Professor Emerita M. Shawn Copeland, an award-winning theologian who specializes in practical-political Catholic theology, theological anthropology, and the African and African American intellectual history and religious experience, will be the keynote speaker at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Banquet, which will be held in virtual format on February 16 at 6 p.m.

During the banquet, University President William P. Leahy, S.J., will announce the winner of the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship, which recognizes a Boston College junior who has demonstrated superior academic achievement, extracurricular leadership, community service, and involvement with the African American community and African American issues.

M. Shawn Copeland

Theology Professor Emerita M. Shawn Copeland

This year’s scholarship candidates are Grace Assogba, Darnell Fils, Nana Kusi Minkah, Armani Mitchell, and Latifat Odetunde. During the virtual banquet, attendees will view video clips of each of the finalists reading an excerpt from their scholarship application essay on the meaning of King’s legacy in their own lives.

Copeland, who taught in the Theology Department and African and African Diaspora Studies Program for 17 years before retiring in 2019, earned a doctorate in systematic theology from the University in 1991. She is a former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and a former convener of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium.

Her works include Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race, and Being, which has been called a modern theological classic, Knowing Christ Crucified: The Witness of African American Religious Experience, and The Subversive Power of Love: The Vision of Henriette Delille, along with numerous articles, book chapters, and reviews. She is also co-editor of four theological volumes: Grace and Friendship: Theological Essays in Honor of Fred Lawrence, Uncommon Faithfulness: The Black Catholic Experience, Feminist Theologies in Different Context, and Violence Against Women.

In 2018, the Catholic Theological Society of America presented Copeland with its highest honor, the John Courtney Murray Award, in recognition of a lifetime of distinguished theological achievement. She has also received the Marianist Award, which honors a Catholic scholar, author, and theologian who has made an outstanding contribution to the intellectual life; the Yves Congar Award for excellence in theology; and the Elizabeth Seton Award, which recognizes distinguished women in theology, among other accolades.

To register for the banquet, go to

Christine Balquist | University Communications | February 2021