The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago will present the 2014 Distinguished Alumni/ae Awards to six of its outstanding graduates on Wednesday, June 18 at 5 p.m.
This year’s leaders demonstrate community engagement, leadership in mission, vision for the future, and new theological perspectives. Recipients of the 2014 awards are the Rev. David G. Abrahamson, the Rev. Dr. Keun Soo Hong, Diaconal Minister Jessica Nipp Hacker, the Rev. Diane Dardón, Bishop Gerald Mansholt and the Rev. Dr. James Thomas.
“These six distinguished alumni witness to the breadth and depth of service of LSTC graduates in the church and the world,” said President James Nieman. “We give thanks to God for the many ways they witness to the good news of Jesus Christ through their varied ministries and for their wise leadership that inspires others to live faithful lives.”
About the 2014 Distinguished Alumni/ae
The Rev. David G. Abrahamson (Christ Seminary-Seminex, 1974, M.Div.) will receive the Excellence in Parish Ministry Award. He has been pastor of Saint Luke Church in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood since 1982. During his 40 years there, the St. Luke Church has become home to the St. Luke Academy, a jazz ministry, and Bach Cantata series. Abrahamson’s work reaches beyond his own congregation. He has been a leader in neighborhood organizations working to maintain ethnic diversity and economic opportunity in areas undergoing gentrification. Abrahamson chaired the LSTC the alumni board and served an alumni representative to the board of directors. As a member of the steering committee he was instrumental in the success of LSTC’s first comprehensive campaign Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He is 1974 graduate of Christ Seminary-Seminex.
The Rev. Diane Dardón (1995, M.Div.) will be honored for her work in Specialized Ministry. She has served God in joyful as well as tragic circumstances. Dardón served at two Iowa congregations before becoming campus pastor at the University of Northern Iowa and then the Northern Illinois University. Dardón provided extraordinary pastoral care to the Northern Illinois University community after a gunman killed six people on campus in February 2008. In 2011, she joined the Office of Religious Diversity at DePaul University in Chicago, where she is the Protestant Chaplain on a ecumenical and interfaith staff. She and her husband, Estuardo, have worked together to spearhead the building of a school in Guatemala. They have engaged hundreds of students and others in immersion trips to Central America.
The Witness to the World Award is presented posthumously to the Rev. Dr. Keun Soo Hong (1984, Ph.D.) for his extraordinary witness in both the United States and in South Korea. His life was filled with a passion for social justice and peace. Dr. Hong’s work exemplified both leadership within his own parish and transformation within larger Korean society. After serving as pastor of the Korean Church of Boston, Dr. Hong returned to South Korea, as pastor of the progressive Hyang Rin Church. He became a crusader for church reform and social justice. His outspoken critique of the Korean and U.S. government policies led to his arrest and imprisonment. Upon his release, he helped found a national grassroots peace organization, Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea (SPARK). As a Christian leader, he opposed every kind of military action and antagonism between South and North Korea. The Rev. Dr. Hong died on October 7, 2013. Members of his family will accept the award.
Double-alumnus the Rev. Dr. Gerald Mansholt (Christ Seminary-Seminex, 1974, M.Div.; 1989, D.Min.) will receive LSTC’s Faithful Servant Award. His first call was to a tentmaker ministry in Oklahoma, where he was a bulldozer operator in addition to his congregational responsibilities. He served congregations in Missouri and Kansas, before he was elected bishop of the Central States Synod in 2001. Mansholt has provided leadership on the local, synodical, and national level in Lutheran and ecumenical organizations. He was recently elected bishop of the East-Central Synod of Wisconsin. He is known for bringing a “pastor’s heart and a pastor’s spirit” to even the most difficult situations.
Jessica Nipp Hacker (2002, M.Div.), who will receive the Emerging Voice Award, was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition but began to feel a call to Lutheran ministry during her time at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. Her involvement with campus ministry led her to enroll at LSTC. Consecrated in 2002 as a diaconal minister of the ELCA, Nipp Hacker has been a leader for the church both nationally and internationally. She served as program director for the ELCA’s Wittenberg Center in Germany, and then joined the LSTC Advancement staff. Nipp Hacker now serves as coordinator of the ELCA Malaria Campaign.
The Rev. Dr. James Thomas (Christ Seminary-Seminex, 1976, M.Div.), recipient of the Called to Lead Award, has devoted many years to teaching future leaders of the church. He is currently the North Carolina Lutheran Men in Mission Professor of Bible and Mission at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary at Lenoir Rhyne University. He also serves there as director of African American Ministries. In addition Thomas is a reservist for the Christian Peacemaker Teams, on the Israel/Palestine Team. Previously, he served as a pastor at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Bronx, N.Y., as well as assistant to the bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod. He was also a reserve Air Force Chaplain for 28 years, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He has taught at Luther Seminary, Augsburg College, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and the Luther Program at General Seminary.
Erin Koster contributed to this news release.
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The Lutheran School of Theology (LSTC) is dedicated to bearing witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. Based in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, it is the leading urban Lutheran seminary training students for purposeful vocations in the global community. Aligned with its Lutheran heritage and built on a foundation of intellectual rigor, LSTC’s innovative, nationally recognized curriculum gives students skills for visionary Christian leadership in the public sphere.