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Distinguished Alumni/ae Award Honorees

We are pleased to announce this year's Distinguished Alumni/ae Award recipients for the Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion.

James Sanders

Divinity School Distinguished Alumni/ae Award recipient: 

Dr. James A. Sanders, B.A. '48, B.D. '51

Dr. James A. Sanders is a distinguished leader in New Testament scholarship, and has helped shape a more expansive biblical worldview for several generations of seminarians and the mission and work of ecclesial bodies. 

Dr. Sanders is Founder and President Emeritus, Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center for Preservation and Research, Claremont, California. Under his direction the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center houses the most complete and best preserved collection of archival quality films of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the world; museums in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the world have ordered films of the Scrolls from the Center. 

He was professor of intertestamental and biblical studies at the Claremont School of Theology (CST) from 1977 to 1997, while concurrently professor of religion at the Claremont Graduate School. Prior to going to Claremont Sanders was professor of Old Testament first at Colgate Rochester Divinity School in Rochester NY (1954-65) and then at Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University in New York City (1965-77). After formal retirement in Claremont in 1997 he was visiting professor of Old Testament at Union Theological Seminary/Columbia University in New York City for the year 1997-98 and adjunct professor of Old Testament at Yale University Divinity School the spring semester of 1998. He served also as visiting professor at Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City in the spring of 2001. 

Among his many publications are  Torah and Canon , 2nd ed. (Cascade, 2005),  Canon and Community , and  God Has a Story Too .

Sharon Welch

Graduate Department of Religion Distinguished Alumni/ae Award recipient:

Dr. Sharon D. Welch, M.A. '77, Ph.D. '82

Dr. Sharon D. Welch is a leading feminist theologian and ethicist who has blended academic theology, social activism and training for ministry with integrity and an eye toward a more just society. 

Dr. Welch is a Senior Fellow of the Institute for Humanist Studies and a member of the Unitarian Universalist Peace Ministry Network. She served as Provost and Professor of Religion and Society at Meadville Lombard for ten years.

She has held positions as Professor and Chair of Religious Studies, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Adjunct Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Missouri from 1991-2007. She was assistant and then associate professor of Theology and Religion and Society at Harvard Divinity School from 1982 to 1991.

Dr. Welch is the author of five books:  Real Peace, Real Security: The challenges of global citizenship ,  After Empire: The Art and Ethos of Enduring Peace A Feminist Ethic of Risk Sweet Dreams in America: Making Ethics and Spirituality Work , and  Communities of Resistance and Solidarity . Dr. Welch is also a regular contributor to  Tikkun  magazine, and is the author of many articles.

About the Award

Vanderbilt Divinity School and the Graduate Department of Religion recognize distinguished alumni/ae whose accomplishments and contributions have had a broad impact and positive effect in various forms of ministry and scholarship.  

  • The Divinity School award is given to someone who has demonstrated excellence and distinction in justice making through their work in congregational ministry, religious institutions, ecumenical organizations, community –based organizations, government, or other social institutions.
  • The Graduate Department of Religion award is given to someone whose scholarship, teaching, or research has advanced the understanding of religion and its formative impact in the world.

 View previous recipients of the Distinguished Alumni/ae Award.