Candler’s annual Honors Day Convocation took place on Thursday, April 11 in Cannon Chapel, where awards were presented to students during a celebration of vocational and academic excellence.
Honorees for vocational excellence and community service
Bridget Hall received the Claude H. Thompson Award, which is presented to a student who demonstrates concern that the gospel of Christ comes to complete expression in the lives of men and women through acts of justice and reconciliation. A North Carolina native, Bridget is a graduate of Greensboro College and a certified candidate for Elder in the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church. She is a trainer for the Ella Baker National Training Institute for the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools, and was a site coordinator here in Atlanta. At Candler, Bridget has served as an admissions student ambassador, a third-year MDiv representative on the Candler Coordinating Council, secretary of the Candler International Student Association, Black Student Caucus chaplain, and student chair of the Admissions and Scholarship Committee.
Carmen Cunningham received the Berta R. and James T. Laney Award in Contextual Education, which is presented to a third-year MDiv student who has successfully completed both the first and second years of Contextual Education and whose engagement with the practices of ministry exemplifies H. Richard Niebuhr’s concern to do theology as simultaneous reflection and action carried out within the personal and social context of love of God and neighbor. A self-described “passionate, creative and justice-focused youth leader,” Carmen has pursued interests in juvenile justice, urban education, womanist ethics and liberation theology during her time at Candler. She served for two years as a chaplain intern at Metro Regional Youth Detention Center, focused on community-building with incarcerated youth. Outside of Candler, Carmen has continued to engage in work with children and youth as an after-school administrator for Childcare Network in Conyers, Georgia and as a program coordinator for Generation In-Focus in Atlanta.
Chrystal Golden received the Charles Owen Smith Award, which is presented to a second-year student with exceptional promise for service in ministry in the Baptist tradition. A University of Texas graduate, Chrystal taught in Houston public schools and served as a mentor for a girls’ leadership initiative prior to enrolling at Candler. Here, she has served on the Office of Worship team as a worship planner and digital media specialist, as well as in the Office of Student Programming as the summer communications coordinator for new student orientation and a coordinator of online engagement during the academic year. Chrystal is pursuing certificates in both Baptist Studies and Religious Education as part of her MDiv degree.
Rufus Phillips II received the Erskine-Smith-Moseley Award, which was established to honor Candler’s first black academic appointments and is given annually to a student of the Black Church Studies Program who portrays prophetic and compassionate leadership. Rufus earned a degree in physics from Howard University and did doctoral research in theoretical nuclear and particle physics at Duke University. A writer and filmmaker, he also served for several years as the associate pastor of a Baptist Church and is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Uncommon Dreams.
Kevin Niuatoa received the Fellowship Seminarian Award, which is administered by The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts and presented to the graduating student who displays outstanding leadership in worship arts. Kevin graduated from Candler with his MDiv in 2018, and is a current ThM student. Prior to his theological pursuits at Candler, he received a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Kanana Fou Theological Seminary in American Samoa. Kevin serves as a ministerial intern at First Baptist Church, Druid Hills, and also leads monthly vespers services at an Atlanta retirement community. At Candler, he has been a member of the Candler Singers and a worship planner with the Office of Worship. Kevin has also served as an admissions student ambassador, treasurer of the Candler International Student Association, and division treasurer for the Candler Coordinating Council.
Jacob Cogman received the Hoyt Hickman Award, which is presented to the senior who, in the opinion of the Emory Chapter of the Order of St. Luke, has most contributed to the worship life of Candler through liturgical leadership and pastoral care. Jacob graduated with honors from Claflin University, where he focused on politics and justice studies, as well as philosophy and religion. He has been involved in numerous activities related to worship, music, and student life at Candler, including the Office of Worship planning staff, Candler Singers, assistant director for the Voices of Imani gospel choir, and president of the Candler Evangelical Society. Last summer, Jacob participated in an advanced summer ministry internship through Candler at Christ Church United Methodist in Louisville, Kentucky.
Kayilu Pfoze received the Candler Community Service Award, which is presented to the graduating student who has given outstanding service to the Candler community. A student in Candler’s MTS program, Kayilu earned a bachelor of theology degree from Logos College and an MDiv degree from Oriental Theological Seminary, both in Nagaland, India. He is a certified candidate for Elder in the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church, and has served as an intern at both Impact Church and Haygood United Methodist Church in Atlanta. Kayilu is president of the Candler International Student Association and a member of the Social Concerns Network.
Justin Schoolcraft received the John Owen Smith Award, which is presented to the MDiv senior who is best able to communicate faithfully and imaginatively the gospel through preaching. Justin graduated from Trevecca Nazarene University, majoring in religion and minoring in pastoral ministry and biblical Hebrew. Through Candler’s Contextual Education curriculum, he served at Lee Arrendale State Prison and Inman Park United Methodist Church. Justin also served as a summer liturgist at Christ Church United Methodist in Louisville, Kentucky, and participated in the Candler Advantage internship program at Six8 Fellowship, an initiative for high school students at Trevecca Nazarene.
Jacob Cogman received the Frederick Buechner Award. Established by the Frederick Buechner Center of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the award is given to the student who, in the opinion of the faculty, best exemplifies the gifts of imagination, creativity and literary excellence in preaching that have been hallmarks of Buechner’s own preaching and writing.
Isaiah Lewis received the John W. Rustin Award, which is presented to the student who, in the opinion of the preaching faculty, best exhibits the capacity for prophetic preaching. Isaiah is an honors graduate of Agnes Scott College, where he honed his gifts for creative and effective teaching and tutoring in the Center for Writing and Speaking. At Candler, he has served in Contextual Education placements at the Gateway Center and at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta. He has also taught in the theological certificate program at Lee Arrendale State Prison. Isaiah works at the Emory Center for Women, developing gender-based educational events, and in Candler’s Office of Student Programming as an academic skills tutor. He has also served as the 2018-19 president of the Candler student organization Sacred Worth.
Caitlyn Furr and Shari Ponder received the Ruth Sewell Flowers Award, which is presented to the senior MDiv student(s) who have shown the greatest improvement in ministerial qualifications during three years spent at Candler. Caitlyn is a dual degree MDiv/MPH student focusing on global health. At Candler, she has earned a Baptist Studies certificate and spent the fall 2018 semester studying at St. Paul’s University in Limuru, Kenya. Caitlyn has also worked at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as a church engagement and operations assistant. Just this week, she was inducted into the Delta Omega Honor Society at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. Shari holds degrees from Hampton University and Clark Atlanta University, and currently serves as a seminarian-in-residence in the Global Missions Connection Unit of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries, based in Atlanta. In three years at Candler, she has traveled with the World Methodist Evangelism Institute to India, to South Africa with the Laney Moral Leadership program, and has served at Stockbridge United Methodist Church through the Candler Advantage internship program. Shari also serves as an admissions student ambassador and has been active in Candler Women and the Black Student Caucus.
Haley Lerner received the G. Ray Jordan Award, which is presented to the MDiv senior who shows unusual promise for usefulness in ministry and demonstrate excellence in integrating academic study with constructive leadership and service. A graduate of Messiah College, Haley has earned a Religious Education certificate as part of her MDiv degree at Candler, along with a concentration in Scripture and Interpretation. She has worked as an intern and a resident in Emory’s Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, focusing on identity and inclusion, pastoral care and justice initiatives with students through the Graduate Student Interreligious Council, Journeys of Reconciliation travel seminars, and other spiritual life activities. Haley is also president of Candler’s Social Concerns Network and serves as a worship coordinator in the Office of Worship.
Honorees for academic excellence
The United Methodist Foundation for Christian Higher Education Award is presented each year to a rising MDiv junior, middler, and senior. Recipients must have been active members of the UMC for at least one year and must demonstrate outstanding scholarship and leadership ability. The Admissions staff will select a recipient from the incoming class for the junior award. Kim Ellis and Joshua Miles received the awards for a rising middler and senior. Kim is a graduate of Covenant College with extensive experience in the field of respiratory care. She is currently serving at Gwinnett Medical Center through her Contextual Education I placement, and also serves as the children’s minister at Winters Chapel United Methodist Church in Dunwoody, Georgia. Joshua earned journalism and mass communications degrees from the University of North Carolina and the University of Georgia, where he was a student intern at the Georgia Bulldog Sports Network. Through Candler’s Teaching Parish program, he has served as director of student ministries and minister of student life at Athens First United Methodist Church.
Chase Crickenberger received The United Methodist First Career Seminary Award, which is presented to a student for whom ministry will be the recipient’s first career. Recipients must be planning to enter parish ministry and must demonstrate outstanding scholarship and leadership ability. Chase graduated from Emory and Henry College, majoring in philosophy and political science. Prior to enrolling at Candler, he worked in youth ministry at First United Methodist Church in Jaspar, Texas. Now in Candler’s Teaching Parish program, Chase serves as pastor of Clemons Chapel United Methodist Church in Lula, Georgia.
Margaret Odom-Tomchin received the United Methodist Scholarship Seminary Award, presented to a member of the current first-year class who demonstrates outstanding scholarship and leadership ability and plan to enter parish ministry. Margaret is a graduate of the University of Florida, where she participated in the Honors Program and was an active volunteer in the Gainesville community. She served as a pastoral intern at the Madison Youth Ranch of the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home before enrolling at Candler, where she is now fulfilling her Contextual Education I requirement as a chaplain at Gwinnett Medical Center.
Jane Nichols received the Myki Mobley Award, which is presented to the MTS student who demonstrates academic excellence and significant social concern. Jane is an honors graduate of Vassar College. In her time at Candler, she has served as a research assistant to several faculty members, been selected as a Pitts Library Scholar, and worked as an archival processing assistant in the Rose Manuscript Archives and Rare Book Library at Emory. With numerous research interests, including queer and feminist theologies, Jane has presented papers at annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and served as founder and co-editor of the student Journal of Theological and Religious Studies at Candler. She has also been active in Candler’s student organization Sacred Worth.
Trey Phillips received the Nolan B. Harmon Award, presented to the second-year MDiv student who has shown the most marked improvement during the first two years at Candler. Trey is an honors graduate of Columbia International University in South Carolina, majoring in biblical studies. He is enrolled in the Episcopal Studies program at Candler, has participated in Contextual Education through the refugee ministry at All Saints Episcopal Church, is completing a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, and also serves as a seminarian at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church.
Kim Akano and Amy Chatelaine received the James D. and Alice Slay Award, which is presented to the second-year MDiv student(s) who exhibit outstanding academic performance and promise for pastoral ministry. Kim is a graduate of Rice University with a degree in psychology, and worked on the field staff of an inner city ministry in Minneapolis prior to enrolling at Candler. Here, she has been a teaching mentor, teaching assistant and colloquy leader in various courses and worked as an exhibition assistant in Pitts Theology Library. Kim also serves as a community and spiritual life coordinator in the Office of Student Programming and as a Cannon Chapel sacristan through the Office of Worship. Amy majored in biology and minored in women’s studies at St. Olaf College. After graduating, she participated in a discipleship year living in intentional community at Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C., worked for the Minnesota AIDS Project and Center for Victims of Torture, and served as co-chair of a working group supporting educational organizations in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. At Candler, Amy serves as a seminary intern at St. John’s Lutheran Church and as a community and spiritual life coordinator in the Office of Student Programming. In her spare time, she is a cellist and folk rock musician.
Julian Reid received the Chad Davis Memorial Award, which was established by Dr. Sara Mandell in memory of The Rev. James Chadwick Davis, a 1959 graduate of Candler. The Bible faculty selects a recipient who has done well in Old or New Testament courses. Julian is a professional musician, composer, and music educator who can never be found far from a piano. A graduate of Yale University with a degree in philosophy, he has been active as both a scholar and a musician at Candler, serving as a research assistant for several professor, as a teaching mentor and colloquy leader, and as resident pianist for chapel services and for the Voices of Imani gospel choir. In his Contextual Education I placement, Julian was a piano teacher and student chaplain at Metro Regional Youth Detention Center. In November 2018, he co-wrote and presented a paper on Duke Ellington and exegesis with Associate Professor of Old Testament Joel LeMon at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting.
Carolyn Wilson received the Boone M. Bowen Award, which is presented to the student who, in the opinion of the biblical studies faculty, has the best record in biblical Hebrew. A graduate of Marquette University who studied theology, German, and mathematics, Carolyn has presented papers on biblical scholarship at various conferences and enjoys tutoring math as much as Hebrew. She spent the previous academic year as part of the Candler exchange program in Göttingen, Germany, and is currently serving as a seminarian at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Decatur. Carolyn hopes to return to Germany following her graduation from Candler.
Andrew Baten and Ben Wills received the Russell E. Richey Award, which is presented to the student(s) who have demonstrated excellence in Wesleyan studies. Andrew is a graduate of the University of Florida and a certified candidate for ordination as an Elder in the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church. At Candler, he is a leader in Candler Creation Keepers. He also serves as director of youth ministries at Oak Forest United Methodist Church in Hayesville, North Carolina through Candler’s Teaching Parish program. Ben graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in psychology, vocal performance, and religion. Through the Teaching Parish program at Candler, he has served since 2016 as the pastor-in-charge of Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church in Monroe, Georgia. Apart from his duties at the church, Ben is part of the Monroe Area Ministers’ Association and serves as a pastoral volunteer at a local community service ministry.
The Academic Excellence Awards are presented to one MDiv senior and to one MTS senior who, in the opinion of the faculty, achieved the highest academic excellence. These students have the honor of serving as student marshals at Emory’s Commencement service, leading the procession of theology graduates and representing their fellow graduates on stage when President Sterk formally confers their degrees.
Dana Hanington received the MDiv Award for Academic Excellence. A graduate of the University of Georgia Honors Program with a degree in economics, Dana taught U.S. history and economics and coached lacrosse at Greater Atlanta Christian School prior to enrolling at Candler. She has pursued her MDiv degree with a concentration in Scripture and Interpretation, and has served as a teaching assistant in Old Testament and history courses. Dana completed her Contextual Education placements at Metro Regional Youth Detention Center and as a family and children’s ministry intern at Brookhaven Presbyterian Church. She currently serves as lead facilitator at Sojourn Ministries in Johns Creek, Georgia, and hopes to pursue her vocation as a religious educator following graduation.
Daniel Miller received the MTS Award for Academic Excellence. Daniel is a dual-degree student who will also receive a JD degree from Emory University School of Law this May. He graduated from Centre College with a double major in politics and history. During his time at Emory, Daniel has participated in the Emory Law School Supreme Court Advocacy program and the American Constitution Society, served as assistant managing editor for the Journal of Law and Religion, and worked as an intern for various agencies focused on issues related to climate, the environment, and labor practices.
Faculty and Staff Honorees
Candler students select faculty and staff recipients.
Sarah Bogue, head of research and access services at Pitts Theology Library, received the award for Staff Person of the Year for the third year in a row. Bogue earned her PhD from Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion and taught the course “Research as Theological Practice” during the fall 2018 semester. One nominator wrote, “She has taken the time to equip graduating students with resources that they can turn to in their future ministry so that we don’t end up ‘high and dry’ when we no longer have access to the library’s resources.” Another shared, “Sarah is incredibly warm and goes out of her way to make sure every class she teaches has the resources they need to succeed.” A third said, “Sarah is very passionate about helping students learn… She also treats each reference desk inquiry with respect, even if your question is, ‘Can you help me get the scanner to work, please?’”
Kwok Pui Lan, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Theology, received the award for Faculty Person of the Year for the second year running. Second-year MDiv student Nicole Lambelet praised Kwok for being “extremely committed to the entire community at Candler. She is present for worship services, lectures, and club events. She also goes out of her way to strengthen the community, organizing a staff/faculty choir and tutoring the Episcopal students for their GOE exams. She routinely connects students doing similar research, and hosts panels, lectures, and conferences to highlight others’ work.” Another student wrote, “She has an engaging and challenging teaching style on feminist, Asian and post-colonial theology. I had never learned about Asian theology until I came to Emory. Dr. Kwok’s unique skill set and background make her an asset for the student and the school. Dr. Kwok has brought a new perspective to theology and teaching. Her passion for theology is sincere and her insights are a gem.”
Nichole R. Phillips, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Religion, and Culture, received the On Eagle’s Wings Excellence in Teaching Award, conferred by the senior class in recognition of faithful and dedicated service. Third-year MDiv student Charles Hamilton shared, “The level of creativity, scholarship, and passion Dr. Phillips brings to her area of discipline is inspiring. As a product of her class, I have evolved as a scholar and a thinker. She is very deserving of this award.” Another nominator said, “Dr. Phillips masterfully covers a broad array of ideas in ways that are compelling and personally challenging. She is brilliant in how she pastors her students, encouraging them on to new academic heights with incredibly creative pedagogy.” Another wrote, “She exemplifies the kind of teaching that creatively engages and informs the minds and spirits of students in ways that contribute not only to her students’ academic development and growth, but prepares them to be faithful and informed leaders in the communities they serve. Her courage to teach in ways that break down barriers of race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. creates sites of liberation in the classroom, where true learning takes place.”