A special Service of Light recognizes recipients of the Dean’s Cross Award, Doctoral Degrees, and Honorary Degrees for 2020

Date: December 7, 2020

Media Contact: Curtis Prather  

Tel: 703-461-1782
Email: cprather@vts.edu

Alexandria, VA – Near the beginning of a special pre-recorded Service of Light, which premiered on the Virginia Theological Seminary’s (VTS) YouTube channel on Sunday, December 6, 2020, the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, dean and president, conferred the Dean’s Cross for Servant Leadership in Church and Society to the class of 2020.

Established in 2008, the Dean’s Cross Award recognizes outstanding leaders who embody their baptismal vows to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.” Selected annually by the dean and president, in consultation with the chair of the Board of Trustees, the honorees receive a handmade silver cross, modeled after the Seminary Chapel cross, along with a certificate.


“It is lovely to see the class of 2020 given due prominence,” said Dean Markham. In addition, Markham also acknowledged the following doctoral candidates for 2020:

  • Sari Naim Ateek
  • Devyn Chambers Johnson,
  • Mary Lou Hoover Divis
  • Jeunee Lynn Jerman Godsey
  • Alexander Coulter Graham, IV
  • Sanford Harover Groff, Jr.
  • Nyasha Jasman Gumbeze
  • Warren Neil Leibovitch
  • Hosam Elias Naoum
  • Elizabeth Orens
  • James Melvin Pevehouse
  • Dustin Eric Trowbridge

The recipient of the Doctoral Thesis Award goes to Hosam Elias Naoum, whose project walked an institution through the process of identifying a holistic identity, and his work forged a theology of vocation resourced from Christian spiritual traditions adapted to contemporary circumstances. Finally, nine honorary degree recipients, who received individual recognitions from Seminary faculty, had the opportunity to address Dean Markham and the Seminary community with pre-recorded responses, resulting in a service full of the stars of the Academy and the Church. Honorary degree recipients include:

  • The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows
  • Canon Paul Cooney, Esq.
  • The Rev. Gary Dorrien, Ph.D.
  • The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz
  • Jesse Milan, Esq.
  • The Rt. Rev. Phoebe Roaf
  • The Most Rev. Melissa M. Skelton
  • The Rev. Rebecca Stevens
  • Gale Yee, Ph.D.

Staged at Immanuel Chapel, exquisite musical performances were arranged and conducted by Marty Wheeler Burnett, D.Min., associate professor of church music and director of chapel music.

“As I watched the presentation, I found myself grateful,” said Markham. “I promise you this is a service which will truly prepare you for Christmas. It is beautiful. So, please, create some space in your life and make sure you watch this Service of Light.”

The full service is available on our YouTube channel.###  Founded in 1823 as a beacon of hope in a country new and finding its way, Virginia Theological Seminary has led the way in forming leaders of the Episcopal Church, including: the Most Rev. John E. Hines (VTS 1933, D.D. 1946), former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; the Rt. Rev. John T. Walker (VTS 1954, D.D. 1978), the first African-American bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; and theologian, author and lay preacher Ms. Verna J. Dozier (VTS D.D. 1978). Serving the worldwide Anglican Communion, Virginia Theological Seminary educates approximately 25% of those being ordained who received residential theological education. Visit us online at www.vts.edu.

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