Honors Day 2014Candler’s annual Honors Day Convocation took place on Thursday, April 10 in Cannon Chapel, where two dozen awards were presented to students, faculty and staff during a celebration of vocational and academic excellence.

Honorees for vocational excellence and community service

Sam White received the Claude H. Thompson Award, which is presented to the student who demonstrates his concern that the gospel of Christ comes to complete expression in the lives of men and women through acts of justice and reconciliation. The faculty member who nominated him for the award writes, “Social justice is at the center of Sam’s commitments, and it takes on concrete expression in his actions.” A member of Concerned Black Clergy and a volunteer at Genesis Shelter for homeless families with infant children, Sam is also the incoming president of the Candler Coordinating Council.

Katie Sack received the Berta 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. Whether serving as a chaplain for a post-partum mothers’ group at Lee Arrendale State Prison, facilitating a grief support group for children, or partnering with the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti on development work, Katie is inspirational in her love of God and love of neighbor.

Cassandra Henderson 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. Cassandra’s creative leadership, theater talent, and film production skills have resulted in programs with inmates at Lee Arrendale State Prison and with those in juvenile justice facilities. At Ebenezer Baptist Church she co-chairs the youth and college ministry program, has been involved as a Youth Advisor, and is a member of the Women’s Ministry and Young Adult Choir.

Darin Arntson 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. Darin has made significant contributions to Candler’s worship life through her work as a worship planning team coordinator in the Office of Worship and as co-coordinator of liturgical dancers. She has been recommended for commissioning as a provisional elder in the California-Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Lynn Miller 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. Lynn is a Spiritual Life Coordinator in the Office of Student Programming, and her rich involvement in the Candler community—as a peer advisor, vice-president of Candler Women, and member of the Student Planning Team in the Office of Worship—has informed her efforts in organizing spiritual life and formation opportunities.

Darin Arntson also received the Community Service Award, which is presented to the graduating student who has given outstanding service to the Candler community. In addition to her work in the Office of Worship, Darin is a member of the Senior Class Gift Campaign, has served as an Orientation volunteer and Admissions Ambassador, and participated in the Candler Advantage program last summer. Described by her advisor as one who “takes initiative, and who is reliable, compassionate, and humorous,” Darin has provided leadership in many dimensions of Candler’s life: worship, admissions, student programming, and development.

Garrett Harper 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. Garrett’s preaching is infused with his passion for those he has encountered, be they homeless persons at Hospitality House, youth at Camp Sumatanga, or refugee children.

Tyler Sit 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. This semester he has been studying in India through Emory’s Center for International Programs Abroad. At Candler, he served as Spiritual Practices Coordinator through the Office of Student Programming and as a liturgical dance coordinator in the Office of Worship.  In addition, he is a member of the Board of Directors of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

Courtney Smith received the Frederick Buechner Award, offered for the first time this year. Established by the Frederick Buechner Center of Cambridge, Mass., 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. A retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force, Courtney will enroll in the PhD program in the Graduate Division of Religion of Emory’s Laney Graduate School.

Hyun Woo Kim received the Ruth Sewell Flowers Award, which is presented to the senior MDiv student who has shown the greatest improvement in ministerial qualifications during three years spent at Candler. A graduate of Yonsei University, Hyun Woo has provided leadership at Candler as an International Student Life Coordinator in the Office of Student Programming, as a peer advisor, and as president of the Emory Korean Graduate Student Association. He organized and received funding from C3 for the “Soul to Soul” event in the spring of 2013 as part of Candler’s Cultural Competency and Conflict Transformation Initiative. The development of his academic abilities is underscored by his selection to present scholarly papers at the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion in March 2014 and at the Society of Asian Biblical Studies in June 2014 in Thailand. 

Honorees in Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges

Six Candler students are being recognized through selection for Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges: Tyler Askew, Hyun Woo Kim, Meg Lacy, Lynn Miller, Eric Rucker, and Alex Thompson. This honor recognizes students who have made impressive contributions to Candler’s quality of life and education through service, leadership, scholarship and character.

Tyler Askew has served as a representative to the Candler Coordinating Council and chaired the Cultural Competency and Conflict Transformation Project for the last two years. The program aims to promote interaction and dialogue across boundaries traditionally dividing society, particularly race and sexuality. Among the programs initiated were Diversity Dinners and the “R” Words Conversations.

Hyun Woo Kim was introduced above as the winner of this year’s Ruth Sewell Flowers Award. In a letter of nomination, the writer says Hyun Woo “does not lead with the hope or expectation of winning honors and awards; he leads in order to serve others with respect, dignity, and an appreciation of their value in God’s eyes.”

Meg Lacy has served as a Spiritual Life Coordinator in the Office of Student Programming, a member of the Admissions, Scholarship, and Honors Committee, a peer advisor, and an instructor for the Theological Studies Certificate Program at Lee Arrendale State Prison. The breadth of her commitment to service is described as “astounding.” Her nominating letter states that she “excels in service, leadership, scholarship and character in ways that few students can rival.”

Lynn Miller provided leadership in the Office of Worship and the Office of Student Programming, including serving as a panelist for an Orientation workshop on “Best Practices for Students.” She also has served as the student representative on the Women, Theology, and Ministry Advisory Board, a note-taker for other students through the Emory University Office of Access, Disability Services, and Resources (ADSR), and a volunteer at the Atlanta Food Bank and at Habitat for Humanity.

Eric Rucker has been an instructor for the Theological Studies Certificate Program at Lee Arrendale State Prison, as well as a community intern at Clarkston Development Foundation. He has been a mentor in Candler’s Youth Theological Initiative and is a volunteer and member of the worship community of the Open Door Community in Atlanta. Eric has been especially active in Emory’s Safe Space program, the Emory LGBT Life’s Safe Space training program, and has been a member of Trans-forming Emory. He was last year’s winner of the Claude H. Thompson Award.

Alex Thompson is described as “a young man of unusual intelligence and academic ability combined with rare personal sensitivity, deep spirituality, and an uncommon social concern and involvement.” He has served as Faith and Justice Coordinator for the Youth Theological Initiative, a colloquy leader, a delegate to the World Methodist Evangelism Institute in Jerusalem, and one of Candler’s student ambassadors to United Methodist Annual Conferences, representing Candler through formal presentations and informal conversations. He was awarded Emory University’s Bobby Jones Fellowship and spent the 2012-2013 academic year studying at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Honorees for academic excellence

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. Jeania Ree Moore and Shannon Mayfield received the awards for a rising middler and senior.

Jeania Ree is a candidate for deacon’s orders in the California-Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. She has been a mentor with the Youth Theological Initiative and an intern at Hoosier Memorial United Methodist Church. She is a worship leader in Cannon Chapel and represented Candler as a student ambassador at several United Methodist Annual Conferences last summer.

Shannon is preparing for ministry in the North Georgia Annual Conference. In addition to being a theologian, he is a conservationist, businessman, and attorney whose work has emphasized land acquisition and preservation.

Emily Edwards 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. A graduate of The University of Florida, Emily has worked with youth programs at two United Methodist churches in the Florida Annual Conference and has been a counselor at Warren Willis United Methodist Youth Camp. She is an Admissions Ambassador and, in her Contextual Education I placement, has worked with pregnant inmates at The Helms Facility.

Benjamin Wilcox and Anna Blinn Cole received the United Methodist Scholarship Seminary Award, presented to members of the current first-year class who demonstrate outstanding scholarship and leadership ability and plan to enter parish ministry. Benjamin is a graduate of Lake Superior State University and The University of Georgia, where his work focused on environmental sciences and natural resources. He is a member of the United Methodist Men at Princeton United Methodist Church in Athens, where he served as the volunteer Children’s Ministry Director and is now a part-time Administrative Assistant. Anna is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and The University of Delaware. She is an architectural historian and preservation consultant and now is the artist and owner of Little Goats Play, making and marketing ceramic crafts for every day and liturgical use.  

Two students, Meg O’Connor and Sabrina Cherry, received the Myki Mobley Award, which is presented to MTS students who demonstrate academic excellence and significant social concern. Both Meg and Sabrina have interests in public health and have served as graduate research assistants at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. This year Meg will complete her MTS/MPH dual degree, with an emphasis on behavioral science and health education. She has worked with Emory’s Global Health Initiative, led a multi-disciplinary team on a 6-week community needs assessment and education project to the Bahamas, and worked on the Influenza Initiative of Emory’s Interfaith Health program. Sabrina came to Candler’s MTS program with a master of science degree in public health from The University of South Carolina. Following graduation, she will enroll in the Doctor of Public Health degree at The University of Georgia. Through Rollins, she has worked on faith-based prevention programs for chronic disease. She also co-chairs the Community Advisory Board at Northside Hospital.

Whitney Tucker 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. Whitney is currently working toward concentrations in Leadership in Church and Community and in Formation and Witness and a certificate in Religious Education. The faculty recommendation supporting her nomination says that in her time at Candler “she has shown incredible growth and development in academic performance, personal growth, and social consciousness and is a rising star in ministerial ability.” 

Stephen Speakman received the James and Alice Slay Award, which is presented to the second-year MDiv student who exhibits outstanding academic performance and promise for pastoral ministry. A member of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Young Adult Volunteer Alumni Leadership Council, Stephen is involved in the Candler International Student Association and the Social Concerns Network. He served as a communications specialist with Church World Service in Nairobi, Kenya, and is currently a congregational intern with the Shalom International Ministry, an African immigrant new church development in Clarkson. In recommending him for this award, a faculty member reports that “his academic abilities are not merely tuned in the direction of conceptual and abstract reasoning; rather they are geared towards pastoral ministry and practical service, so that he brings to the practices of ministry a refreshing critical engagement that is the best exemplification of reflective practice.”

Alex Thompson 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. Alex has studied classical and biblical Greek for six years, Latin for three years, and biblical Hebrew for two years. Last year as a Bobby Jones Fellow at The University of St. Andrews, he completed a master’s thesis entitled “Your Holy One Did Not See Corruption: The Intertextual, Rhetorical, and Narrative Role of Psalm 16 in Acts 2,” and he is currently finishing an MDiv thesis entitled “The Death of a Tyrant Type Scene in Acts 12: Genre Restraints and Narrative Fulfillment.”

Eric Jarrard 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. Eric has been admitted to the Doctor of Theology degree program at Harvard Divinity School, where he will study Hebrew Bible, adding to his existing repertoire of biblical Greek, biblical and targumic Aramaic, and French. His Candler MTS thesis is entitled “An Empire Remembered: The Preservation of Cultural Memory in the Accounts of the End of the Babylonian Empire.”

Haley Mills received the Russell E. Richey Award, which is presented to the Candler student who has demonstrated excellence in Wesleyan studies. A graduate of Birmingham-Southern College, Haley has been a refugee tutor with Lutheran Services of Georgia, a work camp intern at the United Methodist Redbird Mission of Kentucky, and an Americorp volunteer with Operation Helping Hands in New Orleans. Last year, she was Candler’s first exchange student at the Faculty of Theology of the Methodist University in São Paulo, Brazil, learning Portuguese so she could take classes in that language. She currently serves as a ministry intern with Cummunitas, the Brazilian ministry of Mt. Pisgah United Methodist Church in Roswell, where she has demonstrated her ability in fostering constructive conversations and making presentations on Methodist and Wesleyan theology in a local church setting.  

Meg Lacy received the G. Ray Jordan Award, which is presented to the MDiv senior who shows unusual promise for usefulness in ministry and demonstrates excellence in integrating academic study with constructive leadership and service. Described as one whose “first-rate academic research feeds directly into church leadership,” Meg developed a weeklong camp for youth to learn skills in conflict transformation and nonviolent social change. Her MDiv honors thesis is an ethnographic study of Park Avenue Baptist Church in the Grant Park neighborhood of Atlanta, which revealed that “a flashy, dynamic worship service with a charismatic leader is not what brought this church back to life, but rather its willingness to be part of the struggles of the people outside its door.” This research exemplifies her concern to understand the life of a local church in order to help that church grow more fully into its vision of the Body of Christ. As this year’s winner of the Jordan Award, she will also receive the Chalice Press Book Award, which is awarded annually to a graduating student judged by the Candler faculty to be an “outstanding seminarian.”

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 Wagner formally confers their degrees.

Alex Thompson received the MDiv Academic Excellence Award. Through a demanding course of study at Candler—including study abroad as a Bobby Jones Fellow at The University of St. Andrews in Scotland—he has maintained an overall GPA of 4.0.

Sally Sarratt received the MTS Academic Excellence Award. A graduate of Carson-Newman College and The University of Virginia, Sally came to Candler after a career in business with The Proctor & Gamble Company, McMillan Pazdan Smith, LLC Architects, and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, where she served as a Global Service Missionary. At Candler, she has maintained an overall GPA of 3.958.

Faculty and staff honorees

Deborah van der Lande, administrative assistant in Faculty Support Services, received the award for Staff Person of the Year.

Teresa Fry Brown, professor of homiletics and director of Black Church Studies, received the award for Faculty Person of the Year.

Luther E. Smith Jr., professor of church and community, received the On Eagle’s Wings Excellence in Teaching Award. This award is conferred by the senior class in recognition of faithful and dedicated service.