A faithful pursuit

Following a calling may require a leap of faith.  But for Palmer Cantler of Johnson City, Tennessee, the path was clear.

It all started before Cantler entered the 7th grade.  A simple poster at a summer youth conference stopped her in her tracks. “So you want to go into ministry?” it read.

Even as a teen, Cantler felt a call she couldn’t deny.  Guided by the support of her home church and ministers who mentored her along the way, she graduated from Wofford College and made her way to Duke.

In fall 2015, Cantler enrolled in the Master of Divinity program at Duke Divinity School to pursue education for a career as an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.  Her deep admiration for ministers whose leadership characteristics she hopes to emulate led her to Duke University, where several of them had attended.

“Duke is a well-recognized school for a myriad of programs.  Being associated with this institution carries a certain level of respect,” said Cantler.  “I applied to Duke Divinity School because I have great respect for the institution and the reputation it holds in the United Methodist Church.”

Cantler received the first Hawkins Family Scholarship, which provides financial aid support for Duke Divinity students each year, with a preference for those who are graduates of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences or the Nicholas School of the Environment.

“My financial aid package made attending Duke Divinity possible,” said Cantler.  “Because of scholarship support, I am receiving a world-class education from some of the top theologians and ministers in the world.”

Cantler’s scholarship was established through a planned gift of real estate from the Reverend Thornton Hawkins M.Div.’54 and his wife, Evelyn, along with their daughters, Patrice Hawkins Sigmon ’76 and Catherine Hawkins Hoffman ’78.

For a century, the Silver-Hawkins family owned 189 acres of pristine mountain forestland in Haywood County, North Carolina, adjoining the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The Hawkins family hoped to see the land remain undeveloped so that future generations could enjoy its natural beauty.  After thoughtful evaluation of their personal and charitable goals, the family decided to donate the property to Duke University.

“We understand conservation of the land to be a tenet of our Christian faith and practice,” said Thornton Hawkins.  “What we have done with Duke University is a source of great and lasting joy for our family.”

The net proceeds received by Duke, along with an additional outright gift, have funded The Hawkins Family Scholarship Endowment, which celebrates three generations of Duke education, including Patrice’s husband Allen R. Sigmon ’76 and the special memory of their late daughter, Lauren Patrice Sigmon ’07.

“A gift like the Hawkins’ is an investment in both my future ministry and the lives of future recipients,” said Cantler. “Rev. Hawkins had an incredible ministry and he inspired the spiritual lives of many.

I can only hope, through the education that I am able to receive because of his gift, that I will be able to do the same.”

Above: Cantler meets the Hawkins family.

Planned gifts like the Hawkins’ help set Duke’s trajectory for the future. You, too, can leave a legacy that benefits the people, places, and programs you love most. Duke’s Office of Gift Planning can help.

Contact us to learn more.

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