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History Spotlight

Marshall Jolly: A Major Pioneer

“At Transylvania, they walk the walk and talk the talk. When they say they will give you small classes and extracurricular activities, they do.”

Marshall JollyMarshall Jolly's major cannot be found in Transylvania's extensive catalog of academic programs, nor will you find it at other universities. His major, like his journey to where he is today, was his own unique creation and quest to pursue knowledge and understanding of the past and the omnipresent.

Jolly's Transylvania career began in a conventional manner. He originally intended to major in history and attend law school, but everything changed when Jolly discovered what some may deem a higher calling.

"The more I was thinking about it," Jolly says, "the ministry kept coming back into my life as a possible career plan."

Jolly's interest in divinity, however, did not alter his fascination with history. If anything, the two subjects created an important connection.

"I was really interested in the intersection of religion and American history," he says. So, Jolly created his own interdisciplinary major, American studies, where he explored the parallels and connections between religion and history and discovered that law school may not be his calling.

This interest led Jolly to Emory University, whose Ph.D. program in religious history studies is one of the best in the country. Once there, Jolly was advised to begin the master of divinity program and "see where that leads you."

So where did it lead him? Jolly will graduate with a three-year degree and invaluable experience. "One of the things the program requires is that you are placed in a church for three years, working 10-15 hours a week, basically like a pastor," Jolly explained. "Getting to know people in the parish was both a rewarding experience and good preparation for ministry."

Jolly is not referring to preparation for a Ph.D., but for a life of service in The Episcopal Church. In January 2012, Jolly was ordained a deacon, a step toward priesthood.

"It was a humbling and wonderful experience," Jolly says of his ordination, which occurred at his home church in Lexington. At Transylvania, Jolly seized the opportunity to abandon the catalog and convention and pursue his passions. Three years beyond Transylvania, he continues to follow his heart. Jolly was, and continues to be, a pioneer on a quest to explore human past and human faith.

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