News of Alums & Friends

Hannah Fitch (2015) will be ordained to the ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on August 1, 2021, at 3:00 pm at First Christian Church, Peoria, Illinois. The service will be livestreamed at

Doug Collins (2013) will be installed as the Senior Minister of First Christian Church of Tacoma, Washington, on July 25. He previously served as Associate Minister of Allisonville Christian Church in Indianapolis.

Kenneth "Kenny" Azel Bloyd (1992) died on July 7, 2021, in Canton, Illinois. He was 64. After working for Mid-Century Telephone Co-Op for nearly two decades, he went back to school, earning a BA from Eureka College in 1992, and then the dual MDiv and MA in SSA from the University of Chicago as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar. His career in ministry, chaplaincy, and social work was centered in his home town of Canton and the surrounding community, including as youth minister at Sunnyland Christian Church, minister at Cuba Christian Church, LCSW and chaplain at Graham Hospital, minister at First Congregational UCC in Canton, Psychotherapy Department Manager at Mason District Hospital, and currently, chaplain at Spoon River Correctional Center. He is survived by two sons, Nathan and Kyle (Alicia) Bloyd; ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren; his mother; and his partner, Geneva Becker. He was preceded in death by his son Jeremy. Services will be held in Canton on July 16. More here.

Congratulations to Katherine Raley Alexander (2008) and Nate Alexander and big brother Parker on the birth of Michael Walter Alexander on June 30. He weighed in at 8lbs, 10oz, and measuring 21 inches. All are doing well and learning a new life together.

Congratulations to Kate Gerike (former resident) and Kevin Gregory (former librarian) who will marry in Chicago in mid-October. Also, Kevin was commissioned a provisional elder in the Central Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church on June 21. Starting June 27, Kevin will be the pastor at Detroit Lakes (Minnesota) United Methodist Church.

Sympathy to Melinda Keenan Wood (1997, trustee) on the death of her spouse, Lanny Wood, on June 13. He died of complications from his recent diagnosis of advanced stage lymphoma. He was 60. Born and raised in La Harpe, Illinois, he was valedictorian of his high school class and continued his education at the University of Illinois, where he earned a degree in architecture. Lanny and Lindy married in 1987 and had one daughter, Thompson. After several years as an architect, he dedicated his life to education, teaching middle school math. Through Project Lead the Way, he moved into training teachers in the Midwest and Southeast states on ways to incorporate STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics) into their classrooms. At the time of his death, he was teaching drafting and engineering instructor in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. He was active in local churches, including at Pilgrim UCC in Durham, which Lindy served as pastor; he sang in the choir, facilitated theology discussions and jumped in to various volunteer roles. He loved photography, landscaping, cooking, hiking and music. In addition to Lindy and Thompson (Jacob) Bellet, he is survived by three siblings and other extended family. A memorial service was held at Pilgrim UCC in Durham, NC, on June 26, with Bill Crowl delivering the eulogy. More here.

Joel Brown, a PhD candidate in Religions in the Americas, has been awarded a Dissertation Completion Fellowship from the Divinity School for "Preparing the Way: African American Women and Social Christianity in Turn-of-the-Century Chicago."

Former resident Braxton Shelley, path-breaking theorist of African American sacred music and author of Healing for the Soul: Richard Smallwood, the Vamp, and the Gospel Imagination (Oxford, 2021), has been appointed to a tenured position at Yale University as an associate professor in the Institute of Sacred Music, the Divinity School, and the Department of Music. He will be faculty director of the new interdisciplinary Program in Music and the Black Church in Yale's renowned Institute of Sacred Music.

In Memoriam, May 2021. For 55 years, Ruben I. Cruz was Pastor of First Spanish Christian Church, the oldest Spanish-speaking Protestant congregation in Chicago. He was a member of the DDH entering class of 1963. He was a well-known media figure as a television and radio host and newspaper columnist. "Su trayectoria profesional en la televisión lo llevó a recibir mucho reconocimiento y vivió para impactar la comunidad Hispana." He was an important community and civic leader, as were his sisters Miriam and Rebecca Cruz. A member of the DDH entering class of 1963, he is survived by his son, Jose.

Garry Sparks (2001) shared his research on Maya and Christian doctrines of divinity during a Monday night forum on May 17, 2021. An associate professor at George Mason University, his research attends to the periods of first contact between Iberian mendicant missionaries and native Mesoamericans. Since 1995 he has worked and conducted fieldwork and language study among the K'iche' and Kaqchikel Maya of Guatemala.