Keith Cates is 2024 Professor of the Year

For Immediate Release
Date: Sunday, December 17, 2023

Columbia, S.C.—During a virtual graduation ceremony on Sunday, December 17, the Votaries Alumni Circle of Cherry Hill Seminary announced the winner of this year’s Wendy Griffin Professor of the Year Award. The recipient is Keith Cates, PhD, EdS, Dept. of Pastoral Counseling & Chaplaincy.

Cates (pictured at left) received his Ph.D. In Counselor Education and Supervision from Auburn University. Additionally he holds an Ed.S in Guidance and Counseling, an M.A. in Psychology, a B.A in Psychology and a B.F.A. in Fine Arts from the University of West Georgia. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has held state licensure in Georgia, Alabama and Alaska. He currently works in higher education and continuing adult education as faculty, clinical director, and consultant in the areas of assessment, accreditation and program curriculum development. His research has centered on non-mainstream and sub-cultural populations and his clinical practice has focused on working with Military, EMS, Fire and Police personnel and providing clinical supervision for counselors seeking licensure. He is a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis where he has served in the role of Bodymaster as well as worked with the OTO’s Psychology Guild to serve the pastoral counseling training needs of the OTO’s clergy.

From his student nomination we read, “Dr. Cates provided as each the opportunity to dig deeper into our own understanding, discuss it with each other and grow substantially from the interaction. We learned as much from each other as we did from him, but it was his facilitation process and class design that allowed that to be possible. . .The design of this class, and the facilitation method of this professor is one of the best that I have experienced so far.”

“To be nominated by the students for this award means everything to me,” said Cates. “A class can go from good to great with the involvement of the kind of students you find at Cherry Hill. These are the students that propel a class by asking deep and difficult questions, and promote a desire for learning that you hope to find in graduate classes. I have been fortunate to be a part of such classes. Thank you for this honor.” Nominations are submitted by students who have taken a course in the past year with their nominee; nominees are reviewed and voted on by the Votaries.

Also honored with the new Hypatia Award for Excellence in Education was Candace Kant, PhD, (pictured left) for her outstanding service to students in the past year. Kant holds  a Ph.D. in history from Northern Arizona University. She taught history, women’s studies, and religious studies courses at the College of Southern Nevada since 1976, including such classes as the History of Witchcraft, Goddess Traditions, Introduction to Modern Paganism, and Modern Pagan Thought, all of which she developed. After 32 years of teaching she retired and was awarded the title Emerita. She joined the faculty of Cherry Hill Seminary in 2009. Over the years she served as chair for the Department of Theology & Religious Studies, was Dean of Students from 2012 to 2018, and was Academic Dean from 2018 to 2021. A devotee of Sekhmet, Kant formerly served as a priestess at the Temple of Goddess Spirituality, participating in creating and leading rituals there. An active member of member of the Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada, Kant is often asked to speak to local groups on the topic of witchcraft and paganism.

“Working with Cherry Hill Seminary is the ultimate reward for long years in higher education,” said Kant.  The students, faculty and staff are absolutely the best.  My work with the Seminary has brought so many rewards and wonderful experiences.”

Both awards were part of a graduation ceremony recognizing the award of the Community Ministry Certificate to the following students: Gwen Armshaw, Christopher Deane, Ron Padron, Kerry Robinson, Heather Westenhofer, and Jenny Zappala.

Addressing the group of students, Holli Emore, MDiv, said, “To our new CMCs, we affirm the value of the work that each of you has chosen to undertake, the preparation that you have put into your training, and the honest self-examination which have brought you to this achievement. Our spiritual path is often very different to those in other religions. Each of you will make your own unique journey from this point. We give you our blessing and send you from here with our unwavering support of you in your life’s work, in whatever form you create.”

Each of the students spent at least fifteen months of self-study accompanied by a faculty-mentor. The program covers ethics; Pagan history and theology basics; creating and leading ritual; diversity & cultural understanding; personal spiritual development; serving people at various life stages; group leadership; family dynamics; addictions; domestic violence issues; teaching and presenting; developing your allies & more. (More info here)

Click to view a recording of the ceremony, including keynote remarks by Academic Dean, Margot Wolfe, PhD.

Votaries Alumni Circle is a membership group which supports and promotes the Seminary, provides social events for members, and sponsors programs like the Coming to the Center public livestreamed program each semester. Its selection of the Professor of the Year is a several-months long process and a highlight of the year.

Cherry Hill Seminary is the leading provider of education and practical training in leadership, ministry, and personal growth in Pagan and Nature-Based spiritualities, empowering spiritual leadership, scholarship, and ethics through theological and pastoral education to nurture interfaith engagement in a diverse society.