Distinguished Alumni/ae Award Recipients
2015 - Dr. James L. Crenshaw, PhD'64
Dr. James L. Crenshaw, Ph.D.’64, was born in Sunset, South Carolina. He majored in English at Furman University, graduating in 1956 with a bachelor of arts. Four years later, he received a bachelor of divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Crenshaw earned his doctorate in religion in 1964 and taught at Atlantic Christian College and Mercer University before returning to Vanderbilt in 1970. He taught on campus for 17 years before going to Duke University, where he became the Robert L. Flowers Distinguished Professor of Old Testament. Crenshaw has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Society of Religion in Higher Education and American Council of Learned Societies, among others. He was named a Pew Evangelical Scholar in 1996.
After becoming an emeritus professor, Crenshaw moved back to Nashville, where he has taught in the Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning at Vanderbilt.
2015 - The Reverend Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D., MDiv'86
The Reverend Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D., M.Div.‘86, is a native of Nashville, TN. He holds a bachelor of arts, cum laude, from Harvard University; a doctor of medicine degree from Harvard Medical School; and a Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School.
Dr. Robinson has served as pastor and chief executive of St. Andrew AME Church in Memphis, Tennessee, since 1991. He practiced and taught internal medicine at Vanderbilt for 10 years and served for 12 years as an assistant dean at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. He founded The Works, a nonprofit organization that partners with United Way to impact lives in the Memphis area. A lifelong advocate for improving the health of the public, Dr. Robinson served as Tennessee's first African-American Commissioner of Health under Governor Phil Bredesen. Last February he became president and CEO of the United Way of the Mid-South.
2014 - Bishop Joseph A. Johnson Jr., BDiv’54, PhD’58
Bishop Johnson received the award posthumously. His granddaughter, Rev. Cynthia Johnson-Oliver, accepted the award on his behalf.
In 1953, Bishop Johnson became the first African American to be admitted to Vanderbilt University. He went on to become the first African American to graduate, receiving the Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1954, and the first to receive the Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1958. In 1971, he was elected to the Vanderbilt Board of Trust and two years later preached at the Divinity School's Cole Lectures
Learn more about Bishop Johnson and the Bishop Joseph Johnson History Project.
2014 - Reverend Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree, PhD’63
Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree is a United Methodist clergyman and a distinguished scholar of theological ethics and Christian social ethics. His lived commitment to social justice stretches back more than five decades to his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Ogletree's dedication to civil rights includes his participation as a Vanderbilt student in the Nashville sit-in movement to integrate lunch counters. He was a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee while working with James Lawson, John Lewis, Diane Nash and other social justice activists. Later, as a Vanderbilt professor, he supported school integration through his advisory board role with Concerned Citizens for Improved Schools. Ogletree taught as a theologian at Yale Divinity School before his retirement in 2009, and before that at Drew Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt Divinity School and Chicago Theological Seminary. He served terms as dean at both Yale and Drew and is a past president of the Society of Christian Ethics.
Learn more about Rev. Dr. Tom Ogletree.
2014 - The Reverend Becca Stevens, MDiv’90
Rev. Becca Stevens is one of the premiere preachers and speakers in the United States proclaiming love as the most powerful force for social change. She is an Episcopal priest and founder of Magdalene, residential communities of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction. She founded Thistle Farms in 2001 which currently employs nearly 50 residents and graduates, and houses a natural body care line, a paper and sewing studio and the Thistle Stop Café. She demonstrates that love is good business and raises millions of dollars annually for the organizations she runs.
Learn more about Rev. Becca Stevens and Thistle Farms.
2003 - The Reverend Charlotte Hotopp Zachary, Oberlin BD'57
The Rev. Charlotte Hotopp Zachary, who exemplified the ideals of the "School of Prophets," received the award posthumously in 2003.
2000 - Reverend Dr. Gardner C. Taylor, Oberlin BD'40
The Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor was chosen for his exceptionally courageous ministry as a preacher, teacher, pastor, and prophet to the church and society. Learn more about Dr. Taylor.
1998 - Reverend Dr. Fred Craddock, PhD'64
The Rev. Dr. Fred Craddock revolutionized the art of preaching. Learn more about Dr. Craddock.
1996 - Reverend James Lawson, D'60
An activist and university professor, Rev. James Lawson was a leading theoretician and tactician of nonviolence within the American Civil Rights Movement. Learn more about Rev. Lawson.