2018 Convocation and Conferring of Degrees

‌The School of Theology's 2017–18 academic year came to a close May 11 with a Convocation for the Conferring of Degrees in All Saints' Chapel. The joyous two-hour service convened with incense and all of the pomp and circumstance that The Episcopal Church has to offer. It was followed by a luncheon for the School of Theology, graduates, honorary degree recipients, and their families and friends. Photos from the entire event may be viewed and downloaded here.


As the procession entered the chapel, the new School of Theology banner could be seen leading the soon-to-be graduates down the center aisle. The banner is a gift to the School from the class of 2018.


University Chancellor John Howard opened the service to a full chapel. Episcopal priest, author, and historian of American religion Randall Balmer gave the commencement address and also received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.


Balmer began by congratulating the School’s class of 2018, but reminding them that as those who are called to be a member of the community of faith, they are in the minority. He went on to describe how mainline protestants have suffered since the '60s and Evangelicals have abandoned the poor and opted for power and popular culture. He contrasted those descriptions with that of The Episcopal Church, by detailing how its tradition makes Episcopalians counter-cultural Christians. He cited three main examples—justice, that lives at the center of the Anglican tradition; resisting rationalization, by not sacrificing real presence on the altar of rationalization; and true beauty, that which elevates the spirit in art, liturgy, and music. He concluded by encouraging the graduates to remember that as they go out into the world, to work for justice, embrace mystery, and appreciate all that is beautiful.


Two other honorary degrees were presented during the service. Richard Heitzenrater, the William Kellon Quick Professor Emeritus of Church History and Wesley Studies at Duke Divinity School; and the Rt. Rev. David Mitchell Reed, bishop of the Diocese of West Texas (one of the University's owning dioceses), received honorary doctor of divinity degrees. Complete bios for the three honorary degree recipients can be found below.


The School of Theology conferred various degrees on 29 students. A complete list of the class of 2018 may be found below. Seniors Jeremy Carlson and Melanie Rowell graduated optime meritus.


Vice-Chancellor John McCardell took a moment of privilege to address the graduates. "First, simply, 'thank you.' Thank you for coming here. Thank you for the commitment to serious, sustained, residential theological study that you and your families have made. Thank you for all that you will do as graduates of this School." He continued by telling the students that their path will most assuredly have moments of doubts or despair and asked them to remember the promise that reverberates throughout the Scriptures: “I am with you.” He concluded with this message: "And so, as you take your leave, take with you the knowledge that you will always be in our thoughts and prayers. Take with you as well our confidence in you and our love for you. And finally, take these comforting words from St. Paul: 'being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.'” You can read his address in its entirety here..


Several students received recognition during the service for previously awarded prizes and honors. You will find a complete list here.


2018 Graduates

Susan C. Brown

Walter James Buzzini, IV

Stephanie Donaldson Fox

Janice Lynn Head

Nathan C. Brown

Michael Patrick Hoffman

Andrew Carl Keyse

James Bradley Shumard

Howard Walker Adams

Richard Culbertson

Olufunmilayo Durotoluwa Odidi

Regina Brewster-Jenkins

Christopher M. Bridges

Holly Jean Burris

Joseph Gilbert Butler

Michael David Winslow Cannon

Jeremy Lloyd Carlson

Ryan Daniel Currie

Sinclair Conrad Paul Ender

Margaret Elizabeth Langford Farr

Mark Paul Harris

Arthur Lavon Jones, III

James William Louttit

James David Marrs, Jr.

Lisa Marie Meirow

Melanie Gibson Rowell

Warren Thomas Swenson

Nicholas Michael Caccese

Jonathan Stepp


Honorary Degree Biographies

Randall Balmer, who holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University, is the John Phillips Professor in Religion at Dartmouth College, where he is also director of the Society of Fellows and Chair of the Religion Department. Prior to his position at Dartmouth, he was professor of American religious history at Columbia University for 27 years and an adjunct professor of Church history at Union Theological Seminary, where he earned a master of divinity degree in 2001. Ordained an Episcopal priest in 2006, he has served as rector in two parishes in Connecticut. He was visiting professor at Yale Divinity School from 2004 to 2008, and he has been a visiting professor at Princeton, Yale, Northwestern, and Emory universities. Dr. Balmer is the author of 14 books, including Evangelicalism in America and Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter. His second book, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America, now in its fifth edition, was made into a three-part documentary for PBS. Dr. Balmer was nominated for an Emmy for writing and hosting that series. He is a contributor for CNN, and his commentaries have appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Des Moines Register, and the New York Times.


Richard Heitzenrater is the William Kellon Quick Professor Emeritus of Church History and Wesley Studies at Duke Divinity School. Best known for “breaking the code” of John Wesley’s personal diaries, Dr. Heitzenrater is general editor of the Bicentennial Edition of the Works of John Wesley, which includes his work in the seven volumes of Journals and Diaries. He has published 16 books, including Wesley and the People Called Methodists, now translated into six languages. He has lectured at distinguished institutions across North America as well as around the globe. Dr. Heitzenrater was recently senior co-editor of Church History, the journal of the American Society of Church History, and he co-chairs the Wesley Studies Group of the Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies. He chaired the writing committee of the Committee on Our Theological Task that wrote the present doctrinal statement in Part II of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. Dr. Heitzenrater was previously the Albert C. Outler Professor of Wesley Studies and director of the Center for Methodist Studies at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. He has been a clergy member of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church for more than 45 years.


The Rt. Rev. David Mitchell Reed is the 10th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. Bishop Reed is the first bishop suffragan of the diocese to be elected bishop coadjutor (in 2014) and then to go on to serve as diocesan bishop, upon the retirement of the Rt. Rev. Gary Lillibridge in 2017. Bishop Reed is a native of Brownsville, Texas, who earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin in 1978 and taught school for two years before attending seminary. He was ordained in 1983 when he graduated with a master of divinity degree from the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin. Bishop Reed served as assistant rector at St. Alban’s Church, Harlingen, from 1983 to 1987. He was called to be rector of St. Francis Church, Victoria, in 1987, serving there until he returned in 1994 to St. Alban’s, where he was rector until his election as bishop suffragan. He was elected bishop suffragan for the Diocese of West Texas in 2006, and is the 14th bishop to serve in West Texas (the fifth suffragan). Bishop Reed was elected bishop coadjutor for the Diocese of West Texas in 2014. He was officially invested as bishop of the Diocese of West Texas on June 3, 2017.