Tarwater ’13 to attend Union Theological Seminary

July 15, 2013
Contact: Mary Moates, Communications Assistant
865.981.8209; communications@maryvillecollege.edu

As a student at Maryville College, Jordan Tarwater ’13, spent quite a bit of time researching and writing about Myles Horton, who was the topic of his Senior Study.

Now, Tarwater will have the opportunity to study at the same seminary where the educator and social activist studied.

Tarwater was awarded a full-tuition scholarship to Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he will pursue a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree.

“It’s an honor and humbling,” said Tarwater, who majored in religion and minored in Appalachian studies. “So many of my heroes have gone there in the past, including Horton and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It’s like I’m following in Horton’s footsteps.”

As a student, Tarwater was advised by Dr. Phillip Sherman, assistant professor of religion, and completed an independent Senior Study under Dr. Andrew Irvine, associate professor of philosophy and religion. In his study, Tarwater looked at the social history of Appalachia, including the work of Horton and the Highlander Institute, which Horton co-founded.

One of the distinctive features of a Maryville education, the Senior Study requirement calls for students to complete a two-semester research and writing project that is guided by a faculty supervisor.

“The thesis was impressive for the breadth of Jordan’s research -- and his ability to focus and make key connections among the different sources on which he drew,” Irvine said. “Jordan is modest and soft-spoken, but still waters run deep; in courses he took with me, as well as over the course of writing his thesis, Jordan’s capacity for sharp and empathetic critical thinking was a delight to witness.”

For his Senior Study, Irvine said that Tarwater combined lessons from an influential Latin American movement known as “liberation theology” to develop his own ideas about the need of – and appropriate goals for – an Appalachian theology of liberation.

“I used my third chapter as my writing sample for graduate schools,” Tarwater said. “My thesis gave me a pretty solid base, with potential focuses and a Christian foundation that I think potentially aided me in acceptance to various seminaries.”

As a student, Tarwater was the recipient of the College’s Isaac Anderson Fellowship, which provides support to students contemplating lives in the field of ministry. The scholarship provides a stipend to recipients so they can explore the ministry field in an internship setting. Tarwater interned at the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program in Louisville, Ky., and at First Presbyterian Church in Knoxville – two experiences that he believes made him more appealing to graduate programs, as well as introduced him to new ways of exploring his craft in theology.

Tarwater said he selected Union because of his passion for social activism.

“Union has a history of activism and progressive stances on issues, which are things that I’m personally passionate about, such as mountaintop removal,” Tarwater said.

“Besides, Cornel West is there,” he added, referring to the prominent professor and philosopher who is on the faculty at Union.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2014 semester is 1,213.