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The ACTS Doctor of Ministry in Preaching Students, Class of 2022 Establish Two Scholarships to Honor Dr. Gennifer Brooks

November 8, 2021
Rev. Dr. Gennifer Brooks

Those acquainted with Dr. Gennifer Brooks know she is rarely at a loss for words. But when the Class of 2022 of the ACTS Doctor of Ministry in Preaching students told her at an end-of-the-year celebration that they established not one – but two – scholarships in her name, she was speechless.

“At first, I said nothing,” said Brooks, dean of the Association of Theological Schools (ACTS) Doctor of Ministry in Preaching Program and Ernest and Bernice Styberg Professor of Preaching at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. “I just stood there with my mouth open. I thought, ‘What are you talking about.’ It was mind blowing.”

“I could feel myself tearing up, so I went silent,” she continued. “To have two scholarships established in my name is breathtaking and unbelievable.”

Although Garrett-Evangelical was already a member of ACTS, a consortium of approximately 12 seminaries in the Chicago area, it did not participate in the Doctor of Ministry in Preaching program until 2006. In the ACTS Doctor of Ministry in Preaching Program, students from six of the seminaries come together each summer for three years to take classes. After they finish their classes, the students work with advisors at their own seminaries to finish their doctoral thesis.

When Brooks became dean of the program, she decided she wanted to recognize the third-year class. On their last night, they come together for a worship service and a program where Brooks awards them a Certificate of Candidacy.

According to Brooks, the third-year class usually gives a gift to the dean during the program. Because the last celebration was on Zoom due to the pandemic, the class sent her a package and told her not to open it until July 9. “I assumed that was my gift,” Brooks said.   

Little did Brooks know that her doctor of ministry students had a bigger idea.

“My classmates and I wanted to do something different – more significant – because we knew that Dean Brooks was retiring in 2023,” said DMin Student Jeryl Salmond, pastor of Ladson Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina and financial advisor at an international investment firm. “We wanted to do something that would honor her for all she has done,” he continued. “She has given her life so preachers can preach.”

The students decided they wanted to establish an endowed scholarship in Brooks’s name that would provide financial assistance to DMin students at Garrett-Evangelical once it is fully endowed, but they also wanted to do something to help current students.

Salmond called Joe Emmick, vice president for development at Garrett-Evangelical, and he helped the students establish two scholarships: the Dr. Gennifer Brooks Doctor of Ministry Annual Scholarship Fund that would help current DMin students and the Dr. Gennifer Brooks Doctor of Ministry Endowed Scholarship, that once fully endowed, would help DMin students in perpetuity.

Once the plan was in place, the students were ready for the end-of-the-year celebration. That night, Salmond told Brooks they had established two scholarships.

“To know that my name remains in the place where I have spent almost all of my professorial life is the greatest honor I could have in my career,” said Brooks. “It is wonderful to know I have left the kind of legacy that says I mattered to someone, I mattered to the school, I mattered to the program.”

“I feel I can look God in the face now, and say, ‘I have done my best,’” she continued. “I feel like this was a message from God saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”

Scholarships for doctor of ministry students are essential, Brooks said, because few seminaries provide scholarships for doctoral students and few churches have the money to help their pastors get advanced degrees.  

“Doctor of ministry students generally have to take out more loans, when they are still paying back loans from going to seminary,” Brooks said. “And there are some programs that don’t allow students to take loans, so those students can’t afford to come. To provide funding for them is to help the church have pastors who are better informed and more knowledgeable and able to lead congregations.”   

Salmond said he hopes that once alumni and current students hear about the scholarships, they will contribute to it. Brooks said she will also encourage folks to give. “Since I’m retiring in 2023, I’ll probably have a party,” she said. “I will tell people not to bring me anything. If they plan to buy anything – even if it is only worth $5 – I will ask them to send a contribution to Garrett-Evangelical for these scholarships.”

To contribute to the Dr. Gennifer Brooks Doctor of Ministry Annual Scholarship Fund and/or the Dr. Gennifer Brooks Doctor of Ministry Endowed Scholarship, visit https://www.Garrett.edu/give/supporting-our-mission. Be sure to indicate that the gift is for the Dr. Gennifer Brooks Scholarships. You may also mail a check to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary Development Office, 2121 Sheridan Road, Evanston, Illinois, 60201.