Six students honored at PSR’s 143rd commencement
PSR held its 143rd commencement on May 23 at First Congregational Church of Oakland. The commencement speaker was William McKinney, who, it was pointed out, was himself “graduating” this year after serving as PSR president for 14 years. Six students were given special awards at the graduation ceremony.
Each year, PSR presents the Paul Wesley Yinger Preaching Award to one or more senior MDiv students judged to be outstanding preachers with exemplary dramatic skills. The award is named for a former PSR trustee who was an acclaimed United Church of Christ preacher. This year’s presenter was Penny Nixon, a PSR trustee and senior minister of the Congregational Church of San Mateo. She gave the award to William Bradford Corban, whom she described as:”like Jeremiah of old—-one with fire in his bones. He breaks open the Word with passion, incisive social commentary, and spiritual challenge. He is a preacher who 'must’ preach and who takes the gospel seriously. He not only exegetes the Word, he surrenders to it, and calls us to do the same.”
At commencement, the PSR Alumni/ae Association gives its Koinonia Award to students who embrace the school's sense of community, actively participate in campus life, and demonstrate academic excellence. (Koinonia is a Greek word that appears frequently in the New Testament and means community, fellowship, and sharing.) This year, the Koinonia Award was presented to three students by Gaye Benson, MDiv 1996, one of the first recipients of the award.
She said of recipient Jeffrey Crews: “To say that he is generous is an understatement. From the moment students step on campus, and even before, he has been there leading small groups at orientation, volunteering at Ministry as Vocation conferences, and talking with prospective students. His work has extended to pastoral care, spiritual guidance, recruitment, and advancement.”
A Koinonia Award also went to Monica Cross: “A consistent leader in Trans-spiritual work, she has taken part in two CLGS Transgender Religious Leader Summits, volunteered her time and expertise for the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, DC, and became a member of the newly formed UCC transgender advisory board. She also has been a leader for the GTU Black Seminarians, often taking on difficult and challenging issues of racial justice and institutional racism within the GTU.”
Laura Bogle was the third Koinonia Award recipient: “Someone who embodies both justice and hope, she is well-loved and often sought out by fellow students for her thoughtful, honest, and sincere counsel. She is active in dismantling racism at PSR, is a valuable asset in the Office of Field Education and with the Earl Lectures, and has led the way in the classroom, in small groups, in ecumenical work, in justice advocacy, and in chapel leadership and participation.”
The Michael M. Mendiola Award for Ethics for a graduating student was established in 2009 by four faculty colleagues (Joseph Driskill, Jeffrey Kuan, Mary Donovan Turner, and Randi Walker) to remember Professor Mendiola’s outstanding contributions in the field of ethics and on the subject of suffering. Professor Kuan presented the 2010 award to Bethany Nelson for her paper entitled, “The Theology and Ethics of Theodicy.”
Last year, the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Ministry inaugurated the Marcella Althaus-Reid Award for the best student essay in queering religion and theology. The author of Indecent Theology (2000) and Queer God (2004), Althaus-Reid was a leading Latin American feminist liberation theologian, best known for her pioneering work in using “queer theory” for Christian theology. CLGS executive director Bernard Schlager and senior director Jay Johnson presented the 2010 award to Kuukua Dzigbordi Yomekpe for her essay, rooted in case-study research, “The Audacity to Remain Single: The Single Black Woman and the Black Church.”