Brennan Pearson, a senior in the Master of Divinity degree program at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, has received two awards in recognition of his work in academic and practical theology. President Michael Jinkins presented the awards as part of the opening convocation of the 2010-11 academic year, held September 9 in the Frank H. and Fannie W. Caldwell Chapel.
The Burton Z Cooper Prize in Theology is awarded annually to a rising senior student for their exemplary work in constructive, philosophical, systematic, or contemporary theology. Established in 1995, the award honors Dr. Burton Z Cooper, Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, who taught at Louisville Seminary from 1970 to 1998.
The Dean K. Thompson Prize in Practical Theology honors the eighth president of Louisville Seminary, who served from 2004 to 2010. It is awarded to a student—at the conclusion of their second year of study—who has demonstrated excellence in the study of practical theology and in their congregational field education placement. Pearson is the first recipient of the Thompson prize.
"I am touched and honored to have been recognized with both the Cooper Prize in Theology and the Thompson Prize in Practical Theology," said Pearson, a Rev. Arnold O. Schaap Presidential Scholar in the Seminary’s Scholarships for Excellence program.
"I feel with even more certainty, however, that these rewards come with many Thank You’s to pay it forward!"
Pearson, who graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a major in psychology and a minor in music, said discerning a call to ministry or to seminary was gradual and happened over the course of a few years. Through a part-time position at his home church, Rosedale Gardens Presbyterian in Livonia, Mich., he discovered his passion to serve in vocational ministry, which led him to enroll at Louisville Seminary in 2008.
“While there were many factors that influenced my choice of LPTS, the most important factors have been the Seminary’s commitment to a progressive understanding of God’s all-inclusive love and what it means to respond in loving service to the needs of all of creation; the incredible community on the campus; and the Seminary’s strong field education program,” he said.
In his first year at LPTS, Pearson took a field education position, rare in one’s first year of study, serving as student campus minister at Bellarmine University in Louisville. As a result of his own entrepreneurial spirit, he also is the first LPTS student to fulfill a portion of his field education requirements in an international placement, serving 11½ weeks at the Cuernavaca Center for Intercultural Dialogue on Development (CCIDD) in Mexico. As part of his service there, he worked with children, helped construct better living facilities for families in the community, and learned to build relationships with people in an unfamiliar setting.
“I am thankful for the intercultural reminder that we are to love and to be loved not for what we can do, but for who we are,” Pearson said in his travel blog.
Pearson credits professors, field education supervisors, and institutions like Louisville Seminary, “who take interest and empower their young and learning leaders to explore their Christian vocations, which truly grant opportunities for the sharing and growing of the gifts of faith,” and for helping to expand his own heart for ministry.
“It is through this graceful sharing of life and learning that ministry is possible. Indeed, it is a ministry itself,” he said.
“As I continue to explore and prepare for my own ministry in the world, I know that the diversity of learning opportunities offered at Louisville Seminary will continue to shape and inspire me. Wherever I am called to serve, I hope to mirror the love and imagination I’ve found at our seminary, by bearing God’s vision of love and reconciliation into the world with passion and creativity.”
As part of the fall convocation, prizes were also presented to students for their exemplary work in biblical studies and marriage and family and pastoral counseling theory and practice.