Contact: Bill Babcock 214-768-2433

June 16, 2003

Park Cities Local Wins Ogden Fellowship

DALLAS (SMU) -- The Steering Committee of SMU's Graduate Program in Religious Studies is pleased to announce that Ms. Natalie Beam Van Kirk is the 2003-2004 recipient of the Schubert M. Ogden Fellowship for Academic Excellence in Theology.

The Ogden Fellowship was established in 1993 in honor of Professor Ogden on the occasion of his retirement from the SMU faculty. As stipulated by the donors, it is a dissertation fellowship to be awarded each year to "the student who, in the judgment of the Steering Committee of the Graduate Program in Religious Studies, best exemplifies academic excellence and shows the greatest promise of significant contribution to the field in general and to his or her sub-field in particular." The award is based on the student's overall record in the Graduate Program in Religious Studies and on the promise shown by the student's dissertation proposal.

Ms. Van Kirk received her B.A. in 1978 from Duke University where she majored in Management Science and was an Angier B. Duke Scholar. In 1996 she began study for the Master of Divinity degree at TCU's Brite Divinity School where she received the Outstanding Student Award of the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. In 1998 she transferred to SMU's Perkins School of Theology and she received her Master of Theological Studies Degree magna cum laude from Perkins in 2000. Ms. Van Kirk entered the Graduate Program in Religious Studies in the fall of 1998 and, since then, has pursued her doctoral study in the history of the Christian tradition. In addition she has taught courses in Christian mysticism and in Anglican history, doctrine, and polity (for Perkins) and in the history of Christianity (for the undergraduate Department of Religious Studies). Her dissertation adviser is Professor William S. Babcock, Professor of Church History and University Distinguished Teaching Professor in SMU's Perkins School of Theology.

Ms. Van Kirk's dissertation will explore the Christology of the great medieval theologian and mystic, Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard's ways of conceiving and charting the path of the human approach to the divine have attracted much scholarly attention and have become central to the study of medieval Christian mysticism. In contrast, his ways of conceiving and charting the path of the divine approach to the human, as represented in the incarnational presence of God in Christ, have received very little attention and still remain a largely unmapped territory. Ms. Van Kirk's work will seek to trace the idioms and track the images in which Bernard presents this crucial aspect of his thought and theology.

With her husband and their three children, Ms. Van Kirk is a resident of University Park.