Honnie Spencer, MD ’90
“As human beings, we all need a sense of purpose. And nothing else fulfills our purpose like helping others. What are we here for otherwise?”
By any measure, Honnie Spencer is a Renaissance woman. She’s a physician. An entrepreneur. A concert pianist. A businesswoman. A dancer. And, above all, a humanitarian. She embodies what a call to service, strong work ethic, and Moravian education can do.
Born in Antigua in the British West Indies, Dr. Spencer was raised in the Moravian faith. She first learned about Moravian College when the college choir visited her church during a concert tour. She enrolled in the college one year later. “I come from a small country with only 60,000 people, so the size of the school was perfect—I didn’t get lost,” she says. “The college was a home away from home. They provided care that went beyond the curriculum.”
Dr. Spencer’s enthusiasm for Moravian is informed by her experience as a student. She has nothing but praise for her professors. “The faculty was so giving, always going the extra mile,” she says. “I came to Moravian to pursue music. I wanted to be a concert pianist. But I was also interested in science and wanted to take biology classes. So I talked to my advisor. Figuring it out was hard, but he never said it’s impossible or not to do it. He helped me figure it out so I could.”
At Moravian, she received a BS in biology and BA in classical piano performance. She earned her MD at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.
Dr. Spencer’s support of Moravian has been as multifaceted as her interests. A committed healthcare professional, her philanthropy supports the Honnie Spencer, MD ’90 Public Health Professions Research and Advisory Suite, located in the Sally Breidegam Miksiewicz Center for Health Sciences. This space is used by public health faculty and students to conduct research, advocacy, and service and explore career opportunities in public health, nursing, and medicine.
Dr. Spencer credits her mother, Emerald, for inspiring her love of the arts. The Emerald Spencer Dance Studio renovation expands the studio’s footprint on the first floor of the HILL and upgrades its technology. It includes the installation of a sprung wood floor, which reduces the impact on a dancer’s body and helps prevent injury.
The number of students pursuing a BA in music with a track in audio recording and music technology has grown. Music technology and the need to disseminate quality music has become a crucial skill during recent years—especially during the pandemic. The Keithley & Emerald Spencer Recording Studio will be a new ADA accessible space on South Campus that will allow students pursuing a BA in technology and audio recording to complete their course work. The studio will also host classes that are crucial in the technological branch of the music industry. Dr. Spencer has also donated a Steinway piano, located in the HUB lounge.
Practicing medicine takes up much of her time. “While I would like to be more directly involved with students as a mentor, right now in my life my time is tight,” Dr. Spencer says. “So if I can help financially, I do. I know how hard it can be to afford education. The finances keep you from your dream. I know what education can do for you. Education is what will get us from where we are to where we want to be.”
A longtime member of the board of trustees, Dr. Spencer received the Haupert Humanitarian Award in 2008 for her life’s service to those in need.
One anecdote encapsulates both Dr. Spencer’s generosity and lifelong intellectual curiosity: She is housing a family of refugees from Afghanistan. Already multilingual, she is teaching herself Farsi to communicate with the family’s three little boys.
When asked what spurs her philanthropy, Dr. Spencer credits her parents, the Moravian church, and her Christian faith. “Christianity is based on love and service. My Christianity tells me to try to do what I can to help others,” she says. “As human beings, we all need a sense of purpose. And nothing else fulfills our purpose like helping others. What are we here for otherwise?”
This past spring, Moravian University held dedication events to honor the generous contributions of Honnie Spencer, MD ’90, and her support of Moravian’s public health, music, and dance programs.
On Thursday, April 20, trustees, faculty, staff, and students gathered to formally dedicate The Honnie Spencer, MD ’90 Public Health Professions Research & Advisory Suite located in the Sally Breidegam Miksiewicz Center for Health Sciences. President Bryon Grigsby and Dr. Colleen Payton, Assistant Professor and Director of the Public Health Program, thanked Dr. Spencer for providing students in the Public Health Program a space to learn about community health, environmental health, and epidemiology through experiential lessons and research opportunities.
On Saturday, April 22, Dr. Spencer, President Grigsby, and Dr. Neil Wetzel, Professor and Chair of the Music Department, toured The Keithley & Emerald Spencer Recording Studio, which Dr. Spencer named in honor of her parents. The recording studio provides students in Moravian’s music audio program the space and technology to practice digital audio recording, design, and production, broadening their skillset for future careers.
Later that afternoon, Moravian University Dance Company faculty and students, members of the community, and Dr. Spencer’s family and friends gathered to dedicate The Emerald Spencer Dance Studio, also named after Dr. Spencer’s mother. President Grigsby and Lisa Busfield, Artistic Director of the Dance Program, expressed their gratitude to Dr. Spencer for her service and leadership in expanding the dance studio and providing a dedicated space for tap dance instruction and a sports medicine room for injury treatment and rehabilitation. The ceremony ended with a tap dance performance and reception. Attendees were then welcome to attend the Company’s end-of-year program.