The Catholic University of America

Cardinal Service Commitment Award

Outstanding Staff Member – Adrienne Black

BlackAdrienne Black received the Cardinal Service Commitment Award for staff. The award was presented by The Catholic University of America on April 10, 2012, in celebration of the University's 125th anniversary.

Black, who is the assistant to the chair of CUA's Department of Chemistry, contributed 362 hours to the University's service initiative. All of her service hours have been devoted to the Church of the Holy City in Washington, D.C. Black is the vice president of the church, a position for which she takes no salary. Her volunteer work there includes planning of the historical restoration of the church tower, increasing church membership, planning church services, and assisting with fundraising activities.

"I was born into a family oriented toward service," Black said. She credits family members and the teachings of her church for instilling in her a spirit of service.

The Church of the Holy City is the national church of the Swedenborgian Church of North America. Black has made it her personal mission to help revitalize this historic building and its community. Located just blocks north of the White House, the present structure was built in 1894 after the original church, which dates back to 1846, was destroyed by fire.

Black has helped lead an ongoing study group in the theology of church founder Emanuel Swedenborg. She  has helped plan seminars and establish and market an ongoing concert series. She also has been involved in developing a website for the church.

Black is an eloquent spokesperson in describing the architectural and aesthetic features of the church. From the "distinctive octagonal vestibule and artfully decorated circular stairway," to the "slender Gothic arches and four delicate finials," she speaks with great passion and affection about the building, noting that "the most striking feature of the interior is its magnificent stained glass."

Graduate studies in philosophy first attracted Black to Catholic University. While still a student, she took a position in 1979 at the National Catholic School of Social Service, then moved to the Department of Psychology before moving to her current position in the chemistry department, where she said, "the department embraced me, and CUA became my home."

Asked about her own commitment to service, Black recounted a proud legacy of service in her family. "My great-great-grandfather owned a newspaper; my grandfather who lived to be 100 was an educator; his brother a doctor. My mother and her sisters followed in their footsteps. An aunt became a doctor when it was not very fashionable for women to enter into the profession. Practicing in New York she assisted many. The great civil rights leader Malcolm X thought to mention her in his autobiography, thanking her for assisting him through an era when our country was embarked in civil upheaval and redefining the nation. My family continues to embrace these service areas." 

As for Black's future plans, she leaves no doubt that her commitment to service will continue. "There is still so much to be done," she said.