FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Southwestern presented 43 student awards at a luncheon, April 25, to students who demonstrated personal and academic excellence through their seminary studies and in their preparation for service in ministry.

LifeWay Christian Resources awarded Matt Duran with the LifeWay Leadership Award. Duran, who will graduate with a Master of Divinity in May and who has taken a position as an associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., was selected as the most outstanding Master of Divinity student who will go on to serve as a pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention. Duran said receiving the award was unexpected and a true honor.

“It’s a huge honor because I think there are a lot of people who are more deserving,” Duran said.

Duran, a United States Army veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq before coming to Southwestern to prepare for ministry, was recognized during chapel as well as in the awards luncheon. He said his time at Southwestern has greatly prepared him to lead in pastoral ministry.

“[Southwestern] has given me the academic strength to be able to engage Christian culture and non-Christian culture, alike,” Duran said. “It’s given me the ability and the tools to answer tough questions that are often times left unanswered. Practically, it’s also given me a glimpse into how to handle day-to-day situations, and it’s given me interaction with guys who have been doing ministry for a considerable amount of years so that I can pick their brains and use them as a trouble shooter.”

Southwestern also recognized, among others, Megan Matthews, a native of Canada. Matthews received the Wayne (Polly) McNeely Piano Award for outstanding achievement in piano as well as the President’s Scholar Award for the School of Church Music for outstanding academic achievement and for best representing the seminary’s goals and traditions.

“I am just very honored,” said Matthews, whom Professor of Piano Jill Sprenger has even selected as her own son’s piano instructor. “It was very unexpected. I am very surprised and honored that they would consider me worthy to receive these [awards].”

President Paige Patterson commended the award recipients on a job well done and encouraged them through Proverbs to remember to, above all, rejoice in salvation in Christ.

“You are among the leaders,” Patterson said. “You have done well. You have a fabulous future ahead of you, but let your wealth be in the blessings of the Lord. Receive the award that you received today, and thank God for it. You’ve earned it—no question about that. Rejoice in it. But don’t stop rejoicing more than that—that your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. That’s the only thing that ultimately matters.”