Candler’s annual Honors Day Convocation took place on Tuesday, April 24 in Cannon Chapel, where awards were presented to students during a celebration of vocational and academic excellence. Click here for more photos from the event. 

Honorees for vocational excellence and community service

Hangoul ChoiHangoul Choi 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. Hangoul is a native of South Korea. After studying theology at Yonsei University and working in South Korean churches, she came to Candler to pursue further academic and ministerial opportunities that would allow her to grow as a female leader. She has served as both vice-president and president of the Emory Korean Graduate Student Association (EKSGA). Through that leadership, Hangoul has worked actively for gender, racial, and ethnic justice on behalf of the Candler community, building upon the solidarity and collective wisdom of EKSGA members and responding to student concerns and hopes by creating constructive spaces for conversation about students, staff, faculty, and alumni. During her time at Candler, she has worked with refugees in Clarkston, served in a special needs ministry for children with developmental disabilities, completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, and currently serves Korean American students at Shalom Methodist Church.

Hillary TaylorFrances Hillary Taylor 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. Prior to enrolling at Candler, Hillary served as a young adult missionary for the Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church in South Africa and Miami, Florida. At Candler, she has served as co-president of the Social Concerns Network, and has been active with the Candler Creation Keepers, Sacred Worth, Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and the Candler Fair Food Movement. Hillary will graduate with a certificate in Religious Education and a concentration in Justice, Peacebuilding, and Conflict Transformation. In her spare time she sells books at Barnes and Noble, and after graduation she plans to return to the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church to be, in her words, “a missionary for justice.”

Allison Henderson-BrooksAllison Henderson-Brooks 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. Allison is a graduate of Spelman College and came to Candler after a career in hospitality management, during which she also worked as a youth minister at Fellowship of Love Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. At Candler, she is an Arthur Vining Davis Criminal Justice Fellow and a leader in the Baptist Studies Program. In 2017 and 2018, she was an invited guest preacher at more than twenty churches, conferences and convocations across the Southeast.

Jacqueline NewsomeJacqueline Newsome 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. At New York University, Jacqueline was a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar, majoring in politics and minoring in religious studies. While in law school at the University of Chicago, her activities included membership in a legal aid clinic and the university’s Police Review Board. She has also worked as a judicial clerk for several justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court. At Candler, Jacqueline is a Woodruff Fellow and has served at Lee Arrendale State Women’s Prison through her Contextual Education I placement, participated in the Black Church Studies Program, worked in the Barton Youth Appeal Clinic at the law school, and been an active member of the Black Student Caucus and the Candler Baptist community. Her community involvement since arriving in Atlanta includes the Southern Center for Human Rights, Redeeming Justice ATL, and REACH Movement Networks.

Virginia GreerVirginia Greer 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. Virginia has a degree in music production and recording technology, a certificate in Christian Leadership, and experience as a student worship arts coordinator from Shenandoah University. She has served in the key role of sacristan, ensuring that all the various logistical preparations and elements of worship, from bread baking to liturgical planning to the washing up are done faithfully and in good order. Virginia is an alto in the Candler Singers and also has contributed her gifts of flute playing and liturgical writing to Candler’s worship life. She has also been involved in the Candler Latin American Community during her time at Candler. Virginia is a member of the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts and the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church. 

Byron WrateeByron Wratee 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. Byron has been, at various times, a marketing intern who actually made an in-person proposal to Steve Jobs at Apple, a writer and editor, an attorney, a political campaign director, and a combat medic in the United States Army, serving in Afghanistan. At Candler, he is the president of the Black Student Caucus, an admissions ambassador, a representative for the Emory Graduate Student Government Association, and a board member of the Aquinas Center. Byron has made a strong impression as  a musician and worship leader through his roles as a worship planning team leader, vocalist and song leader, and tenor in both the Candler Singers and the Emory Concert Choir. 

Natalie Faria-CampbellNatalie Faria-Campbell received the Candler Community Service Award, which is presented to the graduating student who has given outstanding service to the Candler community. Natalie is a Woodruff Fellow and an Emory Center for Women Graduating Woman of Excellence. She has served the Candler community as a peer advisor, admissions ambassador, a student member of the Personnel and Academic Policy Committee and the Admissions, Scholarship and Honors Committee, and this year as president of Candler’s student government association, C3. An MDiv student graduating with a concentration in Justice, Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation, Natalie has also served as a Youth Theological Initiative staffer.

Tavares StephensTavares Stephens 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. Before coming to Candler, Tavares taught high school literature and composition, and worked as an instructional coach before founding several organizations focused on the motivation, development, and professional growth of teens and young adults. During his seminary career, he has served as assistant student pastor at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church and has worked with the nonprofit organization Fearless Dialogues. Tavares is an author, writer, motivational speaker, and performance poet.

Kiya Davis ShearsKiya Davis Shears 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. At Candler, Kiya has worked in the Writing Center as an academic skills tutor, and in the offices of the Laney Program in Moral Leadership and Admissions and Financial Aid. When she served at the Gateway Center for her Con Ed I site placement, she led a weekly poetry class for people facing homelessness. Kiya also participated in the Bahamas Summer Internship program, serving as the sole pastor for a congregation on Inaugua, Bahamas.

Jess CusickJess Cusick 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. Jess graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in religion and women’s studies. At Candler, she has provided administrative support for the Women, Theology and Ministry program, developing new opportunities for students pursuing a WTM certificate. Jess is very active in the Candler student group Sacred Worth, and served this year on the executive board as advocacy and education chair. Outside of Candler, she has worked in the communications department of the General Board of Global Ministries and co-founded Curate Open Mic, a monthly open-mic poetry/acoustic music evening at a local coffeehouse. Jess also serves as director of youth ministry at St. Mark United Methodist Church in Atlanta.

Andrea' CummingsAndrea’ Cummings 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. Andrea’ has used various opportunities at Candler to grow and be prepared for her calling, from coursework to Contextual Education. Last summer, she was accepted to the Candler Advantage summer internship program, serving at Chapel Roswell, where she has continued to serve in ministerial leadership. After graduation, Andrea’ will serve as an associate/campus pastor in the Arkansas Conference of The United Methodist Church, with a charge to start a new ministry.

Haley AndreadesHaley Andreades and Emily Ripley Carroll received the G. Ray Jordan Award, which is presented to the MDiv senior(s) who show unusual promise for usefulness in ministry and demonstrate excellence in integrating academic study with constructive leadership and service. Haley earned a degree in religious studies from Vanderbilt University, which included the opportunity to participate in a service learning study abroad program focusing on poverty and development in Cape Town, South Africa. At Candler, she has served as a peer advisor, the adventure coordinator for Candler Creation Keepers, and the coordinator for Candler’s intramural sports program, which grew both in participation numbers and talent the past three years. She has also been a student member of the Personnel and Academic Policy Committee and a leadership committee member of the Emory Girlhood Project. Haley helped to develop an environmental sustainability curriculum for Candler’s internship program and has been an instructor in the theological certificate program at Lee Arrendale Women’s Prison. She also held a summer internship Emily Ripley Carrollwith A Christian Ministry in the National Parks, working in California’s Sequoia National Park. Emily is a Woodruff Fellow who brought to seminary an academic background in biology and environmental science with a concentration in wildlife studies. Outside the classroom, she has led the Candler Creation Keepers in organizing numerous events focused on gardening, hiking, sustainability, and eco-theology, including a Lenten carbon fast in 2017. Emily’s religion and health certificate capstone project and her MDiv thesis focus on the climate change crisis. In 2017, she also served as project manager for the 2017 CREATE Conference at Emory, an interdisciplinary conversation about environmental sustainability that brought together national and international participants. From that conference she developed an educational curriculum about environmental sustainability in tension with economic, social, cultural and religious concerns. 

Honorees for academic excellence

Jacob AhearnThe 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. Jacob Ahearn and Andrew Baten received the awards for a rising middler and senior. Jacob is a graduate of Lewis and Clark College, where he majored in religious studies, minored in Japanese and conducted research on Japanese Christianity for his senior thesis. At Candler, he is pursuing a concentration in Justice, Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation and a certificate in Human Rights. Last summer, Jacob worked as a resident counselor for Andrew Batenthe Camp and Retreat Ministry Board of the Oregon and Idaho United Methodist Church. Andrew is a certified candidate for ordination as an elder in the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church and a graduate of the University of Florida, where he served as assistant director of the Gator Wesley Foundation. At Candler, Andrew is a leader in Candler Creation Keepers. He’s also a musician, playing cello, guitar and piano. Since 2014, Andrew has served as part-time director of youth ministry at Oak Forest United Methodist Church in Hayesville, North Carolina.

Lucas TribbleLucas Tribble 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. Lucas holds a degree in industrial and systems engineering from Auburn University and is a Sherman Scholar at Candler. A licensed local pastor in the Alabama-West Florida Conference of The UMC, Lucas serves as associate pastor of two congregations through Candler’s Teaching Parish program. He has participated in numerous mission trips and provided leadership in a variety of ministerial roles both in the church and at Candler. This summer, Lucas will be appointed to serve as associate pastor of First United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.  

Natalie BuckNatalie Buck and Anna Swygert received the United Methodist Scholarship Seminary Award, presented to member(s) of the current first-year class who demonstrate outstanding scholarship and leadership ability and plan to enter parish ministry. Natalie is a graduate of the University of North Dakota, and is a Sherman Scholar at Candler. In the summers before seminary, she served as chaplain and programming assistant at Lake Poinsett United Methodist Camp in South Dakota and was an intern with the Elisha Project at Wesley UMC in Grand Forks, North Dakota. At Candler, Natalie serves on the Office of Worship team and will be the treasurer and hiking coordinator for Candler Creation Keepers next year. Anna graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience and a minor in religion, Anna Swygertearning a certificate in spirituality and health. Before coming to seminary, she was involved in a number of organizations providing support for children and young people with severe or terminal illnesses, organizing Relay for Life events for the American Cancer Society and serving as a captain for Streetlight, a peer-support program for young adults with chronic and terminal illnesses. She also served as a counselor at the Life Enrichment Center in Florida, directing intergenerational summer camp programs. At Candler, Anna has been a student chaplain at the Helms Facility of the Georgia Department of Corrections through the Contextual Education curriculum.

Tala AlRahebTala AlRaheb received the Myki Mobley Award, which is presented to the MTS student who demonstrates academic excellence and significant social concern. Tala majored in psychology and religion at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Before enrolling at Candler, she was an intern at the International Center of Bethlehem and the Guidance and Training Center for Child and Family, both in Bethlehem, Palestine. At Candler, Tala has served as an admissions ambassador, community and spiritual life coordinator and communications coordinator for the Office of Student Programming, MTS representative on the Candler Coordinating Council, a member of the Senior Class Gift Campaign Committee, and student member of the Curriculum and Policy Committee. Her academic interests include a feminist method that highlights the voices of Christian women in Palestine. Next year, Tala will be a student in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion.

Brandeis TullosBrandeis Tullos 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. After a first career in business, Brandeis has immersed herself in seminary life. She was a first-year MDiv representative on the Candler Coordinating Council, and this year has served as C3’s vice president. She is a member of Emory’s Graduate Student Government Association, a student member of the Community and Diversity Committee at Candler, and was inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society at Emory this year. A licensed minister at Zion Hill Baptist Church in Atlanta, Brandeis will serve as next year’s president of the Candler Coordinating Council.

Ben WillsBen Wills 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. Ben is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Georgia, where he majored in psychology with minors in vocal performance and religion. He served as youth pastor at Washington First United Methodist Church in Washington, Georgia for four years, and was a small group leader at the Wesley Foundation at UGA. A certified candidate for ordained ministry as an elder, and a licensed local pastor in the North Georgia Conference of The UMC, Ben currently serves as pastor in charge of Pleasant Valley UMC in Monroe, Georgia. There, is a member of the Monroe Area Ministers Association and a pastoral volunteer at FISH Community Service Ministries.

Eric PrachtErich Pracht 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. Erich graduated from Toccoa Falls College with a major in biblical studies and a minor in Greek, and from a master’s program at Columbia International University with a concentration in theological studies. Erich will graduate from Candler this spring with his ThM degree in biblical studies, with a thesis entitled “The New Agave: Tragedy and the Tragic Vision in Josephus’s Story of Mary.” This summer, he will study New Testament at Aarhus University in Denmark.

Jeehyun LeeJeehyun 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. Jeehyun trained in the field of psychology at Ewah Women’s University in South Korea. As she has pursued theological studies, first at Calvin Theological Seminary and now at Candler, she has brought these two disciplines together, to see how her understanding of psychology might lead to new insights in biblical studies. Among other things, she has explored how the role of narrativizing experience in the aftermath of trauma might be used to understand the book of Job, and how psychological shame might play a positive role in repairing relationships after a breach, as one sees in some of the literature produced after the Exile in Judah.  

Jayde RasbandJayde Rasband received the Russell E. Richey Award, which is presented to the student who has demonstrated excellence in Wesleyan studies. Jayde arrived at Candler after earning an undergraduate degree in Christian education and biblical studies at Huntingdon College, where she was recognized as both an academic and service leader. At Candler, she has continued to provide leadership in a number of arenas, including the Candler Student Alumni Board, Senior Class Gift Campaign Committee, Candler Reconciling Ministries, Candler Coordinating Council Executive Board, Candler Social Media Task Force, and the Office of Worship planning team. In 2016, Jayde served as a mentor for the Youth Theological Initiative.

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.

Linda StephanLinda Stephan received the MDiv Award for Academic Excellence. Linda’s first career was in journalism, where she worked as a public radio reporter, producer, host, web editor, director and general manager—not always at the same time. She is a certified candidate for ministry as an elder in the West Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church, Grand Traverse District, where she will be commissioned this June. At Candler, Linda has been a Carpenter Scholar and a Sherman Scholar, combining her academic interests with her seminary commitments. She created a four-episode podcast exploring issues of evangelism and its intersections with disability, and focused her Candler Advantage ministry internship on inclusive liturgy design, launching a pilot worship service created for persons with disabilities and special needs, as well as families with young children. Fluent in Swedish, Linda studied abroad for a semester through Candler’s international exchange program at Stockholm School of Theology. She has also served as a writing and academic skills tutor in the Office of Student Programming.

Sarah KotheSarah Kothe received the MTS Award for Academic Excellence. Sarah is a graduate of Boston College, where she double majored in biology and theology and completed course work in Buddhism and development, Nepalese culture and the Tibetan language at the Center for Buddhist Studies at a monastery in Nepal. At Candler, she has worked in the Office of Student Programming as a writing and academic skills tutor and has been a colloquy leader for the History of Early Christian Thought. Sarah has also been an admissions ambassador, an MTS representative to the Candler Coordinating Council, a Pitts Library Scholar, coordinator of the Sophia Forum, and vice president of the Candler Latin American Community.

Faculty and Staff Honorees

Candler students select faculty and staff recipients.

Sarah BogueSarah Bogue, reference and instruction librarian at Pitts Theology Library, received the award for Staff Person of the Year. One nominator praised Bogue’s “high-energy, high-scholarship positive attitude,” writing that she “is such a gift to the Candler community. She helps students learn about research, provides her time and expertise willingly, and genuinely cares about both the well-being and the learning of students in the Candler community. In addition, her own scholarly work and interests serve as a great role model for students. Her passion for her work is contagious. Her willingness to sit with students compels us to become better researchers, better writers, and most of all, better humans. Her welcoming presence in the library creates an environment that has become a second home to many of us during our time at Candler.”

Kwok Pui LanKwok Pui Lan, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Theology, received the award for Faculty Person of the Year. Presenting the award, C3 President Natalie Faria-Campbell said, “When Dr. Kwok arrived on campus for orientation, the building was buzzing about how lucky we were to have a leading scholar in post-colonial and feminist theology visiting us for the year. But not just that—people were also buzzing about how incredibly kind and genuine she was to everyone she met.” One student nominator wrote, “She is phenomenal. Her teaching is both theoretical and spiritual. She honors students and respects difference, and serves as a mentor for Asian and Asian-American students at Candler.” Another student said, “Dr. Kwok is an exceptional teacher who honors the voice of every student, and her teaching engages the mind and the spirit.” Kwok will continue to teach at Candler during the 2018-19 academic year.

Brent StrawnBrent A. Strawn, Professor of Old Testament, received the On Eagle’s Wings Excellence in Teaching Award, conferred by the senior class in recognition of faithful and dedicated service. One nominator wrote, “Dr. Strawn is the most engaging and entertaining professor I have ever had. He has a passion for the Old Testament that is so contagious that students fall in love with it as well.” Third-year MDiv student Brittani Magee wrote in her nomination, “Of all the classes I have taken at Candler, one of the most memorable was Old Testament 501. In spite of the class being right after lunchtime, Dr. Strawn brought such knowledge and energy into the room that many of us were left sitting on the edge of our seats.”