CONWAY, Ark. (January 25, 2022) – The 37th annual Steel-Hendrix Awards will honor four extraordinary church and community leaders on Monday, March 14: the Rev. Dr. Ulysses C. Washington, Mary Lewis Dassinger, Dr. Sara Tariq, and Lorrie McClure. Details of the celebration will be announced in February.
Information about each Steel-Hendrix Award recipient follows:
The Rev. Dr. Ulysses Washington – The Mary and Ira Brumley Award for Religious Education
As the superintendent of the Central District of the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Rev. Dr. Ulysses C. Washington serves as chief mission strategist for the congregations in the central Arkansas area. Before Bishop Gary Mueller appointed him to this role in the summer of 2021, Washington had been senior pastor at Highland Valley since 2018. Previously, he served at Theresa Hoover Memorial UMC in Little Rock for two and a half years, and Mission UMC in Fort Smith for 13 years. Washington spent 26 years as a pastor in the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church before becoming an elder in the United Methodist Church.
Washington has said one of his goals for the Central District is to bring a more diverse group of people into the faith community of the United Methodist Church. “I believe, and I hope others believe or will come to believe, that our Christian witness is better realized in a community of diversity,” he said. “When a wider array of people shapes the work of God’s kingdom efforts together, something special is communicated. This will require intentional efforts, specifically linked to people’s inclusion from diverse walks of life. It has been said, ‘All of humanity is one family, which God desires to unite.’”
Rev. Washington has a Doctorate in Ministry, Pastoral Leadership/Homiletics from Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has been happily married for 44 years to his wife, Mona, and they have two adult sons, Garry and Michael.
Mary Lewis Dassinger and Dr. Sara Tariq – The Ethel K. Millar Award for Religion and Social Awareness
Mary Lewis Dassinger is the Project Coordinator for 200,000 More Reasons to fight childhood hunger and poverty, a special initiative of the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church. She graduated from Memphis Theological Seminary with a Master of Arts in Religion soon after moving to Little Rock with her family. Before taking this position, she served for three years as coordinator of missions at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church. Dassinger currently serves as Chair of the Faith Relations Committee for the Arkansas Food Bank. She also is a board member for the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and is on several committees for the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church.
After graduating from Birmingham-Southern College, Dassinger worked on the family farm in Mississippi before returning to Birmingham, where she began a focus on nonprofit work, first teaching high school students about philanthropy and volunteerism, then working on AmeriCorps and service-learning programming before being called to seminary. She joined the Arkansas Annual Conference staff in 2016 as the Program Coordinator for 200,000 Reasons. In 2020, the initiative broadened its focus beyond childhood hunger to include poverty alleviation strategies for under-resourced children, specifically literacy for children ages third grade and younger, and ministries that help promote a healthy, stable family. This initiative, now 200,000 More Reasons, invites local churches and followers of Christ to do more—to be in relationship with the food insecure and poor in their community and to create opportunities for long-term stability for the children and families they serve.
Dassinger believes the Holy Spirit led her to this work. She grew up alongside people she loved in generational poverty. After leaving her home, she acknowledged her privilege and her complicity in systems that oppressed them and others. She then began a journey of coming to greater understanding, a deeper faith and a desire to offer hope—to those like her growing in discipleship and those like her childhood neighbors, who deserve every opportunity she had.
Sara Tariq, M.D., serves as Associate Dean, Student Affairs, at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). After graduating from UAMS, she completed her residency at Brown University, Rhode Island Hospital, then returned to UAMS, where she has served in various faculty roles. Her clinical work is in general medicine, with a focus on women’s health and trauma-informed care. She currently serves as a contributing member on the National Collaboration for Education to Address the Social Determinants of Health (NCEAS) through Northwestern University. As the Medical Director for UAMS’s Clinical Skills Center, she helped students build clinical skills during years M2 through M4. In her 16 years as Practice of Medicine II course director, she played a major role in leading UAMS through curricular reform in undergraduate medical education to an integrated organ-systems model; and created and led the Bias in Healthcare Committee, which analyzed pre-clinical content for unconscious bias. She now ensures that all UAMS students are supported as they progress through medical school, focusing on wellness, transitions, and preparation for the residency match. She also directs the COM Academic House Program, which provides students with faculty and peer mentorship. Her primary research interest is bias in healthcare, and professionalism and the learning environment. She led a committee in the planning and implementation for a new post-baccalaureate program for socio-economically disadvantaged students in Arkansas; the inaugural class started in June 2021.
Empowering the community is important to Tariq. She has served as board president of Harmony Health Clinic, a free medical/dental clinic that offers comprehensive healthcare for the uninsured of central Arkansas, where she oversaw the expansion of clinical programs and helped raise over $800,000 for the clinic. She currently serves as co-chair of Just Communities of Arkansas, a non-profit that works at the organizational level to promote social justice and inclusion through culture change, and as facilitator for healing spaces and difficult conversations within that organization. Tariq also serves on the board of the Interfaith Center, an organization promoting interfaith understanding through educational programs and dialogue. Her civic involvement includes serving on Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott’s Transition Team, chairing the Inclusion Committee and helping to create the infrastructure for inclusive practices in city government.
Lorrie McClure – Hendrix College Youth Minister of the Year
For the past 10 years, Lorrie McClure has served as the youth minister for First United Methodist Church of Batesville, Arkansas. She graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in 1996 with a degree in contemporary African American political studies. In addition to her work with the church, McClure also works for the Batesville School District as home visiting coordinator, supervising a staff of 14 who offer family support and kindergarten readiness, and serving students and families who are experiencing homelessness, teen pregnancy, truancy, and other high needs.
“Lorrie is a joy to be around. She is funny, warm, and direct,” said the Rev. Katie Pearce, the church’s pastor. “Often, her work at school impacts our church because she is able to help us direct people to available resources when they come to the church needing assistance. She has built one of the largest youth programs in the Arkansas Conference, and when people ask her about how she did it, she always says, ‘Everyone needs a little Jesus.’”
McClure has grown the Wednesday night youth ministry of First UMC Batesville into a spiritual home for at least 100 teens, most of whom did not grow up in the church. Pearce says the youth attendance on Wednesdays often rivals Sunday morning worship attendance, and that McClure serves as an effective mentor and encourager. A former ministry intern of McClure’s is now pursuing vocational ministry in the United Methodist Church. In 2021, McClure received the United Methodist Women Special Recognition Pin from the United Methodist Women of her congregation for making a difference in the lives of children and youth. McClure and her husband, Chad, are the parents of two children, Mallory and Matthew.
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 www.hendrix.edu.