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2020 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. View past recipients of the award here

Graduate Department of Religion Distinguished Alumni/ae Award Recipient

Mary Fulkerson

Mary McClintock Fulkerson, Ph.D. '86

Mary McClintock Fulkerson is professor emerita of theology at Duke Divinity School and an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).    

She completed her B.M. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master of divinity degree at Duke University, and earned her Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University. She began teaching at Duke in 1983 and was the longest serving member of the faculty at the time of her retirement in 2019. 

An outstanding scholar and teacher, Mary broke new ground in theology's approach to and understanding of gender, race, and disability. Her work is published in journals such as Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, and Modern Theology. She is also the author of Changing the Subject: Women’s Discourses and Feminist Theology and Places of Redemption: Theology for a Worldly Church. 

Learn more about Mary McClintock Fulkerson. 

  Divinity School Distinguished Alumni/ae Award Recipients

Antoni SinkfieldReverend W. Antoni Sinkfield, M.Div. '94

W. Antoni Sinkfield is senior pastor at Payne Chapel AME in Nashville, TN. He earned a bachelor of science degree from Tennessee Technological University and a master of divinity degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School. Reverend Sinkfield has continued his Doctoral studies at United Theological Seminary in Ohio; Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma; as a Beeson Pastor Scholar at Asbury Theological Seminary; and as a PhD. Candidate with an emphasis in Ethical and Creative Leadership at Union Institute and University.

As co-founder of Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (N.O.A.H.), Antoni has been an advocate for social justice in the Nashville community, and has influenced the lives of numerous students going into ministry and service. 

Learn more about Antoni Sinkfield. 


Shelli Yoder

Shelli Yoder, M. Div. '02

Shelli Yoder earned her bachelor of arts degree from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. She has a master's degree in counseling and human services from Indiana University South Bend, and a master of divinity degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School.

Throughout her career, Shelli has used her platform as a public leader to empower women, break down barriers, and advocate for justice, equity and inclusion. Shelli currently serves on the County Council (1st District) for Monroe County, Indiana, and is a lecturer at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. She founder and leader of the South Central Opioid Summit and former Executive Director of Eating Disorders Coalition of Tennessee. 

Learn more about Shelli Yoder. 


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.