Distinguished Alumni/ae Award Recipients
Each year 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.
Learn more about this year's recipients. Past recipients are listed below.
Dr. James A. Sanders, BA'48, BD'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. He is a living testimony to the vibrancy of biblical studies and to its relevance for contemporary issues on matters such as gender/sexuality, Jewish-Christian relations, and global Bible studies.
Dr. Sanders 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). He has overseen the publication of The Dead Sea Scrolls Catalogue and Index used by scholars around the world, and with West Semitic Research at the University of Southern California has published a diplomatic edition of films of Leningradensis (Eerdmans, 1998), the oldest complete Hebrew Bible in the world taken by the Center's photographers in Leningrad/St Petersburg in 1990.
Dr. Sharon Welch, MA'77, PhD'82
Throughout her life Sharon Welch has shown herself to be a skillful artist of the difficult blend among academic theology, social activism and training for ministry. In achieving this important mix with integrity she has shown herself to be a true child of Vanderbilt Divinity School. She stands out as a model for VDS students who wish to be successful in academia, social change or ministry, or who wish to combine all three.
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.
Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs, DMin'92
Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs, D.Min.'92, served as Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, CT, from 1997-2011. Prior to his service at Beth Israel, Rabbi Fuchs was Senior Rabbi at The Temple Congregation Ohabai Sholom in Nashville, TN, for 11 years, and was the first full-time spiritual leader at Temple Isaiah in Columbia, MD, for 13 years. Following his retirement from Beth Israel, he began an appointment as President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). He traveled the world while serving in that role until October 2012.
Currently, Rabbi Fuchs writes and lectures extensively, both domestically and abroad. He has worked hard to convey that the essence of Jewish values are found in gemilut hasadim — concrete acts of caring and kindness that make a difference in the lives of others.
Reverend Dr. Chandra Taylor Smith, BA'83, PhD'01
Reverend Dr. Taylor Smith (1961-2017) was a nationally recognized pastor, speaker and writer who dedicated her life to theological education, public education, and environmental justice.
She most recently served as Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at the National Audubon Society. In this role she managed the national operational support and program development for Audubon’s unparalleled nationwide network of 42 nature Centers and more than 460 local Chapters as well as Audubon’s education department and flagship corporate partnership, Toyota TogetherGreen. With a background in education policy and an academic concentration in ecological theology, Chandra brought to Audubon’s extensive network of environmental learning opportunities her passion and commitment to education and her life-long interest in the intersections of the cultural, spiritual, and physical health dimensions of human connections with nature.
Representative Harold M. Love, Jr., MTS'98
Representative Harold M. Love, Jr., M.T.S. '98, was born in Nashville to the late Rep. Harold M. Love Sr. and Mary Y. Love. He attended Metro Nashville public schools and graduated with honors from Whites Creek High School. He enrolled at Tennessee State University, where he marched in the Aristocrat of Bands and was active in his school's chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics and finance with a minor in political science in 1994. He earned a master of theological studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School in 1998.
Representative Love was honored for his civic and religious leadership through several board and council memberships and for founding the Harold M. Love, Jr. Leadership Academy. This pilot summer program for boys ages 9 to 11 promotes higher education, nutrition and healthy habits, and responsible citizenship.
Reverend Edward A. "Monk" Malloy, CSC, PhD'75
Reverend Edward A. “Monk” Malloy, C.S.C., PhD’75, was born in Washington, D.C. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in English from Notre Dame in 1963 and 1967. He also received a second master's degree in theology in 1969 while studying for the priesthood. Malloy has been a member of the Notre Dame faculty since 1974, and was ordained to the priesthood in the Sacred Heart Basilica on that campus in 1970. He earned a doctorate in Christian ethics from Vanderbilt in 1975.
Father Malloy is president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame. In 1998, Vanderbilt established the Edward A. Malloy Chair in Catholic Studies (currently held by Bruce Morrill, PhD, professor of Theological Studies). He was honored for his service to the Catholic Church and higher education, and his leadership efforts to promote community service and combat substance abuse, including being a founding director of the Points of Light Foundation.
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.
The Reverend Kenneth S. Robinson, MD, 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.
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.
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.
The Reverend Becca Stevens, MDiv’90
Becca Stevens is an author, speaker, priest, social entrepreneur, founder and president of Thistle Farms. After experiencing the death of her father and subsequent child abuse when she was 5, Becca longed to open a sanctuary for survivors offering a loving community. In 1997, five women who had experienced trafficking, violence, and addiction were welcomed home.
Twenty years later, the organization continues to welcome women with free residence that provide housing, medical care, therapy and education for two years. Residents and graduates earn income through one of four social enterprises. The Global Market of Thistle Farms helps employ more than 1,800 women worldwide, and the national network has more than 40 sister communities.
Learn more about Rev. Becca Stevens and Thistle Farms.
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.
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 Rev. Dr. Taylor.
Reverend Dr. Fred Craddock, PhD'64
The Rev. Dr. Fred Craddock revolutionized the art of preaching. Learn more about Dr. Craddock.
Reverend James Lawson, D'71
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.