Pace, Oliphint to Receive Perkins Distinguished Alumnus Awards

The Rev. Dr. Thomas J. Pace III (M.Div. ’82) and Rev. Dr. Clayton Oliphint (M.Div. ’88, D.Min. ’96) have been selected as recipients of the 2023 Perkins Distinguished Alumnus/a Award.

DALLAS (SMU) – The Rev. Dr. Thomas J. Pace III (M.Div. ’82) and Rev. Dr. Clayton Oliphint (M.Div. ’88, D.Min. ’96) have been selected as recipients of the 2023 Perkins Distinguished Alumnus/a Award.

The award recognizes Perkins graduates who have demonstrated effectiveness and integrity in service to the church, continuing support for the goals of Perkins and Southern Methodist University, outstanding service to the community and exemplary character.
Dr. Pace has served as Senior Pastor at St. Luke's UMC in Houston since 2006. He previously served United Methodist churches in Duncanville, South Houston, League City and Sugar Land. In addition to his Master of Divinity degree from Perkins, Pace received a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Drew University. The grandson of a United Methodist pastor, he currently serves on boards or advisory councils for Houston Methodist Hospital, Southwestern University, Connect Community, Amazing Place and Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston. Pace and his wife, Dee, have been married for 45 years and have five daughters and 11 grandchildren.

In a letter affirming Pace’s nomination for the award, retired UMC Bishop Janice Riggle Huie said, “In all his years of local and conference leadership, Dr. Pace has been undaunted in his advocacy for Perkins School of Theology and the formation of pastors for the next generation of ministry. For that alone, many of us today and many yet to come tomorrow are deeply grateful.”

Said Dr. Marc L. Boom, President and Chief Executive Officer of Houston Methodist Hospital: “Tom elevates the people around him with his wisdom and intelligence. He is a kind-hearted man who connects well with people. Other leaders and chaplains feel at ease in his presence and seek out his mentorship.”

Since 2001, Dr. Oliphint has served as Senior Pastor at First UMC Richardson. He previously served United Methodist churches in Dallas, The Colony and Duncanville. Dr. Oliphint – whose father, Ben Oliphint, was a United Methodist Bishop – received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Religion from Austin College in addition to his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Perkins. He serves in leadership capacities for numerous organizations, including Methodist Hospital Dallas, the Texas Methodist Foundation, Methodist Children’s Home and the Network of Community Ministries. He also is heavily involved in committees at the Conference, Jurisdictional and Denominational levels within The United Methodist Church. Oliphint and his wife, Lori, have been married for 33 years and are the parents of three children.

“Dr. Clayton Oliphint demonstrates the faith, courageous leadership and entrepreneurial initiative to lead an ever-growing, healthy, outward-focused Christian congregation,” retired UMC Bishop Max Whitfield said. “He surrounds himself with staff and lay leadership with superior knowledge and ability without inferring he has even greater expertise than they possess.”

Said Rev. Debra Hobbs Mason, North Central District Superintendent in the North Texas Conference: “Clayton is deeply devoted to God, to Christ’s calling on his life as a United Methodist Elder, to his personal mission and the church’s mission of loving God and neighbor as we love ourselves through sharing Christ’s love and grace with all people, and to his family and friends.”

Pace and Oliphint will be honored at the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award Banquet on Monday, November 13 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Great Hall of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Tickets are available online at $55 per person or $440 for tables of eight.


Perkins School of Theology, founded in 1911, is one of five official University-related schools of theology of The United Methodist Church. Degree programs include the Master of Divinity, Master of Sacred Music, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Arts in Ministry, Master of Theology, Doctor of Ministry, and Doctor of Pastoral Music as well as the Ph.D., in cooperation with The Graduate Program in Religious Studies at SMU's Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.