Like many events of late, Candler’s traditional Honors Day Convocation took on a new form this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since the community was not able to gather in person for this annual celebration of vocational and academic excellence, Candler produced a video highlighting the outstanding students, faculty and staff of 2019-2020 and the awards they won. The community was invited to watch the premiere simultaneously on Facebook on May 7 at 11:00 a.m. or to view it on Vimeo.
Honorees for vocational excellence and community service
Dustin Mailman, MDiv 2020, 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. Dustin says that his time at Candler has deepened his commitment to the Christ who incarnates with and within the poor, oppressed, and disinherited. In meeting this Christ, he has been moved towards solidarity, holiness, and community with people experiencing homelessness, people who live with addiction, and people who live with mental illness. He names James Cone, Saint Oscar Romero, Howard Thurman, Robert Stafford, and Dorothy Day as spiritual mentors in his pursuit of seeking the face of Christ amidst all of God’s creation.
Deborah Fortune, MDiv 2020, received the Berta R. and James T. Laney Award in Contextual Education, presented to a third-year MDiv student who has completed both 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. Deborah says she initially struggled with being at Candler because she did not believe that seminary was the preferred path to her “purpose.” Over time, she grew fond of Candler and appreciative of the faculty, staff, and community. The opportunities afforded within her Contextual Education sites ignited her passion to care for the well-being of individuals in marginalized communities and assisted her in discerning a call to chaplaincy.
Joya Moore, MDiv 2021, received the Charles O. Smith, Jr. Scholarship, given with the support of Deen Day Smith and awarded to a second-year student with exceptional promise for service in ministry in the Baptist tradition. Joya says she has learned to embrace her Baptist tradition while engaging the scholarship of the academy. The robust nature of theological education at Candler has and continues to prepare her to be well informed and responsible as she ventures into the areas of pastoral care and psychology. She has learned that bringing her full self to the table honors herself, God and those she has been called to serve.
Astria Wilson, MDiv 2021, received the Erskine-Smith-Moseley Award, established to honor Candler’s first black academic and given annually to a student of the Black Church Studies Program who portrays prophetic and compassionate leadership. Astria was particularly inspired by an address made by the Rev. Dr. Noel Erskine to the black students of Candler at the start of the academic year, where he stated, “We must continue to fight for equality and equity as people of color in this space.” She says her involvement in the Black Church Studies Program has taught her not to be afraid of the risk, because no risk can be compared to gaining equity.
Keith Asberry II, MTS 2020, 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. During his time at Candler, Keith says has loved serving on the Office of Worship team: contributing as a worship planner, leading the liturgical dancers, and being a part of Candler’s creative community. His journey at Candler exploring the relationship of the arts and religion in African American culture has been a truly meaningful season. Through his experiences he has learned how to use the arts as a tool for self-expression, education, and community formation.
Natalie Buck, MDiv 2020, 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. Natalie says she has found it a joy and a privilege to support Candler’s worship life over the past three years. Creative and reflective worship has kept her rooted to her vocation in the church as a Candler student, and she says she is grateful for the wisdom that Assistant Dean of Worship and Music Khalia Williams and her worship planning partners have offered her.
This year there were two recipients of the Candler Community Service Award, presented to the graduating student(s) who have given outstanding service to the Candler community. The first recipient, Amy Chatelaine, MDiv 2020, says the question, “How do we belong to one another?” is what led her to Candler after working in healthcare access for vulnerable and stigmatized populations. It is a question that has guided her leadership at Candler as both a Community and Spiritual Life Coordinator with the Office of Student Life and as President of C3. She has persistently reminded those engaged in the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion to center the experiences of the most marginalized in our school, to take seriously the impact of this work on our individual and community spiritual formation, and to draw upon the resources of our faith traditions as we develop structures and practices of belonging.
The second recipient of the Candler Community Service Award is Chrystal Golden, MDiv 2020. She says that the Candler community has greatly contributed to her flourishing as a minister, and that she is always thankful to serve with and for her classmates. Specifically, she has appreciated the opportunity to be involved in various parts of student life including worship, student government, and creating community among her peers.
Zach Jones, MDiv 2020, received the John Owen Smith Award, presented to the MDiv senior who is best able to communicate faithfully and imaginatively the gospel through preaching. Zach says his meaningful engagement with Candler’s faculty through their scholarship, guidance and feedback have helped shape his theological and pastoral imagination and given him the space to grow in his preaching ministry. Through Candler’s Episcopal and Anglican Studies Program, he participated in the Episcopal Church’s Preaching Excellence Program where he studied with preaching faculty from around the country. Through Candler’s Contextual Education Program, he served as the seminarian-in-residence at St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Georgia, which was his sponsoring parish for ordination and his first welcome into the Episcopal Church. He says he is grateful for the support of St. Benedict, and gives special thanks for Colin, Nicole, Andy, Trey, Karen, and Alex with whom he has journeyed through seminary these last three years.
Nicole Lambelet, MDiv 2020, 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. Nicole says that this award is particularly meaningful to her, as she grew up in a denomination in which women weren’t allowed to preach. She especially wishes to thank Dean Khalia Williams, Dr. Ted Smith, and Dr. Kimberly Wagner. Dean Williams has accompanied Nicole in the process of developing a spirituality to sustain her in the task of preaching. Drs. Smith and Wagner encouraged her to experiment with different preaching forms to accommodate her creativity. Most of all, however, she offers gratitude for the faithfulness of God among us—the whole reason people started preaching in the first place.
Benton Sampson, MDiv 2020, 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. Benton reflects that before arriving at Candler, he was awakening from “the sleep of inhumanity.” While here, he realized that weeping, confession, and resistance are the only responses possible to the reality that innocent people are put to death, slowly and suddenly, by our social structures and human complacency. As his preaching professor, Dr. Teresa Fry Brown reminded him, “Weeping has life and tears expel infection.” From Candler, he will be found imagining and working toward individual and communal wholeness—weeping and laughing, confessing and celebrating, and resisting and rejoicing—alongside his fellow sojourners.
Rushing Johnstone Kimball, MDiv 2020, 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. When Rushing started his journey at Candler, he says he wanted nothing to do with parish ministry and didn’t know if ordination was an ideal path. He thought he would graduate from Candler and continue on an introverted ministerial path, but Candler brought him out of his comfort zone through experiences he could not have imagined. Now he reports that because of Candler’s training and the support of faculty and friends, he will be departing seminary as a candidate for ordination in The United Methodist Church and moving to Des Moines, Iowa, to be the associate minister of Plymouth Congregational Church, through their Transition-into-Ministry Residency Program.
This year there were two recipients of 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. Kimberly Akano, MDiv 2020, is a student leader who appreciates the ways Candler opens up realms of possibilities for those who seek to learn and grow in community. When it comes to academic excellence and exemplary service, she is motivated by her desire to see all people, communities, and systems flourish and reach their fullest potential. Whether leading inside or outside of the classroom, she cherishes opportunities to help people feel seen and known, and she bears witness to the joys of seeing others come alive.
The second recipient of the G. Ray Jordan Award is Kevin Lazarus, MDiv 2020, who says he has rediscovered old passions, encountered new ones, and found a supportive community to learn and to grow during his time at Candler. He now leaves the Candler community thankful for the past three years together and excited for a shared journey in ministry.
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. Kathryn Garvin, MDiv 2022, and Luke Lea, MDiv 2021, received the awards for a rising middler and senior. Kathryn says she has loved working with refugees and learning more about their journeys to resettlement in America. This work has strengthened her desire to see the church at the forefront of loving, offering hospitality to, and advocating for those most often pushed to the margins of society. Luke says he has been inspired and humbled to share learning spaces with brilliant friends, committed faculty, loving mentors, and faithful parishioners. The opportunity to critically evaluate and challenge his own tradition through the Methodist Studies Program has made him a better listener, teacher, and preacher in his current ministry contexts. Candler continues to create in him an urgent love for the Church.
This year two individuals 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. Tayler Johnson, MDiv 2021, has found Candler to be an enriching experience as he continues to discern how God might use him in ministry within The United Methodist Church. In particular, he is thankful for Contextual Education experiences that have taught him about the real purpose and meaning of being a minister in a changing Christian landscape. Meghan Woods, MDiv 2022, has loved witnessing so many different examples of leadership from faculty and staff and from her fellow students and colleagues. In Candler she has discovered a community that both affirms her as a leader and challenges her to imagine new horizons and new ways of living.
Abbey Lee Maynard, MDiv 2022, received the United Methodist Seminary Award, presented to a member of the first-year class who demonstrates outstanding scholarship and leadership ability and plans to enter parish ministry. Abbey says that being part of the Candler community has helped her grow both as a pastor and as a person. She is grateful that what she learns inside the classroom is taught with an intention of usefulness in ministry and that she has had so many people at Candler willing to help and support her.
Cassie Hawkins, MTS 2020, received the Mary Katherine (Myki) Mobley Memorial Award, which is presented to the MTS student who demonstrates academic excellence and significant social concern. In her time at Candler, Cassie learned what it could look like to combine her personal passions with her academic work. With the help of professors who consistently pushed her to dig deeper, she was able to find the questions that motivated her not only as a scholar, but as a person in the community. In this latter sense, she reached out to others in the MTS community, welcoming them and helping to establish MTS cohort identity.
Chris Cross, MDiv 2021, 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. When asked what he has found to be most meaningful at Candler, Chris says it is a tie between the vulnerability of the community and the engaging academics at Candler.
Seul-Bin Lee, MDiv 2021, 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. She says the conversations she has had with members of the Candler community are the most meaningful things she has experienced at Candler. In these conversations she has processed meanings of suffering and justice, found her excitement for classes boosted, and most of all she has found support in her academic and contextual education work. Being able to interact with great people in faith has been a blessing, and she hopes she has been a good conversation partner, too.
Jon-Philippe Ruhumuliza, MTS 2020, 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. Jon-Philippe came to Candler excited to pursue knowledge among a wide range of ideas, faith commitments and perspectives. While here, his own questions around effective integration have been greatly enriched through the many opportunities to pursue interdisciplinary conversations. He is leaving with not only an experience and a degree, but with a deep affirmation that unity can only come through struggle and a love of diversity.
John Will Rice, MDiv 2020, 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. During his time at Candler, JW has most enjoyed all of the opportunities and resources available for studying Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East. He is particularly appreciative of the Old Testament faculty for their availability and advisement over the past four years, and he considers his year studying semitics in Munich through Candler’s German exchange program one of the highlights of his academic career.
Lathem Postell, MDiv 2020, received the Russell E. Richey Award, which is presented to the student who has demonstrated excellence in Wesleyan studies. In his journey through Methodist Studies at Candler, Lathem says he has found deep theological and practical richness in Methodist theology, history, and polity. He sees the Methodist emphasis on holiness, particularly in the context of small groups, as a great strength of the Methodist tradition. As he goes forward in ministry, he hopes to empower Methodist congregations to see the vitality in their Methodist roots. This award is supported by former Candler dean and Wesleyan scholar Russ Richey and his wife, Merle Umstead Richey.
The Awards for Academic Excellence are presented to the MDiv senior and the MTS senior who, in the opinion of the faculty, have achieved the highest academic excellence. Traditionally, 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 the Emory President formally confers their degrees. This year, there was a history-making three-way tie for the Master of Divinity Award for Academic Excellence; the recipients are presented in alphabetical order.
Kimberly Akano is the first recipient of the MDiv Award for Academic Excellence. For her, Candler has been a nurturing space that has brought her profound joy. As an emerging scholar, she is most grateful for the invaluable mentorship she received as a student. Faculty and staff at Candler always encouraged her to do her best work and motivated her to reach new heights. It is because of their support that her deepest curiosities found room to grow and thrive. As she continues her academic journey, she hopes to use her gifts to benefit others.
Amy Chatelaine is the second recipient of the MDiv Award for Academic Excellence. She says that her education at Candler has been a creative and integrative endeavor. She has found life in opportunities to apply coursework in Church and Community Development to her role as C3 President, to put the Fearless Dialogues model in conversation with conflict transformation in Northern Ireland, and to draw upon skills from CPE to create space for loss, uncertainty, and lament during the COVID-19 pandemic. With gratitude and admiration, she recognizes she has learned just as much from the wisdom, curiosities, and care of her classmates as she has from course bibliographies.
Nicole Lambelet is the third recipient of the MDiv Award for Academic Excellence. She says that she is humbled and honored to receive this award alongside Kim Akano and Amy Chatelaine, who have been wonderful thought partners and friends providing her with encouragement and inspiration throughout her Candler journey. She also thanks her teachers, especially those who took the time to push her, her fun-loving Episcopal Studies cohort, her Contextual Education supervisor the Rev. Cathy Zappa, and most especially her family, who remained patient with her in the struggle and joy of learning and encouraged her through their love to be all the more confident in God’s provision.
Tom Green is the recipient of the MTS Award for Academic Excellence. He says he is grateful for the wonderful spaces that Candler offers, whether in the classroom, Pitts Library, or Cannon Chapel. He has also found meaning in the deep, thoughtful relationships that he has formed with Candler faculty, especially with those who teach historical and theological studies. He has also gained true friendships with his fellow students, but specifically with the other members of the MTS cohort, without whom he could not have found his own, distinct academic voice.
Faculty and Staff Honors
Shelly Hart and Sarah Bogue received the award for Outstanding Service to the Candler Community by a Staff Member, conferred by Candler students and known in past years as the “Staff Person of the Year Award.” Shelly Hart 02T, director of academic administration and registrar, is described by students as an anchor of the school who has helped them feel “empowered, excited and secure” since day one of their academic journey, and whose diligence and care have been indispensable during the complexities of the pandemic. As one graduating student wrote in their nomination, “My degree will always have Shelly Hart’s name attached to it.” Sarah Bogue, director of digital learning, played a fundamental role as the school transitioned to online learning, and is described by some of her student nominators as “a great listener,” “the MVP of Candler,” and “the Victorinox Swiss Army knife of human beings, who can do it all, and with great care.”
Khalia Williams, assistant dean of worship and music, assistant professor in the practice of worship, and co-director of the Baptist Studies Program, received the award for Outstanding Service to the Candler Community by a Faculty Member, conferred by students and known in past years as the “Faculty Person of the Year Award.” As a dynamic leader, teacher, and mentor, Dean Williams faithfully contributes to many areas of Candler’s vibrant communal life. Her dedication to the Candler community is felt in the warmth of every Candler worship service, whether in person or online.
Helen Jin Kim, assistant professor of American religious history, received the “On Eagle’s Wings” Award for Excellence in Teaching, conferred by the senior class in recognition of faithful and dedicated service. Dr. Kim is known by students for her commitment to “make the journey” with them, accepting each student wherever they are, but expecting them not to stay there, as one nominator put it. As she has challenged students to read more widely, think harder, and write more clearly, she has also inspired them to live more clear-sighted and discerning lives. Even before the pandemic, she began every class by checking in with students, something that became particularly important in the transition to online learning.
Helen Jin Kim also won the Provost’s Distinguished Teaching Award for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Education, an award given annually by the Emory University Provost to a faculty member in each of Emory’s seven graduate and professional schools in recognition of outstanding scholars who excel in teaching and mentoring, and who foster participation, inquiry and creative expression. Dr. Kim is celebrated by students for her passion and creativity in the classroom, and her genuine support of the Candler student community. Students have remarked that her classes are “life-changing,” “amazing,” and “inspiring.” She is a mentor who motivates students to do their best work, and she exemplifies ongoing commitment to teaching that enriches Emory’s impact and eminence.
Congratulations to all of this year’s awardees!