Candler’s annual Honors Day Convocation took place on Thursday, April 16 in Cannon Chapel, where awards were presented to students, faculty and staff during a celebration of vocational and academic excellence.

Honorees for vocational excellence and community service

Jeania Ree Moore and Blair Trygstad received the Claude H. Thompson Award, which is presented to student(s) 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 graduate of Yale University, Jeania Ree is a candidate for deacon’s orders in the California-Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. At Candler, she has served as a worship planner, a facilitator of the Diversity Dinner series, a member of Candler’s Centennial Committee, and founder of the Sophia Forum, a student academic conference. Jeania Ree’s work as a mentor with the Youth Theological Initiative (YTI) and a teacher in the Certificate in Theological Studies program at Arrendale State Prison led her efforts to stop the execution of Kelly Gissendaner this winter. She is a recipient of the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship, and will pursue a Master of Philosophy degree at Cambridge University this fall. Blair is a graduate of the University of Southern California. Her involvement at Candler has included serving on the Candler Coalition on Racial Equality (CORE), as a graduate assistant for the Ethics and Servant Leadership Program at Emory’s Center for Ethics, as a YTI mentor, and as the student coordinator for Candler’s Partnership Against Domestic Violence. While at Candler, Blair spent a semester at St. Paul’s University in Limuru, Kenya, and several weeks in Jordan, Israel and Palestine, and Greece with the Middle East Travel Seminar. This year, Blair has been pastor-in-charge of Center Valley United Methodist Church in Chatsworth, Georgia. She is a certified candidate for elder’s orders, and next year will serve as associate pastor at an urban United Methodist church in Los Angeles, focusing on congregational care and social justice.

Cassandra Henderson 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. Cassandra is a graduate of Spelman College. Through her contextual education work at Ebenezer Baptist Church, she co-founded “The Community Speaks ATL,” a sanctuary for the community that offers a place for lament, public protest, and mobilization. She also serves as Ebenezer’s ministry intern for Youth and Children programming and created a summer camp for children in kindergarten through twelfth grade. At Candler, Cassandra has led conversations on race, sustainability, food insecurity and the death penalty. After graduating, she will spend the summer leading the N.E.W. Leadership Academy at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and will join the ministerial staff full-time in the fall.  

Brandon Harris and Dominique Lester received the Charles Owen Smith Award, which is presented to a second-year student(s) with exceptional promise for service in ministry in the Baptist tradition. Brandon, a graduate of Lincoln University, is a Student Life Coordinator at Candler as well as a member of the Admissions, Scholarship, and Honors Committee. He is a former Undergraduate Fellow of the Fund for Theological Education, and currently serves as a college ministry intern at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Dominique has served as the office assistant for Candler’s Black Church Studies, YTI and Women in Theology and Ministry programs. A graduate of Paine College, he is the Youth Minister at Bethel Baptist Church and the Youth and Young Adult Minister at Tabernacle Baptist Church.

Allison Sauls 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. A former member of the Louisiana Dance Theatre, Allison has shared her gifts for choreography and dance with the Candler community. As a member of the Office of Worship and the Worship Planning Team, she has planned beautiful worship services and written powerful liturgies. Allison has also guided the worship program as a member of the Faculty Committee on Worship. A graduate of Hendrix College, Allison will be commissioned as a provisional elder in the Louisiana Conference of The United Methodist Church following graduation.

Elizabeth Pollard and Carrol Wilson received the Hoyt Hickman Award, which is presented to the senior(s) 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. Elizabeth, a Spelman College graduate, has been a member of Candler’s Worship Planning Team and has written prayers, liturgies, and provided music for worship services. She has held leadership positions in the Black Student Caucus and Candler Women, and has served on two faculty search committees. She was the preacher for the opening plenary of the National Festival of Young Preachers, and is currently the Interim Youth Minister at Ben Hill United Methodist Church. Elizabeth hopes to continue youth ministry work following graduation. Carrol, a member of the Worship Planning Team, has assisted in designing and organizing all aspects of Candler’s worship services. While a student at the University of Mississippi, she wrote a research paper on “Sisters in Chains: Can Pastoral Counseling Methods Help in the Mental Health Crisis of Female Prisoners?” Carrol continued to explore this subject during her Contextual Education placement at Arrendale State Prison, and will continue her studies in pastoral care and counseling in Candler’s Master of Theology degree program.

Alisha Gordon and Sam White received the Community Service Award, which is presented to the graduating student(s) who has given outstanding service to the Candler community. A Spelman College graduate and former English teacher in the Douglas County School System, Alisha has been a visible and energetic activist at Candler. She was selected as a Cousins Community Engagement Fellow and assisted Associate Professor Gregory Ellison with the “Fearless Dialogue Initiative.” Alisha has been a leader in the R Words Initiative, CORE Conversations on Ferguson, and Candler’s Die-In protest in the fall. Sam is currently the president of the Candler Coordinating Council (C3), as well as an admissions ambassador and intern. Last summer, he served as interim pastor of Wesley Methodist Church in the Bahamas, where he led building initiatives, visited the elderly, taught youth Sunday school and choir workshops, planned worship, and preached. Sam has served as assistant coordinator for the Pan Methodist Campaign for Children in Poverty, and was also a leader in the Die-In protest, facilitating conversations about race within the Candler community. This year, Sam has traveled to Brazil to study international dimensions of pastoral care, and will travel to South Korea in May to study moral leadership. He will enroll in the Master of Theology program at Candler next year.

Aaron Carr 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. As a student at Samford University, Aaron participated in the school’s Sunday Student Preacher Program. He is a member of the Academy of Preachers, and served as a member of the Gospel Catalyst Network, an organization of six young preachers assigned to assist senior leadership of the Academy with promotion and planning of regional preaching festivals.

Cassandra Henderson also 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.

Laura Truman received the Frederick Buechner Award. 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 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Laura is an accomplished pianist and has served as piano accompanist at St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church and Holy Comforter Episcopal Church.

Karen Slappey 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. Karen serves as Associate Developer of House of the Rock, and Minister to Young Adults at Redeemer Lutheran Church. She is also the Curator of Community and Lay Developer of Atlanta Beer and Hymns and Bar Church. At Candler, Karen has served on the executive board of Sacred Worth, C3, and participated in the Immigration Conference “When Strangers Become Neighbors.” She completed Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) as chaplain at Church of the Common Ground and Holy Comforter Episcopal Church.

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: Stephanie Carey, Eunil David Cho, Cassandra Henderson, Jeania Ree Moore, Andrew Toney, and Sam White. This honor recognizes students who have made impressive contributions to Candler’s quality of life and education through service, leadership, scholarship and character.

Stephanie Carey has served as International Student Life Coordinator and International Hospitality Coordinator at Candler. She also volunteers with the Historic Westside Cultural Arts Council of English Avenue as an afterschool tutor and student mentor. After graduation, Stephanie, Bryan 15T and their son Jack will move to Kosovo to join the nonprofit organization Kosovo Hope, where they will offer discipleship, community development and peace-building opportunities between Christian Orthodox Serbs and Kosovar Muslims.

Eunil David Cho has served as president of the Emory Korean Graduate Student Association, a student peer advisor, a member of the Candler Singers, a C3 representative and an ESOL writing tutor. He received the James T. Laney Book Award, given by the Emory Alumni Association to a Korean graduate student who has made significant contributions to the Emory community. Eunil will begin the PhD program in Person, Community and Religious Life in the Laney Graduate School’s Graduate Division of Religion in the fall.

Cassandra Henderson’s biography can be seen above as the recipient of the Laney Award for Contextual Education.

Jeania Ree Moore’s biography can be seen above as the recipient of the Claude H. Thompson Award.

Andrew Toney is a tutor and enrichment leader at Inspire: A Shalom After-School Initiative for Children in Clarkston, Georgia. At Candler, he has served as a founding member of the Sophia Forum, co-coordinator of the Centennial Community Engagement Committee on Food Insecurity, co-chair of the Senior Class Gift campaign, and a member of C3’s executive board. An alumnus of Samford University, Andrew will work with L’Arche in both in Atlanta and London following his graduation from Candler.

Sam White’s biography can be seen above as the recipient of the Community Service Award.

Emory University's Heart of Emory Award

Associate Dean of Student Life and Spiritual Formation Ellen Echols Purdum announced that the Candler Committee on Racial Equality (CORE), which was founded in August following events in Ferguson, Missouri, has received Emory University’s 2015 Heart of Emory Award. Students involved in CORE organized community events throughout the year, including small group conversations on race at Candler, a die-in protest, dean’s lectures on racial progress and the theology of Ferguson, and anti-racism training. With the Heart of Emory award, CORE was acknowledged for “quality initiatives benefiting the greater Emory community and collaborative work for positive transformation in the world.”

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. Andrea Levreault and Anna Blinn Cole received the awards for a rising middler and senior. A graduate of Oxford College and Emory University, Andrea serves as a youth ministry intern at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church and the Wesley Fellowship intern at Oxford College. She will seek ordination in the Florida Annual Conference. Anna, a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the University of Delaware, is a candidate for elder’s orders in the Upper New York Annual Conference. At Candler, she has served as Student Spiritual Life Coordinator, co-president of Candler Creation Keepers, and a member of the Centennial Community Engagement Committee on Food Insecurity.

Jeffery Rogers 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 Georgia, Jeff is preparing for elder’s orders in the North Georgia Annual Conference. He has served as a Spiritual Life Counselor at Camp Glisson, Youth Minister at Colbert United Methodist Church, and Youth Intern at Lawrenceville First United Methodist Church.

Taylor Bean and David Ben Floyd 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. Taylor is a graduate of Huntingdon College and a member of the Candler Singers. She is preparing for elder’s orders in the Alabama-West Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church and has completed internships in missions and music at First United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. A graduate of Auburn University, Ben serves as a student local pastor at The Daybreak Community, a ministry of Central United Methodist Church in Asheville. Ben plans to serve congregations and continue to minister to those suffering from addictions and mental illness.

Two students, Allie Scalf and Rachael White, received the Myki Mobley Award, which is presented to MTS students who demonstrate academic excellence and significant social concern. Allie is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, and at Candler has served as an ESOL writing tutor, Admissions ambassador, and a writer for the Emory University blog Spirited Thinking. She also interned with The Kojo Nnamdi Show on National Public Radio. A graduate of Lee University, Rachael serves as an Academic Skills Tutor and Student Life Coordinator in Candler’s Office of Student Programming, as well as a research assistant for Associate Professor Jacob Wright.

Iyabo Onipede 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. Iyabo is a graduate of Goucher College and received her law degree from Georgetown University. She is passionate about promoting responsibility, empowerment and independence for women, children and the marginalized in society. As a career specialist, she redesigned and managed the reentry program for marginalized women, teaching more than 2,000 women resume development, interview skills, budgeting, positive mindset and relationship skills.

Hannah Ebling-Artz 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. Hannah graduated from William Jewell College. While at Candler, she has served at Lutheran Refugee Services of Georgia and as a pastoral intern at North Decatur United Methodist Church. Hannah has been a farm and market volunteer at Truly Living Well, worked with immigrants and refugees at the Stewart Detention Center, and lived and worked at Jubilee Partners where she has learned much about simplicity, sustainability and social justice issues.

Alice Danielle May 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. Danielle holds degrees in nursing, justice and public safety, and a Master in Public Administration from Auburn University. She also earned a Doctor of Public Administration from the University of Alabama. Following graduation, she will be commissioned as a provisional elder in the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference.

Matthew Lee 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. Matthew, a student in the Master of Theological Studies program, is a graduate of Samford University. He is an accomplished musician, has been a summer camp counselor at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, and a volunteer at the Clifton Night Shelter and on mission trips to Mexico.

Blair Trygstad received the Russell E. Richey Award, which is presented to the Candler student who has demonstrated excellence in Wesleyan studies. Blair’s biography can be seen above as the recipient of the Claude H. Thompson Award.

Andrew Toney 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. As this year’s winner of the Jordan Award, he 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.” Andrew’s biography can be seen above as a recipient of Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.

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.

Christopher Fisher received the MTS Academic Excellence Award. Chris graduated summa cum laude from the Honors program at the University of Georgia, completing his undergraduate degree in religion in two years. Before enrolling at Candler, Chris served as the UGA Wesley Foundation’s full-time ministry intern. Chris’s GPA at the end of the fall semester was 3.954.

Stephen Speakman received the MDiv Academic Excellence Award. Stephen, a summa cum laude graduate from Presbyterian College, volunteers with Inspire: A Shalom Afterschool Initiative, where he teaches English and basketball to refugee children. He also serves on the leadership team and as worship and youth leader for the Shalom International Ministry. Stephen has worked as a Refugee Host and English Instructor with Jubilee Partners, and served as a Young Adult Volunteer with Church World Service in Nairobi, Kenya. He has maintained a GPA of 4.0.

Faculty and staff honorees

Candler students select the faculty and staff recipients.  

Lisa Parker, financial aid advisor in Admissions, received the award for Staff Person of the Year. One nominating student notes that Parker is a "prime role model in demonstrating how to be a sincere, savvy, and servant-like leader" as an administrative staff member and as a student herself, pursuing a degree from Georgia State University.

Thomas W. Elliott, Jr., assistant professor in the practice of practical theology and director of Contextual Education II, received the award for Faculty Person of the Year. While this is only his second year at Candler, one nominator wrote that Elliott "sees people, not turning away from them, even in their darkest vocational, professional and personal moments."

Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor of Preaching, 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. A student nominator says that Long "does more than simply teach students; he prepares them for growth in ministry with helpful, critical feedback, and a spirit of encouragement, which creates stronger preachers and leaders."