Disciples Divinity House

of the University of Chicago

October 1995, Pittsburgh by Jane McAvoy, Acting President of the Alumni/ae Council

On behalf of the Alumni/ae Council it is my honor to present the 1995 Distinguished Alumni/ae Award. Established in 1979, this award recognizes exemplary efforts expressing the "spirit of the House," that is, commitment to a learned ministry which is exercised in service to the church, the academy, and society.

At its last meeting the Alumni/ae Council struggled with the question of who most appropriately should receive this award in the centennial year. In this year of reflection upon our past we have become more aware of the rich history of men and women of the past one hundred years; it seemed appropriate that we honor them. At yet who would we choose: the first alumnus (which first?), the most well known scholar (if we could ever agree), most successful pastor (whatever success is), or most influential social reformer?

In true DDH fashion we had a rich and lively discussion on the revisioning of history. We came to no conclusions, but we did not despair. For we realized that this centennial is a threshold. It is the celebration of one hundred years of distinguished ministry and of the promise of work and service in a new century and a new millennium.

Our hope today is to honor the past and the present, to remember those who have shaped our vision of service and our collective efforts to shape a next century of service.

Today we honor service to the church.

Dean W. Barnett Blakemore, with extraordinary service to the House and the University and his acclaimed preaching, is as well remembered for his work on commissions, committees, and boards of the church. He convened the Panel of Scholars, was a Delegate Observer to the Second Vatican Council, and presided over the World Convention of the Churches of Christ. For all of this service to the whole church, he is remembered as "a pioneer in gifts for Christian unity."

Pastors like Clarence E. Lemmon, who was a gifted administrator, valued as a pastor, known for his preaching, and David Kagiwada who founded the American Asian Disciples, and pastor and Convention President William Rothenburger who said that there is no work so fruitful and inspiring as ministry.

There are also lay people like donor William Henry Hoover, who served fifty years as an elder, Bible study leader, and Sunday School superintendent; and Myrtilla Colbert Jones, who was a lifelong member of University Church and said simply, "I believe in churches."

Whose name comes to your mind? Is it Frank Moffett, George Campbell, Orvis F. Jordan, Ernest Harrold, Myron Cole, Arthur Azlein, W. Oliver Harrison, or the pastor who sat by your side during a time of crisis, inspired you with challenging sermons, envisioned greater service in the name of Christ, or greeted you warmly in Christian fellowship today?

Today we honor service to the academy.

First Ph.D. graduate and later Professor of Philosophy and Dean of the House, E.S. Ames, held the conviction that religion should be intelligent and that ideas about important religious matters should be able to be clearly stated and circulated.

It is said of William Darnell MacClintock, who was one of the first twelve professors of the University and one of the founders of the House: "One listened to him with a sense of the constantly fresh disclosure of the values of the moral life and the truths of the Christian faith."

Henry Barton Robison of Culver-Stockton College, was called a superb teacher with a rare gift of opening the mind to consider new ideas.

The list of such teachers includes Herbert Willett, W. E. Garrison, A. T. DeGroot, Perry Gresham, Eugene Peters, W. Daniel Cobb, ... and men and women sitting in this room today who enter the classroom each day with the conviction that teaching is an honored and humbling vocation.

Today we honor service to society.

I would be remiss if I didn't note that I stand here today as Acting President because our President, Ana Gobledale, has returned to mission work in Zimbabwe. She reminds us of all those overseas workers who prepared for service or took furloughs at the House.

Many have served overseas as chaplains in the armed services, such as Wilbur Hogevoll, whose distinguished career as army chaplain during the Korean War is only the beginning of a life of service that included serving on the Hagerstown Biracial Commission, founding a pastoral counseling center, serving on advisory boards of Volunteers of America and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

On the other hand K. Barton Hunter said, "in each unique situation we face, determine what love demands and do it," which for him included resigning from Lynchburg College in protest when an ROTC unit was brought on campus during World War II. His career included being Executive Secretary of the Department of Church in Society and the American Fellowship of Reconciliation.

We think of Clarence Lemmon who denounced the McCarthy agenda and defended the social activism of the National Council of Churches.

And Eugene May who got involved with steel workers in Gary and noted, "There is a history of men joining a labor union and leaving their church, and that is the church's fault."

We think of Arthur Azlein, John Norton Williams, Robert Gemmer, ... and the person who works today for the rights of the poor, the oppressed, the under represented, convinced that the realm of God is a present, if not yet realized, reality.

And so today this award is presented to those who have preceded us and dedicated to those who will follow us, to call forth all our collective efforts on behalf of the church academy, and society.