Candler’s annual Honors Day Convocation took place on Thursday, April 14 in Cannon Chapel, where awards were presented to students during a celebration of vocational and academic excellence.

Honorees for vocational excellence and community service

Bernadette O’Neill 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 graduate of Emory College, Bernadette has served as president of Candler’s Social Concerns Network and a Youth Theological Initiative staff member. She coordinated an international Peace Day campaign and facilitated the Emory-wide Fair Food Campaign with The Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Last summer, Bernadette interned for three months at Missionvale Care Center in South Africa through the Candler Advantage program. She is a member of the National Council of Pax Christi USA, a Catholic organization working for peace for all humankind and witnessing to the peace of Christ, through prayer, study, and action.

David McWilliams 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. A graduate of Oklahoma Christian University, David has completed Candler Con Ed placements at Emmaus House and Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church, and currently serves as a student local pastor at Hapeville First United Methodist Church through Candler’s Teaching Parish program. Outside of Candler life, David is an accomplished runner, winning the 2015 Georgia Publix Marathon.  

Darci Ann Jaret 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 graduate of Georgia State University, Darci is an advocate and artist with a commitment to ministry and community organizing. She has assisted churches and nonprofits with membership relations, customer service, office management, material design, and administration. Darci currently serves as a Candler admissions ambassador and as administrative assistant at First Baptist Church in Decatur.

Rhyne (left) and Bowles (right) with Rev. Barbara Day Miller.Kelly Rhyne 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. Kelly received her bachelor of arts degree in theater from Columbia College in Chicago, and has performed with the Saint Sebastian Players, as well as at Sea World and Walt Disney World Resort. Before enrolling at Candler, she taught music, theater and dance. Kelly is a Candler Singer, a founding member of the Candler Players, and serves as president of Candler’s Reconciling Ministries Network.

Genevieve (Gennie) Bowles 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. A graduate of Virginia Tech, Gennie is a member of the Candler Singers and Candler’s Worship Planning Team. She leads Morning Prayer and Friday Eucharist services, and also serves as music librarian for the Office of Worship.

Iyabo Onipede received the Community Service Award, which is presented to the graduating student who has given outstanding service to the Candler community. Iyabo is a graduate of Goucher College and earned 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. At Candler, Iyabo has served as president of the Candler African Students Association and as a Faith and Justice leader with the Youth Theological Initiative.

Monica Sams receives her award.Monica Sams 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. Monica graduated from Armstrong State University, and currently serves as pastor of Balls Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Jeffersonville, Georgia. Before coming to Candler, Monica served as pastor of Magnolia Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Brunswick, Georgia, and as a Medicare analyst with national health insurance companies.

Estelli Ramos 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. Estelli is a social worker, and serves as a case manager for the Unaccompanied Minors Program at Lutheran Social Services of Georgia. He is also associate minister at Joy Metropolitan Community Church in Orlando, Florida. Estelli holds degrees from Northeastern Illinois University and The University of Chicago.

Brandon Harris 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. Brandon graduated from Lincoln University of Pennsylvania and The Institute for Responsible Citizenship, and is a former Undergraduate Fellow of The Fund for Theological Education. At Candler, he has served as a teaching assistant for the Candler ADVANCE program, a member of the Admissions, Scholarship, and Honors Committee, a student life coordinator, and a research assistant and colloquy leader. Last summer, Brandon was a young adult fellow at Peachtree Presbyterian Church through the Candler Advantage program. He is currently a pastoral assistant for College Ministry at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Ashley Waite Riddle and Dominique Lester 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. Ashley graduated from the University of Georgia. She serves as assistant director of the recreation ministry at St. Paul United Methodist Church, where she also leads the youth group, an adult Sunday school class, and the St. Paul on Tap Bible study ministry. Dominique, a graduate of Paine College, has served as office assistant for Candler’s Black Church Studies, Youth Theological Initiative (YTI), and Women, Theology and Ministry programs. He is currently the youth minister at Bethel Baptist Church and the youth and young adult minister at Tabernacle Baptist Church. This summer, Dominique will return as a YTI staffer for his third summer, serving in a leadership role as mentor coordinator.

Honorees in Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges

Seven Candler students are being recognized through selection for Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges: Janelle Adams, Anna Blinn Cole, Hannah Ebling-Artz, Brenna Lakeson, Bernadette O’Neill, Gina Robinson, and Caroline Saxton. This honor recognizes students who have made impressive contributions to Candler’s quality of life and education through service, leadership, scholarship and character.

Janelle Adams is a graduate of Rhodes College. After working with refugees through Lutheran Services of Georgia, she served as a consultant for The Clarkston Early Learning Community Trust. Following a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, she co-facilitated the creation of a public art installation at Candler, and co-wrote a critical reflection on the theology of migration. Last summer, Janelle served as a community engagement intern at East Belfast Mission in Northern Ireland through the Candler Advantage program. She is currently teaching a course at Lee Arrendale State Prison as part of the Certificate in Theology program. Janelle has authored and co-authored several publications based on research done through courses at Candler and Rhodes.

Anna Blinn Cole is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the University of Delaware. At Candler, she has been a student spiritual life coordinator, a member of the Candler Creation Keepers leadership team, and a member of the Centennial Food (In)Security Initiative. She is on the steering committee for the UMC’s annual Caretakers of Creation Conference. Anna has also served as a pastoral resident at North Decatur United Methodist Church.

Hannah Ebling-Artz graduated from William Jewell College, and serves as a garden educator and intern coordinator for Emory University’s Office of Sustainability. At Candler, she has been involved with Lutheran Refugee Services of Georgia, served as a faith and justice leader for YTI, and was a pastoral intern at North Decatur United Methodist Church. Hannah has also been a farm and market volunteer at Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture, visited with immigrants and refugees at the Stewart Detention Center, and lived and worked at Jubilee Partners, an intentional Christian service community in rural Northeast Georgia.  

Brenna Lakeson, a graduate of Elon College, has interned at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church, the Gateway Center, and the Medici Project while at Candler. She traveled to South Korea in May 2015 with the Moral Leadership in a Global Context course, and was active in the anti-death penalty campaign “Kelly on My Mind.”

Bernadette O’Neill’s biography can be seen above as the recipient of the Claude H. Thompson Award.

Gina Robinson graduated from Oxford College and Emory University. She is president of the Candler Coordinating Council (C3), and has also served as president of the Candler Baptist Community and as a representative to the University Senate. She traveled with the Moral Leadership in a Global Context course to South Korea in May 2015, and also completed a summer internship as the youth chaplain for the Chautauqua community on Lake Michigan. While at Candler, Gina also served as the youth leader of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Conyers, Georgia.

Caroline Saxton is a graduate of Smith College. At Candler, she has been a student life coordinator for Candler’s Office of Student Programming, orientation coordinator, and a circulation student assistant at Pitts Theology Library. Caroline has also served on the Worship Planning Team, as treasurer of the Candler Evangelical Society, student representative to the Women, Theology and Ministry Board, and executive vice president of C3.

Janelle Adams 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, 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.” Janelle’s biography can be found above as a recipient of Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges.

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. Emily Ripley and Jason Ratliff received the awards for a rising middler and senior. A Northeastern University graduate, Emily serves as a youth ministry intern at Haygood United Methodist Church. She is also on the curriculum development team for Emory Create, where she works to develop educational curricula about environmental sustainability for clergy and businesses. Jason, a graduate of King College, serves as pastor of Prospect United Methodist Church in Toccoa, Georgia, through Candler’s Teaching Parish program. Before coming to Candler, Jason served as executive pastor at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City, Tennessee, and as director of In-Home Programs for the Holston United Methodist Home for Children.  

Tiffania Willetts and Ashley Beech Will received The United Methodist First Career Seminary Award, which is presented to a student(s) 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. Tiffania, a rising Candler middler, is a graduate of Princeton University. After college, she served as a mission fellow in Argentina and Missouri with the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. She works in Candler’s communications office. The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church has elected Tiffania to serve as a delegate to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in July and a reserve delegate to the General Conference in May. Ashley, a rising senior, is a graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. At Candler, she has completed internships at Eastside United Methodist Church, Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, Jonesboro United Methodist Church, Apex United Methodist Church, and Emory University Hospital-Midtown. Ashley is a member of Candler’s Social Concerns Network, a participant in the Candler Class Meeting, and has served as a lay delegate to the North Carolina Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

John Tomlin receives his award.Benjamin (Ben) Adams and John Tomlin 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. Ben, a graduate of Duke University, serves as director of Development and External Affairs for the KIPP ENC Public School program. He was elected as a delegate to the 2004 and 2008 General Conferences of The United Methodist Church, and has also served on the North Carolina Conference’s Board of Higher Education and Ministry. John, a Virginia Tech graduate, serves as a student local pastor of Hopewell and Whitesville United Methodist Churches, both in the LaGrange District. Before coming to Candler, John worked for Norfolk Southern Railway Companies as a civil engineer.

Angela Johnson 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. Angela is a graduate of Spelman College, and currently serves as vice president of Candler’s Black Student Caucus and as a spiritual formation coordinator in the Office of Student Programming. She is also an intern in Emory’s Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, where she oversees Café Unity, a weekly program for undergraduates that explores social justice topics through the art of spoken word.

Sophie Callahan received the James D. and Alice Slay Award, which is presented to the second-year MDiv student who exhibits outstanding academic performance and promise for pastoral ministry. Sophie graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University. She serves as co-president of Candler’s Social Concerns Network, communications coordinator in the Office of Student Programming, and is a member of the Admissions, Scholarship, and Honors Committee. Sophie has interned at Northlake Church of Christ in Tucker, Georgia.

Tyler Dunstan 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. Tyler graduated from the University of Missouri, where he was the recipient of a faculty-sponsored undergraduate research grant for work on early interpretations of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. This semester, he presented a paper on “Confession and Narrative: Reading Mark 15:39 with Paul Ricoeur” at the Southeastern Commission Study of Religion Conference. Tyler has studied Classical Greek, New Testament Greek, Biblical Hebrew, and German.  

Rebekah Haigh 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. Rebekah, a graduate of Rochester College, is skilled in Koine Greek and Biblical Hebrew. In addition to her academic interests, she is a religious artist specializing in fabric art, and is writing a novel set in the second century B.C.E.

Brett Isernhagen received the Russell E. Richey Award, which is presented to the student who has demonstrated excellence in Wesleyan studies. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Brett serves as pastor of Campbellton United Methodist Church in Fairburn, Georgia, through Candler’s Teaching Parish program. He has served as treasurer of Candler’s Pan Methodist Council and is a leadership team member of the North Georgia Reconciling Ministries Network. Brett has been published in WorshipArts and in March presented a paper, “Perfecting the Image: The Imago Dei, the Great Chain of Being, and a Wesleyan Case for the Rights of Nonhuman Persons,” at the 2016 meeting of the Wesleyan Philosophical Society.

Rachael White received the Myki Mobley Award, which is presented to MTS students who demonstrate academic excellence and significant social concern. Rachael graduated from Lee University in 2011 with a BA in English and minors in TESOL and Biblical Languages. She is a December 2015 graduate of Candler's MTS program with an area of focus in History, Scripture, and Tradition and particular emphasis on Hebrew Bible and the intersections between theology and literature. While at Candler, she worked in the Office of Student Programming as communications coordinator, academic skills tutor, and student life coordinator, served as the housing coordinator in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, and was a research assistant for Dr. Jacob Wright.

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.

Janelle Adams received the MDiv Academic Excellence Award. Her biography can be seen above as the recipient of Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges and the G. Ray Jordan Award. Janelle’s GPA at the end of the fall semester was 4.0.

Grace Rivenbark received the MTS Academic Excellence Award. Grace graduated from Georgia State University’s Honors College with a concentration in Religious Studies. While at Candler, she has worked in the Woodruff Library as an academic skills tutor. Grace’s GPA at the end of the fall semester was 3.9.

Other recognition

Second-year MDiv student Larry Gipson was recognized for receiving the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe Keeping the Faith Award from Emory University’s Office of Campus Life. The award is presented to an individual, department, or organization that has made meaningful contributions toward the creation of a welcoming and accessible campus environment for queer people of faith at Emory University. Larry, a graduate of Yale University, serves as chair of community building for Candler’s student organization Sacred Worth. He is also a founding member of C.O.R.E. (the Candler Committee on Racial Equality), and the founder and organizer of Candler’s fellowship group for United Church of Christ students.

Bernadette O’Neill was recognized for being named Graduate Student Government President of the Year at the 2016 Emory Leadership, Service, and Diversity Awards for her vision and activism through Candler’s Social Concerns Network. Her biography can be seen above as recipient of the Claude H. Thompson Award.

Bishop Woodie White was also honored as he prepares to retire from Candler at the end of this academic year after serving as bishop-in-residence since 2004.

Candler’s faculty and staff honorees for outstanding teaching and service will be announced at the End of the Year Party on April 22.