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Calvin College Graduate Selected as Lilly Fellow


Aaron Abma is one of 10 students from across the United States selected for the Lilly Fellows Graduate Program. The three-year program supports top students who seek to find the connections among Christianity, higher education, and the vocation of the teacher-scholar as they pursue graduate degrees in humanities and the arts.

Abma, a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., was studying overseas recently when he got word about the prestigious fellowship that will help him continue his studies at the graduate level. He graduated from Calvin College in May with a double major in physics and philosophy after spending his final semester at Oxford University in England. He will begin graduate studies this fall at the University of Pittsburgh with hopes of teaching philosophy at the college level in the future. Considered a voracious reader, a careful researcher, and a thoughtful Christian by some of his Calvin professors, Abma has a wide range of interests he may study at the graduate level.

“I am interested in ethics, especially virtue ethics, so I’d like to pursue that further. I am also interested in the philosophy of science,” he said. “But I also may want to focus on metaphysics and epistemology in grad school, because that provides such a great foundation for pursuing other areas of philosophy.”

Abma and the other nine Lilly fellows were selected from among 56 applicants across the country following an interview process. They will meet beginning in late July for an inaugural conference in Indianapolis, Ind. “All of us will be coming from similar fundamental faith commitments, working in similar programs, under similar stresses, and pursuing similar ultimate goals: becoming professors and practicing our Christianity and our scholarship in unison,” he said.

Abma, who attends Woodlawn Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, was nominated for the fellowship by Calvin’s philosophy department. One of his professors, James K.A. Smith, called him “the perfect candidate” for the fellowship. “He’s one of the smartest students I’ve ever had the joy of teaching, but he is also serious about his faith. He would be a gift to the future of Christian higher education,” Smith said.

As part of the Lilly program, Abma must meet regularly with a mentor, attend four conferences, and take part in a long-distance colloquium. He will receive a total of $9,000, parceled our in three annual stipends of $3,000, to use toward his studies.

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