Virginia Theological Seminary celebrates its 201st Commencement

Virginia Theological Seminary
Posted May 10, 2024

Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) today celebrated its 201st Commencement. Degrees and diplomas were conferred on 53 students across the Seminary’s Master of Divinity, Master of Arts, Doctor of Ministry, Doctor of Educational Ministry, and Diploma in Anglican Studies programs.

The Seminary also conferred seven honorary degrees in recognition of significant service to God in the Church and the world, five of which were conferred on alumni. The following people received a Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa:

  • The Rt. Rev. Matthew Davis Cowden ’06, Bishop of the Diocese of West Virginia
  • The Rt. Rev. Sally J. French ’12, D.Min., Bishop of the Diocese of New Jersey
  • The Rev. Asa J. Lee ’15, D.Min., President of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
  • The Rt. Rev. David G. Read ’92, D.Min., Bishop of the Diocese of West Texas
  • The Rt. Rev. Ann M. Ritonia ’08, Bishop Suffragan of the Armed Forces and Federal Ministries
  • The Rev. Miguel A. De La Torre, Ph.D., Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies, Iliff School of Theology.

A Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa was conferred on:

  • Katrina Browne, documentary filmmaker, director and writer, and advisor to The Episcopal Church’s Becoming Beloved Community Initiative.

Honorary degree recipients

The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., Dean and President of VTS, said: “Commencement is always a moment of hope. God has raised up graduates, who have been formed, and stand ready to make a difference to the Church. We also recognize service to the Church and the Academy through our honorary doctorates. The entire occasion is a reminder that God is at work with new congregational leaders through to seasoned bishops and academics.”

The Class of 2024 requested Dr. De La Torre to be their commencement speaker. Dr. De La Torre has been the Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado since 2005. He frequently serves as an expert commentator on ethical issues, mainly Latinx religiosity, LGBTQI+ civil rights, and immigration rights, on a range of local, national, and international media outlets.

In his address, Dr. De La Torre called on the Class of 2024 to be prepared to be persecuted and to stand in solidarity with those who were fighting the fight but were unlikely to win. He urged them to think of Jesus walking into the temple and overturning the tables, and challenged them to radicalize the message of the gospel so that liberation and justice could occur.

“This is an ethics that nonviolently lies so that we can discover what is true, that cheats in order to create a level playing field, that steals so that we can feed those whose necessities have been stolen from them, that jokes so that we can say truth, that is disruptive and deceitful so that new opportunities of liberation can be created,” he said.

The Class of 2024 has shown a particular interest in creation care issues. In line with this interest, they made a creation care gift of trees to the Seminary, in addition to the gift of their ministry offering of going out into the world to preach, teach and care for others. The area planted with the Class of 2024’s trees will be marked with a special plaque that commemorates their gift.

The Class of 2024

The full Commencement Service can be viewed on the VTS YouTube channel.

Prizes and Awards:

Thomas Conroy and Aaron Dunn received The Anglican Communion Prize, which recognizes a graduating student who has shown an outstanding commitment to discerning the mission of God through world Anglicanism.

Rebekah Lee Givens Greniven and Matt Overturf received The Woodward Award for Reading of Scripture and Liturgy. The award recognizes a graduating student who, in the opinion of the faculty, has demonstrated excellence in the public reading and interpretation of the Scriptures and the Liturgy.

Maxine King received The Bishop Mark Dyer Prize for Theological ReflectionThe award recognizes a graduating senior who has developed theological skills and insights to support preaching and service.

Aaron Dunn received The Episcopal Preaching Foundation Award. Sponsored by the Episcopal Preaching Foundation, the award is bestowed upon a graduating Masters-level student who has demonstrated excellence in preaching.

Jared Moore received The Greene Chair, a gift of a seminary chair that recognizes a member of the graduating class who has exhibited a strong commitment to the community life and mission of the Seminary.

Claire Chia-Lin Wang received The Charles and Janet Harris Award that is given each year to a candidate for Holy Orders who has demonstrated academic excellence and leadership ability.

Kris Rose received The Ronnie A. Yoder Scholarship Award, which aims to advance the study of love as an appropriate center of Christian theology, life, preaching, and practice, and to explore love as an ecumenical theme unifying all of humankind’s religions.

Melody Dillon and Nanette DeRenzi received The Master of Arts Award, given to graduating Master of Arts students who have researched and written an exceptional and original thesis or capstone project with clarity, depth, and integrity.

Terry Shields Dirbas received The Doctoral Thesis Award that is given to a graduating doctoral student who has written an exceptional thesis with clarity, depth, and boundedness that addresses a higher aim of Christian life, service, and leadership.

Notes to editors:

For media enquiries, please contact Nicky Burridge, Vice President for Communications at VTS.
Tel: (703) 461-1782

Mobile: (703) 300-2876


About Virginia Theological Seminary:

Virginia Theological Seminary was founded in 1823 and has a long tradition of shaping faithful women and men, lay and ordained, for leadership in The Episcopal Church and beyond. It is the strongest seminary in the Anglican Communion and provides more than 25 percent of the clergy of The Episcopal Church.