The Dean’s Cross was conferred on Hawkins in recognition of her deep faith and ability to bring sunshine into the lives of others.
Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) has conferred the Dean’s Cross for Servant Leadership on Ellen Wofford Hawkins in recognition of her deep faith and ability to bring sunshine into the lives of others. The Dean’s Cross, which was awarded to Hawkins by The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of VTS, on Sunday, December 17, 2023, is the highest honor the Seminary confers.
Hawkins moved to VTS in 2000 with her family, and worked at the Seminary’s childcare center, The Butterfly House. She quickly became a beloved figure on campus, known for her warm greetings, inclusive nature, and her ability to remember people’s life stories. During her time at VTS, she also spent several summers working at The Episcopal Church’s Kanuga retreat center. Today, she is employed by Clemson University.
The citation read: “Ms. Ellen Hawkins for being a shining star of love and grace, for your service at the Butterfly House, Kanuga, Clemson University and elsewhere, for your deep faithfulness to our Lord Jesus, for your willingness to reach out and bring sunshine into the lives of others – for all this and more, Virginia Theological Seminary is honored to confer on you the Dean’s Cross for Servant Leadership.”
The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of VTS, said: “At VTS we need models of the well-formed life. There is no question that Ellen is a person who radiates the love of Christ to everyone she meets. We are delighted to honor her with this award.”
Earlier this year, the Dean’s Cross was also awarded posthumously to Rae E. Whitney in recognition of her significant contribution to the hymnology of the Church. The author of more than 500 hymns, her work has been published in hymnals in the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Hong Kong, and Australia. Whitely also served The Episcopal Church as a licensed lay reader, chalice bearer, educator, and missionary. The award was presented at Whitney’s funeral on November 27, 2023, by Marty Wheeler Burnett, D.Min., associate professor of church music at VTS.
Sunday’s events also included the Dedication of the Welcome Center, which includes the St. Nicholas Exhibit and the St. Francis Gallery crèche collection, by the Rt. Rev. Mark Stevenson, Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia. The St. Nicholas Exhibit was a gift from the David and Carol Myers Foundation. The St. Francis Gallery crèche collection was a gift from The Rev. Linda Wofford Hawkins and The Rev. James Barney Hawkins IV, Ph.D. In addition, the Welcome Table and Welcome Desk were gifts from Hoben Thomas, Ph.D., and the first-floor gallery that honors the ministry of The Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks was enhanced by a leadership gift from The Rev. Robert D. Flanagan, D.Min., and Mrs. Elaine Flanagan.
Established in 2008, the Dean’s Cross recognizes outstanding leaders who embody the baptismal vows to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being. Recipients are selected annually by the Seminary’s dean and president, in consultation with the chair of the board. They receive a certificate and a handmade silver cross, modeled on the cross that stood on the steeple of the Seminary’s 1881 Chapel.
Previous recipients of the Dean’s Cross include former First Lady Barbara Bush, poet and novelist Wendell Berry, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham.
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About Virginia Theological Seminary:
Virginia Theological Seminary was founded in 1823 at St. Paul’s Church in Alexandria, Virginia. It is the strongest seminary in the Anglican Communion and has a long tradition of shaping faithful women and men, lay and ordained, for leadership in The Episcopal Church and beyond. The seminary provides more than 25 percent of the clergy of The Episcopal Church.