CONWAY, Ark. (March
4, 2021) — The Marshall T. Steel Center for the Study of Religion and
Philosophy at Hendrix College will present the 36th Annual
Steel-Hendrix Awards to the Rev. Dr. Michelle J. Morris, Sophia Said, and
Jennifer White. Because of pandemic restrictions on gatherings, these
extraordinary church and community leaders will receive this year’s awards
remotely, in a ceremony that will premiere Monday, March 29, at 4 p.m. on the Steel Center Facebook page and the Hendrix College YouTube Channel.
the Steel-Hendrix Awards and each award’s recipient follows:
The Rev. Dr. Michelle Morris – The Mary and Ira Brumley Award for
The Rev. Dr.
Michelle J. Morris is an ordained elder in the Arkansas Conference of the
United Methodist Church. She has served congregations in West Memphis and Fort
Smith, and now serves as an Associate Pastor overseeing the digital campus of First
UMC Conway. She has also worked on staff in the Arkansas Conference, focusing on
church revitalization and new church starts. That work gave rise to Gospel
Discipleship, two books (a participant guide and congregation guide) which
helps people understand their discipleship in terms of defining paths spelled
out in each of the four Gospels.
Also during her
time on the Conference staff, Morris oversaw the design and launch of the
Arkansas Conference’s online learning system, CouRSe, which provides free
online courses to anyone. When COVID-19 broke out, she also coordinated the
Conference webinar responses. She directs the Arkansas Course of Study for
local pastors and teaches at the regional course of study at Perkins School of
Theology at SMU in Dallas.
Morris holds two
degrees from the University of Arkansas – a Bachelor of Arts in English and
French and a Master of Arts in Comparative Literature. She also has her M.Div.
and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies (emphasis New Testament), both from SMU in
Dallas. Morris writes for the Adult Bible Studies curriculum and is one of the
writers for the CEB Women’s Bible. She is passionate about connecting people to
Jesus in meaningful ways, and loves to help people gain a deeper understanding
of their discipleship.
Sophia Said – The Ethel K. Millar Award for Religion
and Social Awareness
Sophia Said is
the Executive Director of the Interfaith Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. She
has helped establish this outreach ministry to build bridges of peace and
understanding and enhance public dialogue among different faith communities.
Said designs and
implements interfaith initiatives in order to educate people about the various
faith traditions and promote interfaith dialogue and awareness. She has
provided community leadership by exemplifying interfaith cooperation skills
through several of her programs, including interfaith summer camp for youth,
interfaith youth group for teens, educational classes and workshops for adults,
interfaith prayer events, interfaith supper club, and much more. She has also increased
awareness about the rights of immigrants and religious minorities by educating
and bringing diverse communities together in Arkansas.
Sophia is also the
founder of Madina Institute, a mosque in Little Rock committed to the
principles of compassion, education, illumination, and inclusion, serving the
spiritual, social, and educational needs of a growing Muslim population in
Born and raised
in Pakistan, Sophia moved to United States for higher education. She graduated summa
cum laude from the University of Utah in 2007 with a degree in economics.
She has a master’s degree from the Clinton School of Public Service and has
worked as a strategic adviser and gender based economic development consultant
locally and internationally.
A recipient of
the Humanitarian of the Year award from Just Communities of Arkansas, the
Peacemaker of the Year award from Arkansas Coalition of Peace and Justice, and
several other awards from local and state-based organizations, Said is
committed to creating peaceful, diverse communities based on the principles of
coexistence and pluralism.
Jennifer White – Hendrix College Youth Minister of the
White was born and raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has been connected with
First United Methodist Church of Stuttgart since birth. After high school, she
moved to Arkadelphia and attended Ouachita Baptist University, graduating in 2011
with a degree in Christian studies with an emphasis in youth ministries, crisis
counseling and a minor in psychology.
White started her
career as an intern at her home church, which led to her taking on the
leadership of the youth program. For the past decade, she has been the director
of youth ministries at First United Methodist Church of Stuttgart, running a
cooperative youth program with FUMC and Grand Avenue United Methodist Church of
Stuttgart. To deepen her expertise, she has attended Perkins School of Youth Ministry
and taken seminary courses.
Beyond her local
church, White currently serves as co-leader of the Southeast District Council on
Youth Ministries, on the Refuge Task Force for the Arkansas Conference Council
on Youth Ministries (ACCYM), and on the ACCYM adult research team. Through the
past 10 years, she has helped grow the Stuttgart youth program from three
members to over 100, giving of her time to mentor young people and volunteer in
her community, making a diﬀerence
in countless lives.
About the Steel-Hendrix
In 1984, Hendrix College inaugurated the annual Steel-Hendrix Award
Lectureship to celebrate 100 years of its official relationship with the United
Methodist Church. The award was named in honor of Marshall T. Steel, a prominent
minister and former president of the College.
About Hendrix College
A private liberal
arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns
recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is
featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change
the Way You Think About Colleges.
Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix
as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876,
Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To
learn more, visit www.hendrix.edu.