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2021 Steel-Hendrix Awards Announced

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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.

Information about the Steel-Hendrix Awards and each award’s recipient follows:

The Rev. Dr. Michelle Morris – The Mary and Ira Brumley Award for Religious Education

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 Little Rock. 

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 Year

Jennifer “Pooh” 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 Awards

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