the director of volunteers in a large hospital for mentally retarded people in Connecticut.
For a while she worked on a federally granted project at Trenton State Hospital for autistic children in New Jersey.
Oliva also worked in the New York City Public Library system, doing whatever the librarians needed.
“I worked in the village, on Madison Avenue, on 125th Street, in several different branches, and it was a marvelous introduction to the many facets of New York City,” Oliva said.
Her other work during college included working with young girls recovering from rheumatic fever, and helping boys who were dependent and neglected in Irvington, N.Y.
“I had great job experience” after all that, she said.
The experience helped her make a good living after she graduated from college in ’66.
After working for insurance companies in California, Oliva got the social services job through which she worked in the Bronx and earned $7,500 a year, “which was what my father was making,” Oliva said, “and he was so proud of me.”
Later, Oliva worked in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., for a year with New York City children who had been placed in foster care.
The work was often frustrating.
“We had people who were happy in their nice, middle-class environments who were told they had to go back to their city environments, and they had no skills” to deal with that, she said.
Often, kids were reunited with parents they’d never known.
Still, Oliva never thought about leaving her field.
Instead, she wanted to change the system.
But the system wasn’t all she would have to battle.
When Oliva interviewed for a job at Hudson River Psychiatric Hospital in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., she almost wasn’t hired because “the chief psychologist said, ‘I really like you but I want to hire a man,’ ” Oliva said.
“I almost walked out but I turned around and said ‘what do you mean?’ ” she said.
The man reconsidered and hired Oliva, who stayed at Hudson River for five years, during which time she helped develop treatments for autistic kids.
“At that time, autistic children were thought to be the result of a cold, rejecting parent and an aloof parent, and it was considered untreatable,” Oliva said. “Their parents were told ‘forget you ever had them and go on with your lives.’ ”
After Oliva and her colleagues developed the program to help the children, some of whom were able to go on to public school, “we were instant experts on autism,” in some people’s opinions, she said, “but each of us knew full well we were not. But we put a lot of work into the program.”
Oliva also put a lot of work into her education, commuting to New York City during her free time to earn a master’s degree in psychology from the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research.
Later, she took a class at Columbia University, where she was encouraged to get a doctorate.
Oliva decided to take the advice and headed to Nashville to study at George Peabody College, now a part of Vanderbilt University.
There, she was accepted into the clinical program, “and my first class there that I took was in a new field called neuropsychology,” she said. “It was the study of brain behavior relationship and that was where I knew I wanted to be because of working with the autistic kids.”
After earning a doctorate, Oliva did a post-doctoral fellowship at Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston.
Then, a professor from Peabody asked her to join her private practice in Nashville.
Oliva accepted and later went on to be director of psychological services at a psychiatric hospital there.
For 17 tears she stayed in Nashville, during which time she and her then partner “were the first lesbian couple to be approved as adopted parents in the state of Tennessee,” she said.
But ”homophobic reasons” kept them from adopting through the state, Oliva said.
Then, a co-worker asked Oliva if she’d be interested in adopting the newborn child of a family member.
In 1986, a thrilled Oliva became mom to her daughter, Jennifer, now a junior at Austin Peay University.
“Seven months later we were given two other children,” Oliva said, “a 7- and an 8-year-old.”
But the children would not stay with Oliva long.
“They stayed in the home less than two years,” she said. “Because of difficulties they had they had to go back into group placement because of their prior life circumstances.”
The experience made for “a very difficult time” for Oliva, which was so stressful it led to her breakup with her partner.
Later, however, Oliva met Karen Genter, with whom she moved to Bowling Green in 1990.
“I got a job with Warren County Schools as a school psychologist,” Oliva said, “and then a few years later we jointly opened Cogenisys.”
Through Cogenisys, “we taught people how to use the computer and did tutoring and summer camps,” Oliva said.
At the time, Oliva had become “very dissatisfied” with her job as a psychologist “because the box got too small” due to “HIPAA, managed care and insurance reimbursements,” she said. “The change in the way we did business I disliked intensely. The way we interacted with clients changed and I didn’t feel I could work in a holistic approach with clients and their families.”
Four years ago, she knew she “was getting burned out by that and needed direction,” she said.
She had left the Roman Catholic Church during her college years and later began to follow Buddhism.
In 1995, she had begun attending the Unitarian Universalist Church here.
Later, she and another parent founded a youth group at the church.
Oliva was also “a member of the social action committee, and in the year 2000, I became a member,” she said.
But “I refused to join for a long time because I didn’t want to be oppressed by anybody else’s dogma,” she added, “and though they told me Unitarian Universalism was creedless faith, it took me a while to learn the core of that meaning. We believe there are many paths, journeys toward wholeness and it is each individual’s responsibility to understand what works for them. Our heritage is Judeo-Christian but we have moved beyond that to embrace faith traditions in the world, information from experience, nature, prophets, all sources that contribute to our understanding.”
When Oliva saw a woman in the pulpit at church one day in 2000, “it hit me like a bolt of lighting that a woman could be a minister,” she said. “As soon as it reached my consciousness, I knew that’s what I wanted to be.”
Three years later, Oliva entered Meadville, which is one of two schools in the United States specifically for training of Unitarian Universalist ministers.
Now, she’s most looking forward to “the chance to serve a whole community over time” as a pastor.
Pickle thinks Oliva will make a great pastor because of her “interest in people, her energy and her commitment.”
“She’s a very lively, vivacious person with a lot of energy and center,” she said. “She’s had a lot of careers in her life and always seems to be learning new things and about life.”
The youth group Oliva helped found when the congregation was still quite small is just one sign of her commitment to helping others, Pickle said. The group has since developed into a good-sized children’s program.
“Her heritage is still quite active in our church,” Pickle said.