A Celebration Of The Life Of Vivian J. Edwards


By D. Elwood Dunn

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 22, 2005


Vivian J. Edwards, the second of three daughters was born to L. James Joseph and Helen Gaynor Joseph on May 19, 1915 in Brooklyn, New York. The Josephs were founding members of the new St. Philip's Episcopal Church on Decatur Street. Vivian attended Public School #44 and spent many happy hours as a child at the Brooklyn Children's Museum. She attended Girls' High School and Brooklyn College where she excelled in both academics and sports. She later received her master's and doctorate in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Vivian J. Edwards
Her first job experience was teaching English and Literature at Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina from 1937 to 1944. She also directed religious education there. During World War II, she married Seth C. Edwards, an Episcopal clergyman who was appointed to the Church of the Redeemer in Oklahoma City. Two years later they acCepted a missionary appointment with the Episcopal Church in Liberia, West Africa.

The Edwards family traveled to Liberia on a freighter out of New Orleans. The trip took one month. Their first assignment in Liberia was at Bromley Mission for girls on the St. Paul river. The Bishop of Liberia, Bravid W. Harris, also assigned Vivian to the new Teacher Training Division in Monrovia, which later became the Teachers College of the University of Liberia. She commuted from Bromley by riverboat.

Cuttington College & Divinity School was reopened at Suacoco in 1949. Fr. Edwards was its first president. At Cuttington, Vivian was professor of English composition and literature. Through her students, she amassed a collection of over 200 Liberian folk narratives, myths and legends that she has directed to be published. This collection of stories represents a treasure trouve of Liberian literature, culture, folklore and mores. Among her first students were Melvin Mason, Burgess Carr, Kate Bryant, Joseph Diggs, Rubel Brewer and Elwood Dunn. The Edwards remained in Liberia as missionaries for over thirty years.

In 1960, Vivian joined the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Liberia when Rev. Edwards was reassigned as Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Monrovia. A year later, Fr. Edwards founded a Boy's Town in Schefflin, Liberia. From 1968 to 1972 Vivian taught English and literature at Hampton University, Hampton, VA. After Fr. Edwards' retirement in 1976, they returned to Cuttington - he as head of the Division of Theology and she to the Division of Humanities.

Several years after Fr. Edwards died in 1977, Vivian returned to the United States and accepted a position teaching English and world literature at St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, NC. While in North Carolina, she received a number of awards for her poetry.

She retired in 1996 and devoted her time to editing her extensive collection of Liberian folk tales. She passed away on August 19, 2005 and is survived by her son, Seth, he daughter, Jeanne and her sister, Gwendolyn Heyliager. Her younger sister, Helen Joseph, passed away in 1999. She is survived by her many stuents, colleagues and friends."