Seminary official retracts statement

Students like Conaway can schedule courses around job, he clarifies

July 27, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

The recruitment director for a Washington seminary has retracted statements concerning the master's degree program completed by mayoral candidate and city Register of Wills Mary W. Conaway.

Two weeks ago, the Rev. William D. "Chip" Aldridge Jr. of Wesley Theological Seminary said it was "not possible" to complete the school's master of divinity program solely at night.

Conaway, register of wills since 1982, said she completed the program between 1988 and 1991 through night and weekend courses.

In a letter to Conaway dated Sunday and in an earlier call to The Sun, Aldridge clarified his comments. Aldridge said he thought a reporter's query into the program pertained to a full-time student coming from high school and not students such as Conaway who work full time.

Aldridge acknowledged that students such as Conaway can attend specially designed curriculums that take into account their work schedules.

"I want this to serve as a clarification and an apology," Aldridge wrote in the letter, released by Conaway at a news conference yesterday.

Conaway held up the letter to criticize The Sun for what she called "scurrilous, cheap shots" at her candidacy. She is one of 17 Democratic mayoral candidates vying in the city's Sept. 14 primary.

"A lie, repeated often enough, begins to take on the appearance of truth," Conaway said at the news conference outside her office. "Rumor, repeated often enough, begins to take on the appearance of fact."

Conaway, however, refused again yesterday to release her seminary transcripts for review against school class schedules at the time to clear up the matter.

"I'm not going to do that," she said. "That's very personal."

The Sun began exploring Conaway's seminary degree after receiving an anonymous tip alleging that she attended the school on city time. The tip came shortly after Conaway, who earned $45,000 at the time she took the courses, vowed this month to slash several city departments if elected mayor and suggested that some city employees do nothing.

Conaway said she attended courses between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., on weekends and through schools affiliated with the seminary program. In questions posed yesterday, Conaway said some of the courses at the college an hour away might have begun at 4 p.m.

According to Aldridge, two-thirds of the school's curriculum is taught during the day. However, one of Conaway's former professors said that she could do "most" of the divinity program at night.

"I do not follow a time clock," Conaway said. "I do not receive overtime pay or comp time for the hours that I spend visiting senior citizens homes, community associations and civic groups."

Pub Date: 7/27/99

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