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Pearl Lena Outlaw, educator active in ministries

May 29,1932 – Sept. 23, 2016

Pearl Lena Outlaw, a lifelong educator who was active in local ministries, died Friday under hospice care in Buffalo. She was 84.

The former Pearl Cunningham was born in South Boston, Va., and was raised in a farm family active in the church.

Following in the footsteps of her mother, a schoolteacher, Mrs. Outlaw earned a degree in early childhood education from Fayetteville University in North Carolina and master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati before enrolling in the doctoral program at the University at Buffalo.

“She loved children and all of the stages of their education,” said her daughter, Mary L. Outlaw. “Those were her really big motivators. That and the church.”

Mrs. Outlaw taught in schools in Virginia and Connecticut, where she met her husband, Guy T. Outlaw. The couple married in 1968 and moved to Buffalo the following year.

In Buffalo, Mrs. Outlaw taught early childhood education at Erie Community College, where she earned the designation of professor. During her career there she was honored with the President’s Award and the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching from the State University of New York. She spent 25 years working for the college.

Mrs. Outlaw and her husband were members of New Covenant United Church of Christ, where she began a new career in the ministry following her husband’s death in 1998. She served as the church’s Sunday school superintendent and trained teachers in Christian education. She also served as president of Women’s Fellowship, church liturgist and an associate pastor.

Mrs. Outlaw also took on a variety of roles in the United Church of Christ Western New York Conference.

After becoming involved with the ministry, she earned a degree in pastoral ministry from Christ the King Seminary and was commissioned as a minister in the United Church of Christ in 2003.

Mrs. Outlaw’s ministry extended to the Sisters of Charity Hospital, where as a chaplain, she specialized in bereavement and grief counseling for parents experiencing the loss of a child.

“She worked all over the hospital but mostly in labor,” her daughter Mary said. “She just loved children and being able to support those parents.”

Mrs. Outlaw also was a member of Phi Delta Kappa and served as the first African-American president of the Alpha Nu Chapter of Pi Lambda Theta.

Survivors include a daughter, Mary L.; two sisters, Marie Cunningham Webb and Ruby E. Cunningham; and three brothers, Lawrence, John and Roosevelt Cunningham.

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