Ba Wool (Paul) Kim Named Recipient of the 2023 Robert L. Gilbert Scholar in Religion Graduate Stipend
WACO, Texas (May 30, 2023) – Baylor University’s Department of Religion has announced that Ba Wool (Paul) Kim has been named the recipient of the 2023 Robert L. Gilbert Scholar in Religion Graduate Stipend. Kim has been accepted to the University’s Ph.D. program in religion with a concentration in Old Testament studies.
The fellowship is named for the Rev. Robert Gilbert, B.A. '67, who, along with Barbara Walker, B.A. ’67, were the first Black graduates of Baylor University. Rev. Gilbert and Mrs. Walker were commemorated in April with two bronze statues in front of the Tidwell Bible Building to celebrate their strength, courage and accomplishments.
An influential educator, pastor and civil rights leader in the Waco area, Rev. Gilbert was the first Black student to enroll in Baylor’s religion graduate program in 1970. During his time in that program, he became assistant director of the University's Upward Bound program, which helps high school students from low-income families prepare for college. In 1976, he was the first Black member elected to the Waco Independent School District Board. He also was a champion of women in ministry, being the first Black Baptist pastor to license a female minister.
Kim earned his B.A. in history with a minor in Japanese from the University of Washington in Seattle in 2013, his M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2016 and his Th.M. in Old Testament biblical studies from Columbia Theological Seminary in 2022. As the 2023 Gilbert Scholar in Religion, Kim will receive an annual fellowship of $6,000 above the base stipend of $26,000 and full tuition remission for up to five years, a $250,000 total package. He will begin his graduate studies in the theological area of the religion graduate program in fall 2023.
Kim and his family immigrated to the United States in 2004 from South Korea. He said his parents wanted their son to develop a “broader perspective through American education and its culturally diverse backgrounds.”
He shared in his application that he was subjected to years of racism throughout his high school experience and felt resentful toward those who had bullied and harassed him. It was during his time at the University of Washington that Kim found refuge and a direction to turn his earlier experience into something positive.
“I majored in history with a focus on the history of African Americans and soon found myself deeply immersed in the stories of how brutally they have been oppressed yet how resiliently they fought and persevered against perpetrators of racism for centuries,” said Kim. “Their fervent struggle against social injustice helped to shape my identity. I used to be ashamed of my Asian looks and culture and tried desperately to deny my ethnic heritage. Yet, studying the stories of prominent leaders like Robert L. Gilbert and how they overcame social injustice against all odds has inspired me to be grateful for and proud of my own heritage and other minorities.”
Members of the Graduate Admission Committee in Religion were inspired by Kim’s story and his dedication to overcoming prejudice through his dedication to religious studies.
“He wants to honor Rev. Gilbert’s legacy by challenging any forms of social injustice and racial oppression through his service to the academy, church and the larger society,” said Lidija Novakovic, Ph.D., professor of New Testament and interim graduate program director in religion. “Mr. Kim is a worthy recipient of the Gilbert Scholar in Religion Graduate Fellowship who will bring new insights to our program, and we are excited to welcome him this fall.”
Kenyatta Gilbert, Ph.D., professor of homiletics at Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, D.C. and Rev. Gilbert’s son, said, "My family and I are very pleased that the Robert L. Gilbert Scholar in Religion initiative will support coming generations of scholars who will devote themselves to the essential work of cultivating sites of justice and belonging, which we hope will result in a more culturally diverse communion of scholars having a meaningful voice in the academy."
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