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The CTS community gathered to celebrate its 2022 baccalaureate and commencement ceremonies on May 20 and 21, 2022. The commencement ceremony included the celebration of 40 graduates, three honorary degree recipients, and the inaugural Presidential Award of Excellence.

The baccalaureate ceremony on Friday, May 20, offered the opportunity to gather for a worship service, which included a sermon by Prof. Courtney Buggs, that honored the academic class of 2022. Part of the ceremony included the recognition of this year’s academic award winners:

  • Biblical Studies Award: Janai Downs
  • History of Global Christianity Award: Kalra Jo Elliot
  • The Reverend William R. “Bill” Duffy Theology Prize: Cassidy S. Hall
  • Christianity and Culture Award: Theodore T. Jones III
  • Pastoral Theology and Psychology Awards: Iann Matlock, Kaitlyn Joy Ferry
  • Christian Ministries Award: Martin Tapia
  • Perseverance Award: Simoné A. Walls
  • Promise of Excellence in Ministry Award: Michael Aric Thomas Jefferson, II, Carmen Ann Daugherty
  • Stone-Campbell Promising Scholars Award: Chance McMullin
  • Hoyt Hickman Award for Outstanding Liturgical Scholarship and Practice: Grace Kathleen Kozak
  • Trustee Award to Graduating Student for High Academic Achievement: Jill Frame

Along with the celebrating the class of 2022, this year’s commencement ceremony included the conferral of honorary degrees to Rev. Dr. Emilie M. Townes, Rev. Dr. Harold Keith Watkins, and Rev. Dr. John Richard Foulkes, Sr. President David M. Mellott celebrated these recipients for “their profound contributions to the church and the academy. We are proud to call them friends of CTS.”

Townes, the Dean and Distinguished Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society and Vanderbilt University Divinity School, was awarded the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters and gave the commencement address entitled “The Theology of Somehow.” She spoke about the need for a theology that “gives hope to the hopeless in the midst of the struggle… a theology that hangs tough, defies the odds, majors in hope and minors in despair.

“Graduates,” she said, “you come from a long line of asking ‘how?’ We are like the blind man who sat on the side of the road and cried, ‘Oh Lord, save me. Let me see again.’ And my only response to you is God’s somehow. It is God’s act of faithfulness… Somehow you must go forth and provide or continue to provide leadership for religious communities, society, and the world that refuses to bend to bigotry and prejudice and violent shenanigans.”

“We have a word to say to the nations. You have a gospel to be preached. You have a witness to share. You have a lesson to be taught,” Townes encouraged the graduates. “We need a religion, and a church, that understands that its mission statement is not to make us all feel good. Rather, it is to guide us into robust and endless faithfulness. So let’s stand with the righteous who are standing with the least of these… Somehow, no matter what the world hands you, give back love. Stand for goodness. Live your faith. Live with integrity. Live God’s grace large.”

After Townes’s address, Ted Waggoner, Chair of the CTS Board of Trustees, introduced the inaugural recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence, Rev. Dr. Sue Webb Cardwell.

“Rev. Dr. Sue Webb Cardwell lived her life as a trailblazer, as a female seminary student, the first female staff member, and our first full-time female faculty member. She paved the way for CTS to develop our counseling degree program and counseling center. She was a pioneer promoter for using psychological testing to prepare people for ministry,” Waggoner said. “Rev. Dr. Cardwell, for 104 years you have burst through barriers, you have inspired us to follow your path and empowered us to blaze trails of our own.”

Finally, the ceremony included the conferral of degrees for members of the class of 2022. This year’s graduating class included 9 recipients of the Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy; 7 recipients of the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling; 2 recipients of the Master of Theological Studies; 21 recipients of the Master of Divinity; and 6 recipients of the Doctor of Ministry.