Nine students representing six colleges and universities related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have received the 2010 Samuel Robinson Award. The award recipients are:
- Heather Wallace, Whitworth University, Spokane, Wash.
- Daniel J. Lewis, Whitworth University, Spokane, Wash.
- Chelsea Guenther, Agnes Scott College, Decatur, Ga.
- Brianne Jensen, Whitworth University, Spokane, Wash.
- Claire LePage, Whitworth University, Spokane, Wash.
- Courtney Stevens, Queens University of Charlotte, N.C.
- Stephanie Kilgore, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas
- Anna Cleaveland, Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Fla.
- Matthew Bauhof, Alma College, Alma, Mich.
The Samuel Robinson Award, which is open to PC(USA) students who are completing their junior or senior year of college at a Presbyterian-related college or university, was created from a gift made in 1956 naming the General Assembly, Princeton Theological Seminary, McCormick Theological Seminary and San Francisco Theological Seminary to promote the memorization of the Westminster Shorter Catechism contained in The Book of Confessions.
The fund is administered by each institution in a variety of ways. The General Assembly’s portion of the fund – overseen by the office of Financial Aid for Studies of the General Assembly Mission Council – is used to provide aid for Presbyterian students attending Presbyterian-related colleges and universities. In addition to memorizing and reciting the catechism – after which each student is presented with a study bible provided by the Betty W. Chrisman Fund – each applicant is required to write a 2,000 word original essay on an assigned topic. For the 2010 award, students were asked to select the question and answer pair from the catechism that speaks most directly to the PC(USA) today and explain why. Each essay is then evaluated by a team of experienced readers who are asked to consider how the student has incorporated the catechism and scripture in the discussion of the essay topic.
In Heather Wallace’s award-winning essay on question and answer pair 90, on how the Word is “to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation,” the 2010 Whitworth University graduate wrote, “Question 90 of the Westminster Catechism is a powerful reminder to embrace the nature of Scripture as holy literature. It is literature that we must approach with our best skills, our most profound humility, and our utmost love. This question is vital to the church today, because it connects Scripture and relationship. Reading well is the way that we can engage relationally with the living God; it is the way that we can demonstrate acts of love; and it is the way we can invite a broken world in a story of redemption.”
Selection for the award – which ranges from $2,500-$5,000 – is competitive. Students have used Samuel Robinson Award proceeds for mission trips, transition to seminary or other graduate programs, and to reduce educational debt. The program will support up to sixteen students per year.
In addition to the student awards, Agnes Scott College, Alma College, Eckerd College, Queens University of Charlotte, Trinity University, and Whitworth University each received a $500 grant in the name of their awarded students to be used to promote the Samuel Robinson Award and to support campus ministry. Chaplains at each Presbyterian-related college and university provide invaluable assistance both to the PC(USA) and the student by consulting on essay topics, serving as readers of the essays, and by providing students with opportunities to perform the recitation.
“Most of the ministry at Alma College is ecumenical,” said the college’s chaplain, the Rev. Carol Gregg. “Christians of all denominations worship, study and serve together. While I value this ecumenism, I am grateful for the Samuel Robinson Program because it gives me an opportunity to promote something that is explicitly Presbyterian and a unique way to reach out to members of our denomination.” Alma College’s award-winning entry for 2010 was submitted by Matt Bauhof, “a very promising Presbyterian pre-ministry student who… is a scholar-athlete with enthusiasm for sports, the life of the mind, and spiritual growth,” according to S. Brian Stratton, Ph.D., chair of the college’s Religious Studies Department. “He will no doubt do a very effective job in his goal of working with youth,” Stratton said.
The Samuel Robinson Award will start accepting applications for the 2011 academic year in December 2010. The topic for 2011, which was selected in consultation with the chaplains at PC(USA) related colleges and universities, focuses on prayer.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) comprises 2.2 million members in more than 10,000 congregations, answering Christ’s call to mission and ministry throughout the United States and the world.