Skip Navigation

2017 John Harrison Ness Memorial Award Winner Announced

Featured 2017 John Harrison Ness Memorial Award Winner Announced

The General Commission on Archive and History of The United Methodist Church today announced the 2017 winner of its highly-prized John Harrison Ness Memorial Award: Deborah Creagh, for her entry “Dr. Clara Swain: First Medical Missionary of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society."

The John Harrison Ness Memorial Award, given annually in memory of John Harrison Ness (1891-1980). The award honors students enrolled in M. Div. programs in United Methodist or other seminaries accredited by the Association of Theological Schools who submit the best papers on one aspect of United Methodist History.

After a career in health care as a registered nurse and then serving her church as a Faith Community Nurse Coordinator, Creagh enrolled in Perkins School of Theology in January 2016 in Dallas, TX. She is pursuing a Masters of Divinity with plans to serve as a pastor in The United Methodist Church. Her paper was originally written for a Christian Heritage course with Dr. Ted Campbell and Dr. Tamara Lewis. The connection with the medical profession and spiritual focus of Dr. Swain’s life was an “inspirational to me.”

“I am thrilled to have received the Ness Memorial Award,” said Creagh. “It encourages me to continue my interests in research and writing, and in exploring the history of women serving The United Methodist Church, both at home and abroad.”

“Getting people excited and inspired by our Church's rich history is one of the most important things we do at GCAH," said Rev. Fred Day, the Commission's General Secretary. "When a person takes a moving story like that of Dr. Clara Swain, pulls it off the shelf, into their mind and heart, then relates it to their Christian formation, the past not only impacts the present but shapes the future."

“Deborah Creagh has given us a portrait of Clara Swain depicting her as a progressive Methodist woman — portraits show Clara Swain with bobbed-hair like the “flappers" of her age,” said Dr. Ted Campbell, Professor of Church History at SMU Perkins School of Theology. “She also paints a picture of a woman who made a pioneering missionary venture, then settled into relative obscurity after marriage. It’s an untold story that really needs to be understood in our time!”

GCAH is pleased to sponsor the John Harrison Ness Memorial awarded next in 2018. Information about various awards, grants and prizes for scholarly work in Methodist History can be found at