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Five Seniors Selected as Davidson's First Lilly Scholars

December 4, 2001
Contact: Bill Giduz 704/894-2244 or bigiduz@davidson.edu

Lilly Scholars
Davidson's first Lilly Scholars are (l-r) Sarah Schmidt, Elizabeth Marie Melchionna, Richard Vinson, Beth Summerlin, and Joel Hanisek.

Five Davidson College seniors--Joel F. Hanisek, Richard B. Vinson, Elisabeth M. Summerlin, Elizabeth Marie Melchionna, and Sarah E. Schmidt--were recently selected as the first Lilly Scholars by Davidson's Lilly Program for the Theological Exploration of Vocation.

The Lilly Scholarship is intended to interest more students in considering ordained ministry as a possible vocation. Tim Beach-Verhey, program director, explained, "We're trying to reach out to students who might not otherwise be thinking of seminary, and who show gifts for ministry."

Each award includes $20,000 for financial assistance during the scholar's final year at Davidson and first year at theological seminary. Because seminary is a three-year process, the Lilly Scholarship gives students a "free year" to explore that as a graduate option they may not have otherwise considered.

Scholar Joel Hanisek confirmed that the Lilly program has already led him to consider the idea of vocation more seriously. "This scholarship challenges me to take seriously the idea of vocation, and to seek ways to connect the various passions of my life within a framework of integrity and faithfulness," he said.

Candidates for the scholarship are nominated by fellow students, faculty, staff, and local clergy. Nominees are invited to submit an application highlighting academic performance, campus leadership, commitment to community service, a sense of a genuine faith journey, and a curiosity about ministry. This year's winners were selected from a pool of forty-four nominees.

Throughout the rest of this academic year, the new Lilly Scholars will participate in a non-credit, semi-weekly seminar led by Beach-Verhey to explore issues of vocation and ordained ministry. They will read texts such as Who Will Go For Us: An Invitation to Ordained Ministry by Dennis Campbell. They will talk with church pastors, as well as individuals who have completed a master of divinity degree and now work as pastoral counselors, chaplains, or in religious leadership outside the church. They will also meet representatives of seminary schools and current seminary students to talk about their experiences.

James Fowler
Visiting lecturer James Fowler met with Lilly Scholars and gave two talks during Family Weekend.

The Lilly Scholars have already met with visiting lecturer James Fowler, Candler Professor of Theology and Human Development at Emory University, who talked at Davidson on vocation and the challenges of practical postmodern faith.

The Lilly Program at Davidson is funded by a grant from the Lilly Foundation, and seeks to foster the development of faith through service, and to promote the idea that faith applied to the workplace can lead to a more fulfilling career. The Lilly Foundation made awards to 20 colleges nationwide willing to explore the contention that people who align their beliefs, values, and principals with their work find it more meaningful, and manifest solidarity and compassion through it. Davidson has crafted its four-year Lilly program to encompass students, faculty, staff, townspeople, and alumni of all faiths and religious persuasions.

Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked in the top ten liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson is currently engaged in "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.

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