Seven students honored at PSR's 142nd commencement

June 1, 2009

PSR held its 142nd commencement on May 24 at First Congregational Church of Oakland. The commencement speaker was Michael Lerner, rabbi of Beyt Tikkun, a progressive synagogue in San Francisco, and editor of Tikkun magazine, a bimonthly Jewish magazine of politics, culture, and society. Seven students were given special awards at the graduation ceremony.

Each year, PSR presents the Paul Wesley Yinger Preaching Award to one or more senior MDiv students judged to be outstanding preachers with exemplary dramatic skills. The award is named for a former PSR trustee who was an acclaimed United Church of Christ preacher. This year’s presenter was PSR Trustee Ron Swisher, who gave the award to Abigail Graham King Kaiser, honoring her for being “a creative, energetic, exhorter of the gospel who has demonstrated the capacity to reach and connect with new audiences.”

At commencement, the PSR Alumni/ae Association gives its Koinonia Award to students who embrace the school's sense of community, actively participate in campus life, and demonstrate academic excellence. (Koinonia is a Greek word that appears frequently in the New Testament and means community, fellowship, and sharing.)

This year, the Koinonia Award was presented by Katherine Kunz (MA 2007) to three students. Wade Meyer is described as “an exceptional student, deeply aware of issues of justice, reliable and dependable, and just plain fun to be around. His warmth and graciousness are valued in his work in the Admissions and Dean’s offices, in assisting with the Ministry as Vocation conference, and in organizing and participating in numerous campus events. He has excelled in classroom work as well as in contextual learning, repeatedly exhibiting leadership in immersion courses, through his internship with the Care Through Touch Institute, with LGBT youth, and in completing a residency at Palo Alto’s VA hospital.” A long-time advocate and worker in the area of sexual violence prevention, Wade hopes to work with a justice-oriented non-profit organization.

The second recipient, Jeanette Brodersen, is described as someone with utmost integrity, unselfish dedication, and deep insightfulness. “She has been a consistent source of kindness and caring pastoral support for many in the community. She has consistently participated in campus activities, from the year-end Eschatos party, to chapel services, to providing outstanding leadership for CAPSR (the Community Association of PSR) at a time when it was unclear whether this organization would survive. Jeanette’s academic work consistently demonstrates academic rigor and conscientiousness, working to apply what she learns in her ministry efforts to her academic work and her academic work to the day-to-day challenges and opportunities of ministry.” Starting next month, she will be associate pastor at Plymouth UCC in Des Moines, IA in conjunction with the UCC’s Transition into Ministry program.

The third recipient, Jeffrey Acido, has been described as “energetic, as someone who goes out of his way to connect with others in the community, and as someone with a strong sense of social justice.” He organized the First Pilipino Film Festival at PSR, participated in leadership in PANA’s Represent 2 Witness Youth Leadership program, and facilitated a network of the racial minority and non-Christian students across the GTU community to address issues of diversity. Jeffrey’s academic work has been described as “an exercise in intellectual spirituality grounded in a genuine concern for peoples.” He was a panelist at the 2008 APARRI conference on the topic, "Experiences of Postcolonial Traditioning on Pilgrimage to a Nikkei Concentration Camp,” integrating theological reflection and scholarship with the voices of those who have suffered injustices. He plans to continue working with PANA’s Represent 2 Witness Program this summer before pursuing teaching and further academic study.

At the 2009 commencement exercises, two awards were given for the first time. The Michael M. Mendiola Award for Ethics for a graduating student was established this year by four faculty colleagues (Joseph Driskill, Jeffrey Kuan, Mary Donovan Turner, and Randi Walker) to remember Professor Mendiola’s outstanding contributions in the field of ethics and on the subject of suffering. The first winner of the award is Jack Hoggatt, who received his Master of Theological Studies degree in May and who presented a compelling study of De Staebler’s sculptures as a metaphor for suffering and brokenness and provided a profound analysis of what suffering does to the life of a human being.

The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Ministry presented for the first time this year the Marcella Althaus-Reid Award. Althaus-Reid was a leading Latin American feminist liberation theologian, best known for her pioneering work in using “queer theory” for Christian theology, and the author of Indecent Theology (2000) and Queer God (2004). CLGS inaugurated an annual award in her name for the best student essay in queering religion and theology; the award is open to any student enrolled in the GTU. The 2009 Marcella Althus-Reid Award was shared by two students: Lai Shan Yip, an MA student in ethics and social theory who received a Certificate of Sexuality and Religion at this year’s commencement; and Victor Floyd, who received his MDiv degree at the 2009 commencement, is pursuing ordination in the Metropolitan Community Church.