Eight students representing six colleges and universities related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have received the 2011 Samuel Robinson Award. The award recipients are:
- Amy Erickson, Whitworth University
- Emma Hayes, Milliken University
- Christina Tammen, Centre College
- Maggie Watters, Alma College
- John Gillette, Alma College
- Rachel Kelly, Whitworth University
- Glenna Galliher, King College
- Brett Glavey, Westminster College Pa.
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 2011 award, students were asked to focus on prayer by reflecting on the specific aspects of the Shorter Catechism and were invited to discuss the effect of 21st century technologies and worldviews on prayer.
Each essay is 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.
Erickson’s award-winning essay presents a cogent and timely meditation on the impact of technology on prayer, “Technology gives us an illusion of being in control that may detract from the sense of dependency on God that often drives us to pray. Modern technologies facilitate our transportation, scheduling, health services, food production, and unlimited communication with people around the world. Many of our needs and wants are provided by technology, and it is tempting to simply look to them for our satisfaction rather than God. Are we dissatisfied? We need a faster computer, a better phone, the new cure-all drug or health procedure. There is the deception, too, that these technologies grant us more time, and that time is what we ultimately need to be satisfied. We forget that it is the ordering of ourselves internally, through prayer, which brings peace. Our technologies are much like the idols of the Old Testament to which the Israelites turned to worship for a sense of control and satisfaction. Prayer reminds us that we are out of control but that God is sovereign and in absolute control.”
Currently a junior at Whitworth University, Erickson will return to complete her final year of study in the fall. She is a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Austin, Tex., which she attended with her family prior to starting college. The Rev. Tom Mitchell, associate pastor at Covenant, expressed the congregation’s delight at the announcement of the award. “You made a good choice,” Mitchell said. “Amy is mature, gifted, and humble. She amazed us as a teenager; she is a remarkable young woman.”
This is the second consecutive year that a student from Whitworth University has been awarded the top prize. Toni Sutherland, program coordinator for the chaplain at Whitworth, works with students to develop a plan to memorize the catechism in stages. “We think that the students learn and understand more when the catechism is studied in sections over several months,” Sutherland observed.
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, Alma College, Centre College, King College, Millikin University, and Whitworth University each will receive 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.
The Samuel Robinson Award will start accepting applications for the 2011-12 academic year in December 2011. The Office of Financial Aid for Studies will consult with chaplains at related colleges and universities to develop a topic and is currently accepting suggestions for the next application cycle. For more information, email the Office of Financial Aid for Studies.