Religious Life

35th Annual Steel-Hendrix Banquet

The Marshall T. Steel Center will honor three extraordinary church and community leaders at the 35th Annual Steel-Hendrix Award banquet on Monday, March 2, at 5:30 p.m., in Worsham Performance Hall in the Student Life and Technology Center, Hendrix College.

Tickets for the banquet cost $25 through Monday, February 24.  

2020 Steel-Hendrix Award Winners 

MableDonaldson_web.jpgMary and Ira Brumley award for Religious Education — 

Mable Donaldson

Mable Donaldson is a retired public educator with a passion for teaching and spending time with students. As a teacher and administrator in the Pulaski County Special School District (16 years) and the Little Rock School District (21 years), her roles included junior high school science teacher for both districts and supervisor for Gifted Education Programs for LRSD. She also has served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a scholastic auditor for the Arkansas Department of Education.

Donaldson received a Bachelor of Science degree from Philander Smith College (where she has since received a Living Legends Award) and a Master of Education degree and supervision certification from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Her honors as an educator include an LRSD Superintendent’s Citation; LRAEOP Administrator of the Year; College Board Southwest Region Award for Advanced Placement; Arkansas Association Gifted Education Administrator of the Year; and recognition by Governor Mike Huckabee as an Outstanding Arkansas Educator. In addition, the Charles W. Donaldson Scholars Academy has recognized her and her husband for visionary leadership in pipeline program development.

A lifelong Methodist, her activities in the church have included Sunday school teacher, financial steward, communion steward, United Methodist Women, pastor parish relations chair, nurture and membership committee, worship committee, and finance committee. Presently she serves on the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas Board of Directors, Arkansas Conference Episcopacy Committee, the Central District Superintendency Committee, alternate member to the Arkansas Annual Conference, and scholarship committee member for the Dollars for Scholars Program at Wesley UMC Little Rock.

Donaldson has served as president of the Arkansas Association for Gifted Education Administrators (AAGEA); on the board of directors for Arkansans for Gifted and Talented Education (AGATE) and Arkansas Association Education Administrators (AAEA); and as a member of teachers associations for PCSSD and LRSD as well as the Arkansas Education Association. Donaldson enjoys participating in the Little Rock Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, which she has done for 16 years. She also serves as second vice president for the Alpha Mu Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma International Society.

Ethel K. Millar Award for Religion and Social Awareness —

Rev. Paul Atkins

An ordained deacon serving Canvas Community United Methodist Church in Little Rock, Paul Atkins is the son and grandson of life-long Methodists. He grew up in Little Rock and Benton and participated in the life of his local church through youth group, mission trips, and church camp. In college, he studied bassoon performance at the University of Missouri-Columbia where he met his wife, Julie. They married in 1998, half-way through his masters in music at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. After two years in New Jersey as a freelance bassoonist, Atkins returned to Central Arkansas in 2001 to work as a church music director. When that position ended, he joined his father in the insurance business while continuing part-time in music ministry and exploring his call to ordained ministry. While attending Memphis Theological Seminary, his experience volunteering at a ministry with people experiencing homelessness knocked him off his intended path back to music ministry. His family (including daughter Elizabeth, born in 2008) moved to Little Rock to do church differently, where they connected with Canvas Community in 2011.

At Canvas, Atkins has developed relationships with his friends experiencing homelessness and tried to find ways to connect them with the rest of Canvas and the wider church. When his friends go to jail for various reasons, Paul visits them and has organized a monthly note-writing ministry. He has led Bible studies trying to draw together people from different backgrounds. This past April, Canvas and the City of Little Rock piloted a program called Bridge to Work, which offers people experiencing homelessness the opportunity to work picking up trash around the city as well as get connected with services to help them get to their next step. Hundreds have participated in the program and been able to earn a day’s pay, get identification documents, access to health insurance and health and job search services, and some have found permanent jobs. Overall, Paul believes God is calling rich people and poor people to know and care about each other and to live into God’s web of loving kindness where all are family.

Hendrix College Youth Minister of the Year — Virginia Brown

A WVirginia Brownhite County native, Virginia Brown is the current director of youth ministries at First United Methodist Church of Beebe, Ark. She has been a United Methodist her entire life, and graduated from Searcy High School while being an active youth group member at St. Paul United Methodist Church. St. Paul is also where she got her start in youth ministry, as an intern straight out of high school.

After interning for two years in Searcy, Brown began her first part-time youth ministry job at First United Methodist Church of Pocahontas. To finish her degree in Recreation and Parks Management, she transferred to Southeast Missouri State University; while completing her degree, she also interned for two years at Centenary United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau, Mo. During summers, she worked at Beartooth Christian Camp in Fishtail, Mont., first as a counselor and then as the assistant program director. While still in Montana, she accepted the position at First United Methodist Church of Beebe, where she has now been for 5 ½ years.

For the past year and a half, Brown also has attended seminary full-time at Memphis Theological Seminary. Her dreams include becoming an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. She enjoys spending time outdoors, and would like to use her passion for experiencing God through creation as a way to reach not only young people, but also entire families.


Online registration is available here; fees do apply.

To pay by check please email

Checks can be mailed to:

Hendrix College

Attn: Chaplain's office

1600 Washington Ave.

Conway, AR  72032