Mary Ely Lyman (1887-1975) graduated with a B.D. from Union Seminary in 1919, and was also was the first woman to receive the Traveling Fellowship for the highest academic honors in the graduating class that year. This award sent her to Cambridge, England, for one year. The work she did there was applied toward the Ph.D. in New Testament, which she received from the University of Chicago in 1924. She had two separate appointments at Union. She became the first of 2 women (with Sophia Lyon Fahs) to teach on the faculty and be counted among their number (1927). She 'retired' from that position in the 1940s when her husband and professor of the philosophy of religion, Eugene Lyman, retired. She then became dean of Sweet Briar College for Women in Virginia, until her appointment to Union in 1950 as Jesup Professor of English Bible. Dr. Lyman was the first woman to hold a full professorship and an endowed chair. She also held the inaugural deanship for women students until her resignation from both positions in 1955. She remained in close contact with Union until her death in 1975.
Lyman was the author of several books, including Paul the Conquerer and The Fourth Gospel, and numerous articles. Her published dissertation, "Knowledge of God in Johannine Thought," is in The Burke Library, as well as Jesus, a commissioned book from the Hazen Foundation. "The True and Lively Word of God," her inaugural lecture as Jesup Professor of English Bible, was published in the Union Seminary Quarterly Review. Lyman was a meticulous exegete whose focus was interpretation of biblical texts in their contexts and the relevance of biblical texts for contemporary lives and communities. An ordained Congregational minister (1949), she also wrote many articles in support of the Social Gospel movement and women's inclusion in church leadership.