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Distinguished Alumni/ae

Since 1995, the PSR Alumni/ae Council has presented its annual Distinguished Alumni/ae Awards to graduates who have provided outstanding service in their ministry or profession and shown distinguished leadership in faith communities on a local, regional or national level. Award recipients represent a wide range of professions, including parish pastors, scholars, denominational leaders, activists, journalists, and artists. We are proud to present these distinguished graduates below.

William R. Johnson (MDiv ’71)

Bill Johnson

The Rev. Dr. William R. Johnson (born June 12, 1946 in Houston, Texas) was the first openly gay person ordained in the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the first such person ordained in the Christian Church in modern times. The historic ordination took place on June 25, 1972, at the Community United Church of Christ in San Carlos, California. His ordination is the subject of the documentary film, A Position of Faith (1973; released on video in 2005). Throughout his career, Bill has provided counsel and support to hundreds of LGBT seminarians and clergypersons in the United Church of Christ and ecumenically.  Bill was the primary author of the extensive body of social justice policies regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons adopted by UCC General Synods and UCC Executive Council dating back to 1973.

Prior to coming out as a gay seminarian on November 11, 1970, Bill served as student pastor of UCC congregations in Donnellson and Franklin, Iowa; Kent,Washington; and San Carlos, California. He also served an industrial chaplaincy internship in an electronics factory in Chicago and as a hospital chaplaincy intern at Highland General Hospital in Oakland, California. Upon graduation from seminary in May, 1971, he was called by the Southern California Conference of the UCC to a specialized ministry among unchurched individuals. Returning to the Bay Area in October 1972, he served as executive director of the Council on Religion and the Homosexual from 1973-76 and taught in the Women’s Studies Program at San Francisco State University during the 1976-77 academic year.

In 1972, Bill Johnson was founder of the UCC Gay Caucus (also known as the UCC Gay & Lesbian Caucus or UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns). The Coalition is now known as the UCC Open and Affirming Coalition. Bill served as national coordinator for The Coalition from 1972-77 and in the 1980s as editor of The Coalition newsletter, WAVES . He traveled widely as a community organizer advocating the full inclusion of LGBT people in the UCC.  In the late 1970s, he proposed that The Coalition hold an annual “National Gathering” of Coalition members, the first of which was held in 1981.

In 1974, Bill co-edited/authored (with Sally Gearhart) Loving Women/Loving Men: Gay Liberation and the Church. In 1976, Bill and revered lesbian activist, Phyllis Lyon, organized and facilitated the first gatherings of parents of lesbians and gays in San Francisco. That group evolved into what is now P-FLAG/San Francisco.

In 1977, Bill moved to New York City to live with Vito Russo, author of The Celluloid Closet.  When their coupling ended in 1978, they became neighbors and remained close friends until Vito’s death in November 1990.  At Vito’s request, Bill officiated at the funeral service.  In NYC, Bill worked briefly for the Lutheran Church in America and the United Presbyterian Church before becoming the office secretary at the Madison Avenue Baptist Church, a block away from the UCC national office, in September 1978.

In the Spring of 1978, Bill founded Maranatha: Riversiders for Lesbian/Gay Concerns at The Riverside Church in New York City, the first parish-based LGBT ministry in the United Church of Christ.   Maranatha remains a vital presence in the life of Riverside Church. In 1979, he was a contributing author to Positively Gay: New Approaches to Gay and Lesbian Life, edited by Betty Berzon (revised and updated in 1992 and 2001).

In January 1981, the UCC Office for Church in Society created a job for Bill, making him a “staff associate” at $500/month with no benefits.   By 1983, OCIS could no longer fund the position so Bill worked for a year as a temporary employee with a number of corporate offices in Manhattan.  With his usual good humor, he referred to himself as a “duly ordained word processor.” In the fall of 1984, he joined the staff of the New York law firm of Stuart, Zavin, Sinnreich and Wasserman as a legal secretary.  A liberal firm, the partners supported his continued justice activism by providing paid time off to attend UCC General Synod, Coalition and LGBT meetings.

As the HIV/AIDS epidemic grew in NYC in the early 1980s, Bill became a caregiver for numerous friends.  His friend and colleague, Michael Collins, was among the first people in New York to be stricken with what was then a mysterious, unnamed disease.  As the epidemic grew, Bill offered his services as a pastoral counselor, sex educator, care partner and volunteer on the National AIDS Hotline. When, in 1988, he learned the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries was looking for a part-time consultant in HIV/AIDS ministry, he applied and got the job, which soon evolved into a full-time position.  In 1989, UCC members organized as Christians for Justice Action gave Bill its annual Burning Bush Award in recognition of his activist leadership in church and society.

In 1990, Bill was elected to the UCC national staff as a Program Minister of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, Division of the American Missionary Association, and served as Minister for HIV/AIDS Ministries and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns for 11 years. In that position he helped establish the AIDS National Interfaith Network, which he served as Program Officer and as Interim Executive Director; established the United Church HIV/AIDS Network; and co-authored, with Cindy Bowman, the multi-generational UCC AIDS prevention curriculum, Affirming Persons-Saving Lives, the first such curriculum designed for use in Christian education settings (1993).  In 1999, he hosted “Called Out for Good,” a consultation with openly gay, lesbian and bisexual UCC  pastors focused on the special challenges and concerns of being out in parish ministry. With Loey Powell, he advocated for  domestic partner benefits for LGBT employees of the UCC national setting, which were put into place by the UCC Pension Boards in 1996. He provided leadership for the UCC on numerous issues including ending discrimination in the Boy Scouts of America, equal marital rights for same gender couples, bullying and harassment in public schools, and ending hate-related violence.  He created a variety of resources for UCC congregations including Open and Affirming: A Journey of Faith (a welcoming congregation video and resource book); Circle of Grace (nine Bible study lesson plans); and two volumes of Preach Out! (compilations of LGBT affirming sermons by UCC pastors).

Bill organized the first national consultation of UCC bisexual members in 1999, and the first national consultation with UCC transgender members in 2001. He served as executive producer of the documentary video, Bisex-u-al (2001). While on the UCC national staff, he supervised three UCC seminary interns: Sean Murray, Kate Huey and Darryl Kistler, now UCC clergy; and one UCC college student, Eric C. Smith.

In 1999, the Board of Directors of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries committed $500,000 to create the William R. Johnson Scholarship Fund for openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender UCC seminarians studying to be parish ministers.  Beginning in 2001, an average of 8 to 10 scholarships have been awarded annually from the endowment income, which has grown with additional contributions to more than $900,000.

In the reorganization of the United Church of Christ national setting in 2000, Bill Johnson became the Executive for Health and Wholeness Advocacy and Minister for HIV/AIDS and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Concerns in Wider Church Ministries (WCM) of the UCC.

In January 2002, Bill was called to the administrative position of Executive Associate to the Executive Minister of Wider Church Ministries (WCM), leaving behind 30 years of work on behalf of LGBT people of faith and their loved ones. He served as Executive Associate to two WCM Executive Ministers, Dale Bishop and Olivia Masih White, overseeing a 28-person staff. During his tenure with WCM, Bill envisioned and initiated work on the feature-length documentary film, Call Me Malcolm , for which he served as an executive producer.

Bill served on the founding National Advisory Board of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (now the Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion) at the Pacific School of Religion. He also served on the founding national Advisory Committee of the LGBT Religious Archives Network. He founded and serves as coordinator for Elmhurst College Gay and Lesbian Alumni.  In 1992, he received the Elmhurst College Alumni Merit Award and was the subject of a profile in the Elmhurst College magazine, Prospect, in the summer of 2010.  On National Coming Out Day in 2011, the college named its annual LGBT lecture in his honor, the William R. Johnson Intercultural Lecture.

In January 2005, Johnson was called to serve in the telecommuting position of Vice President for Member Relations with the UCC Council for Health and Human Service Ministries. The Council consists of 80 UCC-related corporations that operate more than 360 facilities and programs that provide primary and acute health care services, services to persons with disabilities, services to children, youth and families, and services to the aging.  In 2010, his title was changed to Vice President as he assumed new responsibilities.  Bill served in that position until April 1, 2013.

In July 2012, the Cathedral of Hope UCC in Dallas, TX presented Bill with its annual Hero of Hope Award, in recognition of a lifetime of service to the LGBT and ecumenical communities.  In the fall of 2012 his ordination robe and stole were featured in an exhibit curated by Brian McNaught at the Stonewall National Museum & Archives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His ordination robe and stole are in the museum’s permanent collection of LGBT artifacts.

Bill Johnson retied rom active ministry on July 1, 2013 at the 29th UCC General Synod in Long Beach, CA, ending 41 years of service.  In retirement, Bill writes and accepts speaking engagements to share his experiences as a Christian gay activist minister.

Bill is a graduate of Elmhurst College (BA, 1968), the Pacific School of Religion (MDiv, 1971), and the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (EdD, 1977).  In New York City he was a member of The Riverside Church.  After moving to Cleveland in 1991, he was a founding member of Liberation UCC in 1993, where he sang in the church choir and served in a variety of roles over 19 years, including treasurer and moderator of the congregation.  In October 2012, Bill moved to Pilgrim Place, a UCC-related continuing care retirement community in Claremont, California and joined the Claremont United Church of Christ.  He participates in Another Voice, the LGBT community at Claremont UCC.

Biographical statement provided by William R. Johnson for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Religious Archives Network 


John Deckenback – posthumous award (MDiv ’72, DMin ’91)

John DeckenbackThe Rev. Dr. John R. Deckenback was the spiritual leader and chief executive of the Central Atlantic Conference, United Church of Christ with responsibilities similar to those of a bishop in other denominations. The Conference is made up of 180 churches located in portions of New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Washington, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington D.C.

The Central Atlantic Conference was created as a result of the 1957 merger of the Congregational Christian Church and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.

Dr. Deckenback was a native of Cresskill, NJ., where his grandfather was pastor of his childhood church. When John was a teenager, his family moved to Santa Barbara, California. John graduated from Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington, and earned Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. John was married to the Rev. Carolyn L. Roberts, pastor emerita of the United Church of Christ of Seneca Valley in Germantown, Maryland. They had two married sons, Jeffry (Emily) and Aaron (Kate), three grandsons, and a granddaughter.

Prior to serving Central Atlantic Conference, Dr. Deckenback was on the staff of the United Church of Christ’s Northern California Nevada Conference for 20 years. Shortly after graduating from seminary, he also served as an Associate Minister of the Orinda Community United Church of Christ in California.

In the 1980’s John was one of the co-founders of the Conferences of the United Church of Christ Insurance Board which provides property and liability insurance to UCC and Christian Church (Disciples) congregations. Twice in the 1990’s, he served as the Insurance Board’s Acting Executive Director during transitional periods. He was chair of the Board at the time of his death.

He also served on the Board of Directors of International Relief and Development (IRD), a non-profit international relief/development agency. He traveled globally and extensively on behalf of the church and IRD—particularly to conflicted areas sheltering substantial numbers of refugees.

John was a Trustee Emeritus of Lancaster Theological Seminary.

John’s hobbies included gardening, woodworking, jogging, restoring an old house, studying railroad history and incarceration practices, as well as African American, Native American, Latin American and Asian American histories. A long-term research project focused on early Christian missionary activity in the inland Pacific Northwest and its impact on indigenous people in the early 19th century.


Karen Oliveto (MDiv ’83)

Karen OlivetoBishop Karen P. Oliveto was consecrated as a bishop of The United Methodist Church on July 16, 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona, and assigned for the 2016-2020 quadrennium to the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area, which includes the Rocky Mountain, and Yellowstone annual (regional) conferences. It includes 400 congregations in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and a small section of Idaho.

Bishop Oliveto was elected to the episcopacy after serving as the first woman pastor of the 12,000-member Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, California. She is the first woman to serve as senior pastor of one of The United Methodist Church’s 100 largest congregations. She served Glide from 2008 until her election as bishop.

Born on Good Friday in 1958, in the aptly named community of Babylon, N.Y. Bishop Oliveto grew up in her local United Methodist Church, being active in Sunday School and the youth group, believing from an early age that God was calling her into ministry. She preached her first sermon as 16-year-old in 1974 at the invitation of the Rev. Jack Savage, pastor of Babylon United Methodist Church It was on “Warm Fuzzies and Cold Pricklies,” focusing on how love rooted in God warms people from the inside out. She is the oldest of three daughters of Richard and Nellie Oliveto. Mr. Oliveto died in January 2016.

Bishop Oliveto earned her B.A. in Psychology, cum laude, from Drew University, Madison, N.J., in 1980. She earned her Master in Divinity from Pacific School of Religion, Berkley, Calif., in 1983, a Master in Philosophy from Drew University in 1991, and a PhD in the Sociology of Religion from Drew University in 2002.

She was ordained as an Elder in the New York Conference of The United Methodist Church in 1985. She transferred her clergy membership to the California-Nevada Annual Conference in July 1997.

Bishop Oliveto was twice elected as a delegate, in 2004 and 2016 to The United Methodist Church’s General Conference, its top legislative body. She was elected as a delegate to the Western Jurisdictional Conference in 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. She has been a part of the denomination’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Lead Women Pastor Project, and has been a mentor to other clergywomen believing they are called to pastor large churches.

Bishop Oliveto has been the adjunct professor of United Methodist Studies at Pacific School of Religion from 2004 to 2016, and served as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at PSR from 2004-2008. She has also been an adjunct professor in Prophetic Leadership for the Doctor of Ministry program at Drew University and was adjunct professor in Evangelism and Mission at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas.

Bishop Oliveto has the distinction of being the first openly lesbian bishop in The United Methodist Church. She and her wife, Robin Ridenour, a nurse anesthetist and United Methodist deaconess, were married in 2014.


Patricia St. Onge (MDiv ’95)

Patricia St. Onge

Patricia St. Onge (MDiv ’95) is the founder of Seven Generations Consulting and brings over twenty years of experience leading and working with nonprofit and public sector agencies. She provides training, consulting and technical assistance in the areas of community organizing, social justice advocacy, organizational development, cross-cultural effectiveness, consensus building, spiritual & personal coaching.

Patricia serves on the board of directors for Common Counsel Foundation in Oakland. Prior to launching Seven Generations Consulting, Patricia was Executive Director of several nonprofit organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, where she also served as Western Regional Director. She also served as Director of Education and Training at National Community Development Institute (NCDI). These experiences have enabled Patricia to serve as interim Executive Director for 7 nonprofits and foundations, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the organization, assisting with the executive search, and coaching their board through the transition.

Patricia writes and speaks on an array of issues including executive coaching, executive transitions, board development and engagement, and cultural competency. She is the lead writer for Embracing Cultural Competency: A Roadmap for Nonprofit Capacity Builders published by the Fieldstone Alliance, one of the nation’s leading nonprofit publishers.

A trainer and coach for over 15 years, Patricia works with organizations to deepen their cultural competency skills as part of an ongoing journey that involves nonprofit leaders, their boards, and broad based communities, resulting in a more inclusive, connected, and effective organization. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Southern NH University and Master of Divinity from Pacific School of Religion. Between them, she and her life partner have six daughters and seven grandchildren. Patricia is of Six Nations (Mohawk) and Quebecois descent.

From: http://www.seven-generations.org/bios.html

2015 Distinguished Alumni/ae

Meghan Rohrer, Kim Klein, Terry Messman, Evan Golder


Megan Rohrer (MDiv, 2005):

MRohrerThe Rev. Megan Rohrer is the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran church, was named a 2014 honorable mention as an Unsung Hero of Compassion by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, received an Honorary Doctorate from Palo Alto University and was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in transgender nonfiction.

Currently the pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco, CA, Pastor Rohrer’s Bible Study that Doesn’t Suck mobile app and contemporary music masses (Lady Gaga, Beatles, etc) inspire 3,600+ participants a month to interact with the weekly justice-centered bible studies. Since 2002, Pastor Rohrer has also served as the Executive Director of Welcome – a communal response to poverty, and has raised over a million dollars, served 603,000 meals, given away 404,000 pounds of groceries, grown 5 tons of produce in community gardens, given away 18,000 pairs of socks and 1,000 pairs of prescription glasses.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors declared August 19, 2012, “Pastor Megan Rohrer Day.”


Kim Klein (1976):

KkleinKim Klein is an internationally known speaker and author, known for her ability to deliver information in a practical and humorous way.  She has worked in all aspects of fundraising:  as staff, as a volunteer and as a board member.  Kim is the author of five books.  Reliable Fundraising in Unreliable Times won the McAdam Book Award in 2010 and her classic text, Fundraising for Social Change, now in its sixth edition, is widely used in the field and in university programs.  She also wrote Fundraising for the Long Haul, Ask and You Shall Receive, and Fundraising in Times of Crisis.  She co-founded the Grassroots Fundraising Journal in 1981 and was its publisher for 25 years. She has provided training and consultation in all 50 United States, five Canadian provinces and 21 other countries.  She is a lecturer in the School of Social Welfare at the University of California Berkeley and serves on the board of the California Association of Nonprofits.  Her current work is focused on the role nonprofits must begin to play in creating fair and just tax policies and in the redistribution of wealth. She attended Pacific School of Religion from 1976-78 and then worked in our Development Department in 1979.  At PSR she realized that fundraising was her ministry and remains grateful to PSR for providing her original development experience.

A member of the PSR Alumni Council noted that Ms. Klein is one of the most sought-after fundraisers in the non-profit world, and emphasized that she brings an inclusive and justice-oriented perspective to the field of fundraising.


Terry Messman (MDiv, 1985)

messmanWhile majoring in journalism at the University of Montana, Terry worked with a Lutheran minister to organize prayerful acts of civil disobedience at nuclear weapons bases. When he graduated with a degree in journalism, his campus pastor, Rev. Lynne Fitch advised him to attend seminary for a spiritual foundation in a lifetime of activism. While serving two six-month sentences for anti-nuclear protests in Boron federal prison, Terry was notified that he had been granted a full fellowship from the North American Theological Fund.

Terry attended Pacific School of Religion for four years from 1981 to 1985, and the experience transformed his entire life. He entered PSR as a peace activist, and conducted many nonviolence trainings of seminarians for protests at Livermore Lab. But after four years of systematic theology, Terry found a deeper spiritual calling to serve the poor, oppressed and homeless, based on the teachings of liberation theology. Terry did his field education at PSR with David Hartsough of the American Friends Service Committee. When he graduated from PSR, Terry began work as the Director of AFSC’s Homeless Organizing Project.

Terry has spent the last 30 years working with homeless people, organizing protests of laws that criminalize homelessness, and doing nonviolent housing takeovers that resulted in many units of transitional and permanent housing being built. In 1995, he worked with fellow PSR graduate Sally Hindman to launch Street Spirit, a publication of the AFSC that reports on poverty, homelessness and human rights movements. Street Spirit has become the voice of the voiceless in the East Bay, and more than 150 homeless vendors sell the paper to earn survival income.


Evan Golder (MDiv, 1964): 

EGolderThe Rev. W. Evan Golder’s life as an activist and photojournalist began at a Woolworth’s lunch counter to protest discrimination against African Americans. Since then, he has been commited to seeking out and reporting on injustices. Fresh from seminary, he and three other PSR alumni/ae founded the West Oakland Christian Parish. He helped organize the West Oakland Health Center, still functioning after nearly 50 years. While his wife volunteered in a mission hospital in Labrador, he helped Naskapi Indians organize the North West River Indian Association. He then honed his journalistic skills by bringing their issues to national attention; he became the first Labrador Correspondent for the St. John’s (Newfoundland) Evening Telegram.

When Bill Johnson, a gay seminarian, sought ordination in the United Church of Christ, Golder handled his press work. In 1985, the UCC called Golder to be the first editor of United Church News. He traveled widely, for example, visiting the Marshall Islands to learn of the hazards of nuclear testing, Mexico to cover the massacre in Chiapas, and Vietnam to hear their side of the war. Often controversial, the paper told how the UCC dealt with health care, the Iraq wars, the death penalty, and clergy misconduct. “I am thankful you chose to be part of letting the light shine on [this story],” wrote one reader. “May your light continue to shine in all the places, times and people God calls you to.”

2013 Distinguished Alumni/ae

Yvette Flunder, Lauren Friesen, Victoria Kolakowski, Ray Welles


Yvette Flunder (MA 1997):

Bishop-Yvette-FlunderRev. Dr. Yvette Flunder founded the City of Refuge UCC in 1991 in order to unite a gospel ministry with a social ministry. A native San Franciscan, Bishop Flunder is a third generation preacher with roots in the Church of God in Christ. In 1984 Bishop Flunder began performing and recording with “Walter Hawkins and the Family” and the Love Center Choir. Other gospel music recordings include “There’s Power” with the City of Refuge Praise Ensemble, “We Won’t Be Silent Anymore” with The Fellowship Mass Choir, and “How Sweet the Sound”, with the Grammy Award winning Chanticleer.

Bishop Flunder is an ordained Minister of the United Church of Christ and a graduate of the Ministry Studies and Master of Arts programs at the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California. She received a Doctor of Ministry degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo California. She also serves on the Board of Trustees at PSR. In June 2003 Bishop Flunder was consecrated Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship a multi-denominational fellowship of 110 primarily African American Christian leaders and laity representing 56 churches and faith-based organizations from all parts of the United States, Mexico and Africa.


Lauren Friesen (MA 1981):
LFriesenDr. Lauren Friesen is Professor of Theatre and Chair of the Theatre and Dance Department at the University of Michigan-Flint. He is a recipient of the Kennedy Center Gold Medallion for “Excellence in Theatre” and the Indiana Theatre Association’s award for his “Outstanding Contribution to University Theatre.” His recent publications include a translation of Hermann Sudermann’s The Storm Komrade Sokrates (University Press of America) and the essay “Ritual, Race and Reconciliation in Anna Deavere Smith’s Play Fires in the Mirror,” (Munster: LIT Verlag). His monologue “Still Waiting for Rachel” was published in Monologues for Men by Heinneman Press. He just completed the translation of a novel…But Stones Can’t Speak by the holocaust survivor Carlo Ross. In April 2007, Vertigo Productions in Flint produced his latest 2-act play Rothko. He is an accomplished writer with over 30 publications of books, essays and poetry.


Victoria Kolakowski (MDiv 1997):
victoria-kolakowskiVictoria Kolakowski is the first openly transgender person to be elected a trial judge in the United States. Born in Queens, New York, she was the first person in her family to attend college. Kolakowski earned master’s degrees in biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, public administration and divinity. She received a law degree from Louisiana State University. In 1990, Kolakowski moved to Berkeley, California. She served on the Oakland Budget Advisory Committee and was an administrative law judge for the California Public Utilities Commission. In 1994, the East Bay Lesbian/Gay Democratic Club named her Woman of the Year. In 1995, she received the Outstanding Woman of Berkeley Award.

In 2010, Kolakowski campaigned for a judgeship on the Superior Court of Alameda County, California. She won by 10,000 votes. Her victory was significant, not only for the transgender community, but also for women, who occupy a small percentage of judgeships. She received Equality California’s Equality and Justice Award.


Ray Welles (MDiv 1955):
RayWelles_smallA native of Southern California, Ray found a congenial rut in Northern California and spent his entire professional life here. He has served congregations in Berkeley, Redding, San Francisco and Orinda. He “retired” in 1991, and has served nine congregations as Interim or Transitional consultant. A graduate of Pomona College, Rev. Welles attended Yale Divinity School, the Pacific School of Religion, and holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary. He was ordained in South Pasadena in 1955. Ray serves as Director for Carmel Valley Manor, and has been a Trustee of the Pacific School of Religion. He is an Annuitant Visitor for the UCC Pension Boards, visiting several dozen retired clergy or their widows each year. He authored three publications that say much about him:

  • Between the No-Longer and the Not-Yet, A New Model of Interim Ministry, 1977
  • Prophets and Paupers, Religion in the California Gold Rush, 1848-1869, with Harland E. Hogue
  • Familiar Strangers, Encounters with Jesus, Eight Soliliquies by Those Who Knew Him, 2000

In 2001, Ray received the Arts Minister of the Year Award from the Center for Arts and Religious Education at the Graduate Theological Union. While in Redding, he engaged Frank Lloyd Wright to design the building for the new congregation there. For many years, Ray had a private practice in family therapy and spiritual counseling. He also helped design the Interim Ministry specialty, and was instrumental in the building of Orinda Senior Village in Orinda.

2011 Distinguished Alumni/ae

George Aki, Fred Plumer, Roberta Rominger, John Vaughn


George Aki (MA 1940):

GAkiOn May 6, 1940, two days before his graduation from PSR, George Aki was interned at the Tanforan Detention Center in San Bruno, along with more than 6,000 other Japanese Americans.

He was ordained in the camp and served in ministry in 3 different internment camps. Aki then volunteered to serve as the chaplain of the Asian-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which saw combat in Italy, France, and Germany, and was the most decorated unit in US military history. In 1968, Aki became the first Asian-American minister at the Congregational Church of San Luis Obispo, where he served until retirement in 1978. Rev. Aki has considered it his lifelong personal mission to do what he could to honor the men who died in World War II, far from home, without loved ones and friends to be near them.


Fred Plumer (MDiv 1984):

Plumer is the founding pastor of Irvine, CA UCC. In 1989 under his leadership the church agreed to host a Reconstructionist Synagogue. The congregations shared space, operating expenses, teaching forums, mission outreach projects, special services, and meals for more than 15 years. In 2000, with the synagogue’s approval, a mosque joined this dynamic mix of religious traditions sharing space and ideas.

Plumer has also been involved in the Open and Affirming movement for full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) members of the UCC. He was the executive producer of a video and workbook on the Open and Affirming process, “A Journey of Faith,” which has been used in five countries and in thousands of churches in several denominations.

Plumer currently serves as president of the board of the Center for Progressive Christianity. He has led workshops, preached sermons, and published articles and on church development, building faith communities, and redefining the purpose of the enlightened Christian Church.


Roberta Rominger (MDiv 1982):

RRomingerRoberta Rominger’s first call was as pastor of the Tombstone, AZ Community Congregational Church (just down the street from the OK Corral).

In 1985, Rominger received a call to a large congregation in suburban London that was part of the United Reformed Church (URC), a denomination formed through unions of English Presbyterians, English, Welsh and Scottish Congregationalists, and members of the Churches of Christ.

From 1998-2008, Rominger served as synod moderator of URC churches in the London area. In 2008 she was appointed the general secretary of the URC, the first woman and the first American to hold that position. Through her position as general secretary, Roberta is involved in ecumenical movements, including “Fresh Expressions,” an emerging church collaboration between the URC, the Church of England, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, and several other Protestant denominations. In her spare time, Rominger plays the cello and performs with two string quartets in the London area.


John Vaughn (MDiv 1985):

JVaughnVaughn has been active in community organizing and advocacy, particularly in improving prospects for the education, employment, and health of black men and boys.

Ordained in the American Baptist Churches, Vaughn has served in important positions in a wide variety of churches and organizations, including as a senior minister for education and social justice at Riverside Church in New York City, executive director of East Harlem Interfaith, Inc. (a community development organization), executive director of the Peace Development Fund in Amherst, MA, and director of community development at the Community Training and Assistance Center in Boston.

Most recently, he served as program director of the Twenty-First Century Foundation, where he led the foundation’s response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and created the Black Men and Boys program that is forming a national policy agenda shaped both by and for local communities. Rev. Vaughn now serves as executive vice president of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City.

2010 Distinguished Alumni/ae

Carla DeSola, Eugene Nelson, Joon Kwan Un


CDesolaCarla DeSola, MA 1993, a pioneer in liturgical dance in the United States, studied dance at the Juilliard School of Music and founded the Omega Liturgical Dance Company at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City in 1975. She is the founder and director of Omega West Dance Company in the Bay Area, and since 1989 has taught classes in sacred dance at the GTU, sponsored by PSR and the Center for the Arts, Religion and Education. As an author, educator, and choreographer, she has inspired countless students, and her work/choreography has been reflected in many worship services, including those at PSR. Among her writings are two books, The Spirit Moves: A Handbook of Dance and Prayer and PeaceRites: Dance and the Art of Making Peace.


ENelsonEugene Nelson, MDiv 1975, has been senior minister of the Community Church of Sebastopol for more than 30 years. He has also served on the PSR Board of Trustees and on the board of the Northern California-Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ. He is founding president of the Sonoma County Faith-Based Community Organizing Project, and has been a board member of the Inter-Church Food Pantry and of the Burbank Heights low-cost housing project; he was president of the Sebastopol Rotary Club and was elected Sebastopol’s “Humanitarian of the Year” in 1990. He won second place in the 1998 Alfred P. Klauser Sermon Awards, offered by Christian Ministry magazine, and he continues to write columns for his local newspaper.


JoonKwanUnJoon Kwan Un, ThD 1968, is considered the father of Korean Christian education and practical theology. He was professor of theology and Christian education at Yonsei University in Korea from 1979 to 1999, serving four years as dean. He is currently president of the Graduate School of Practical Theology, a post-graduate school for ministers, which he founded in 2005. He served as chair of the executive committee for the 1997 Seoul conference of the International Association of Practical Theology, and is on the editorial board of the International Journal of Practical Theology. He has created many theological forums for international scholars to address issues of global injustice, and has made major contributions with Christian educators in the United States and Canada on curriculum projects.

2009 Distinguished Alumni/ae

James Corson, John Corson, Richard Corson, Roberta Corson, Herbert Dimock, Lynice Pinkard


James Corson (BD 1955) served in the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church for more than 47 years. After pastoring, he moved to campus ministry for 10 years, at Stanford University and then UC Berkeley. He served for 11 years as pastor of Burlingame UMC, and his final appointment was for nearly 10 years on the annual conference staff as director for the Conference Council on Ministries. In that assignment, he was involved in the move of conference offices from San Francisco to West Sacramento, where he and his wife Jane continue to live after his retirement.


John Corson (MDiv 1960) served several churches in California, including a rural church in Gerber, an historic Japanese-American congregation in Loomis, Alum Rock UMC in San Jose, and a church in Bakersfield, concluding his active ministry at San Ramon UMC in Alamo in June 2001. His UMC leadership roles included chairing the 1992 General Conference Delegation, Western Jurisdiction Episcopacy Committee, and serving as a delegate to World Methodist Conferences in Hawaii, Brazil, Singapore, and England. He and his wife Sylvia have traveled to more than 60 countries.


Richard Corson (MDiv 1970) met and married Roberta Bassett while they earned their PSR degrees, and served with her in various parishes: Taylor Memorial, in Oakland; Bethany, in Bakersfield; Temple, in San Francisco; and in Campbell. They also participated in mission projects in Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, and, most recently, New Orleans. In retirement, he enjoys poetry, photography, hiking, and the clergy couple’s two grandchildren.


Roberta Corson (MDiv 1969) met her husband Richard Corson at PSR, and for 38 years, until their retirement in 2006, this clergy couple served in United Methodist ministry together. While serving the Campbell, CA UMC, Roberta enrolled in and finished a PhD program in clinical psychology and received a state license as a psychologist. After her retirement from church ministry, she is now engaged in private psychotherapy practice in Saratoga.


Herbert Dimock (MDiv 1943) has had a long career in ministry, teaching, and writing. He founded the Arlington Avenue Church in Kensington, CA and has served several other churches. He has written a dozen books, including Skid Road Letters—to Larry, about his work as director of the First Avenue Service Center in Seattle from 1969 to 1971. Herb also served as professor of humanities at the University of Puget Sound and recently created Eddy Publishing, through which all of his books are available.


Lynice Pinkard (MDiv/MA 1998) has dedicated her life to the work of ministry: pastoring, community organizing and engagement, writing, advocacy, counseling, and healing. Much of her scholarship has focused on the intersection of gender, racial, and spiritual identity, and she has paid particular attention to issues of homo-negativity in the black church and community. A founding elder and former associate pastor of City of Refuge United Church of Christ in San Francisco, she is now senior pastor of First Congregational Church of Oakland.

2008 Distinguished Alumni/ae

Doug Adams, Diane Darlin, Frederick H. Talbot, Shigeo Tanabe


Doug Adams (MDiv/MA 1971), a scholar and beloved teacher at PSR, played an international role in the field of religion and the arts. He focused particularly on visual arts and dance and is well known for his work on biblical humor. During his 31-year teaching career at PSR, he also created the Center for Arts, Religion, and Education at the GTU. Doug passed away on July 24, 2007.


Diane Darling (MDiv 1980) in 1984 became the first openly lesbian woman called to parish ministry in the UCC, as pastor of College Avenue United Church of Christ in Modesto, CA. Diane has a passion for preaching, teaching and story-telling, and working with people on the edge – on the edge of the church, on the edge of society, on the edge of despair, and on the edge of their seats.


Frederick H. Talbot (STM 1959), a native of Guyana, South America,was elected and consecrated the 90th bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1972, serving Episcopal districts in the Caribbean, Georgia, Arkansas/Oklahoma, and Kentucky/Tennessee until his retirement in 2004. He also served as a pastor and teacher and in the diplomatic service of Guyana.


Shigeo Tanabe (MDiv 1937) was born in 1908 in Fort Thompson, WA. Not long after his graduation from PSR and ordination to the United Methodist Church, Rev. Tanabe and his wife Haru were sent to the Tule Lake Internment Camp. Although given a chance to leave, he chose to stay with his people, knowing that they would be in need of leadership and a place to share their faith.

2007 Distinguished Alumni/ae

Dorsey Odell Blake, Paul Chaffee, Mary Ellen McCarthy, Toshimasa Yamamoto


Dorsey Odell Blake (MDiv/MA 1971) is acting dean of the faculty and visiting professor of spiritually and prophetic justice at Starr King School for the Ministry. He has been presiding minister of the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco, the nation’s first interracial, interfaith congregation, since 1994. The first full-time African American male professor at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa (1972-1977), he has been at the forefront of peace and justice activities throughout his ministry.


Paul Chaffee (MDiv 1977) is the founding executive director of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio in San Francisco. He has been a pastor at a number of San Francisco parishes and has served on the San Francisco Interfaith Council board of directors since 1993. His books include Accountable Leadership and Shared Wisdom — Growing Grassroots Interfaith Relationships. In 2004 he taught “Interfaith Literacy and the New Religious America” to seminarians at the Graduate Theological Union.


Mary Ellen McCarthy (MA 1987) is a nurse turned lawyer who currently serves as Democratic staff director for the Subcommittee on Benefits of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans Affairs. She has worked to improve benefits for former prisoners of war and for survivors and dependents of veterans, as well as to strengthen protections for veterans and other VA beneficiaries who are unable to independently manage their financial affairs.


Toshimasa Yamamoto (MDiv 1988) is general secretary of the National Christian Council in Japan, made up of 33 Protestant denominations, organizations, and churches in that country. He also chairs Christian Coalition for Refugee and Migrant Workers and is a coordinator for Christian Peace Network and the Inter-Religious Peace Network in Japan. He currently teaches a class on ecumenism to seminary students at the Japan Biblical Theological Seminary.

2006 Distinguished Alumni/ae

Daniel Aprá, Wallace Fukunaga, Savid Sammons, Wendy Taylor


Daniel Aprá (STM 1968) has devoted his remarkable life of 90 years to ministry and service to others. Aprá graduated from Colgate-Rochester Divinity School in 1940 and was ordained in the Baptist church that same year. He has served churches in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin. One of his longest pastorates, nearly 15 years, was at Arlington Community Church in Kensington, CA. He also served more than 13 years as minister of visitation at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, during which time he became the first chaplain of the Alta Bates Hospice. As a voice for social justice, he supported the grape strike led by Cesar Chavez, took a strong stand against the war in Vietnam, and was an early voice in the open and affirming movement. In addition, he helped create the Greater Richmond Interfaith Project (GRIP) and establish the AIDS ministry for the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ (UCC).


Wallace Fukunaga (DMin 1966) connects his faith to matters of justice, tolerance, and peace. A Hawaii native, he earned a BA from Harvard University and an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary. In the 1960s, he participated in the civil rights movement, went to Vietnam with the World Council of Churches at the height of the war, and served as president of the Hawaii Chapter of the ACLU. More recently, he served as a PSR trustee, as president of the Oahu Association of the UCC, and on the boards of the Mental Health Association of Hawaii, the Waikiki Health Center, and the Japanese Cultural Center. Currently, he is on the board of the Japanese Citizen’s League in Hawaii. Fukunaga’s career has included serving as a campus minister at the University of Hawaii and as a pastor on the islands of Kauai and Oahu. Currently, he is interim pastor of Moanalua Community Church.


David Sammons (DMin 1978), a scholar and social justice activist, graduated from Dartmouth in 1960 and then earned an MDiv degree from Starr King School for the Ministry in 1965. Sammons served churches in New York, Ohio, and Illinois before coming to the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek, CA, from which he will retire in June. Among his many published writings are the books The Marriage Option and A Fresh Look at Marriage. He is currently a PSR trustee; chair of Clergy for Responsible Choices and the Spiritual Care Advisory Board of Kaiser Hospital in Walnut Creek; president of FaithWorks, a labor/religious coalition; and co-chair of the Contra Costa County Housing Trust Fund. Sammons has served in many denominational positions and is currently visiting professor of Unitarian Universalist heritage and ministry at Starr King.


“It is incumbent upon all of us to make sure that the least of us are taken care of,” says Wendy Taylor (MDiv 1986), whose career exemplifies her statement. She was born and educated in Washington, graduating from Whitworth College in 1966, and taught high school for 16 years in the Pacific Northwest. She was a VISTA volunteer in Puerto Rico; traveled to Peru as a lay missionary; served as a UCC delegate to the International Conference of the Mothers of the Disappeared in El Salvador; and coordinated Witness for Peace volunteers in Nicaragua. Taylor was called to serve the Congregational Church of Belmont, CA, in 1988. A decade later, she moved to a bilingual community on the California coast, Pescadero. There, she has directed the Puente Ministry since she founded it in 1998; Puente’s mission is to build bridges between English- and Spanish-speaking people in Pescadero. In 2004, Puente Ministry became the nonprofit Puente de la Costa Sur.

2005 Distinguished Alumni/ae

Jon B. Eckels, Cynthia Winton-Henry, James Treat


Renowned poet, essayist, activist, and teacher Jon B. Eckels (MDiv 1966) has written 14 volumes of poetry. His most recent, Sing When the Spirit Says Sing: Selected & New Poems 1960–1990 (1999), won an American Book Award in 2000 from the Before Columbus Foundation, and his Home Is Where the Soul Is (1969), published by the influential Broadside Press, is considered one of the seminal works of the black poetry movement. After completing his MDiv at PSR, Eckels earned a master’s degree in literature from Stanford University. He served as an instructor of English, American literature, poetry, and creative writing at Mills College and Merritt College in Oakland, CA. An ordained minister in the United Methodist Church (UMC), Eckels pastored UMC churches in California and New York. Eckels has been a human rights activist since the 1960s and has spoken and read around the nation and the world.


Cynthia Winton-Henry (MDiv 1983) weaves together spiritual leadership, scholarship and intellectual practice, artistic expression, pastoral care and community development. Ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), she has chosen to make the wider community her church. Winton-Henry is co-director of Body Wisdom, Inc., a not-for-profit organization devoted to the integration of body, mind, heart, and spirit both inside and outside of faith communities. She is the co-founder of InterPlay, a philosophy and practice that encourages body-spirit integration, creating communities of understanding and peace in many different settings. She also co-directs the WING IT! Performance Ensemble, a multicultural group of more than 20 artists/spiritual caregivers. Winton-Henry is the author of several publications, CDs and videos, including the book, What the Body Wants (2004). She has been an adjunct faculty member in dance and theology at PSR for 20 years.


James Treat (MA 1989) teaches interdisciplinary courses in native studies, religious studies, and creative expression at the Honors College at the University of Oklahoma. His research focuses on native religious diversity in the contemporary period, and especially on the relationship between tribal and Christian traditions in reservation and urban communities. He addresses the theoretical and practical questions raised by the intersections of religion, culture and politics in a diverse and conflicted world. Treat is the author ofAround the Sacred Fire: Native Religious Activism in the Red Power Era(2003) and the editor of For This Land: Writings on Religion in America by Vine Deloria, Jr. (1999) and Native and Christian: Indigenous Voices on Religious Identity in the United States and Canada (1996). He completed his PhD in religious studies in 1993 at the Graduate Theological Union.

2004 Distinguished Alumni/ae

James Chuch, Jim Mitulski, Dorothy Mae Williams


James Chuck, (ThD 1962), the son of Chinese immigrants, grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown, where he was nurtured at First Chinese Baptist Church. Rev. Chuck went on to serve his home church from 1951-1991 as youth director, English-speaking pastor, and finally as senior pastor for this bicultural, multi-generational community of Cantonese and English-speaking persons. In 1991 he joined the faculty of the American Baptist Seminary of the West as Professor of Theology and Church Ministries, where he teaches courses in theology, pastoral leadership, congregational development, and world religions. Rev. Chuck is the author of a study documenting the growth of Chinese congregations in the Bay Area, and is the editor of Chinatown Stories of Life and Faith, a collection of life stories of members of First Chinese Baptist Church. Before receiving his ThD at PSR, he earned his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his MDiv from the American Baptist Seminary of the West.


Metropolitan Community Church pastor Jim Mitulski (MDiv 1991) is recognized nationally for his groundbreaking ministries with persons with HIV/AIDS. Rev. Mitulski was minister at San Francisco MCC for 15 years during the height of the AIDS epidemic, an experience he has chronicled through chapters in the books Out in the Castro: Desire, Promise, Activism;Take Back the Word; and The Church with AIDS. Rev. Mitulski is a founder of the Clergy Caucus of the Harvey Milk GLBT Democratic Club and is former co-chair of San Francisco’s Ryan White HIV Health Planning Services. He has served other MCC congregations in New York City and California, and is now Director of Financial Development and Associate Director of Leadership Development for the national MCC office in Los Angeles. Rev. Mitulski is a member of the PSR Board of Trustees and sits on the national board of PSR’s Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry. Last spring he was awarded an honorary doctorate in sacred theology from Starr King School for the Ministry.


Dorothy Mae Williams (MDiv 1982) is a United Methodist minister, teacher, and spiritual director, and the first African American woman to be ordained as an elder in the United Methodist Church’s California Nevada Conference. Rev. Williams has served as associate pastor at Downs Memorial United Methodist Church in Oakland and as pastor of Good Shepherd and Easter Hill United Methodist Churches in Richmond, CA. Trained as a mental health and substance abuse counselor, she is the founder of Spirit Weaving, a Bay Area ministry that focuses on issues of spirituality and substance abuse recovery. She also serves on the leadership team for the Academy for Spiritual Formation, a program of the UMC’s Upper Room, and has taught in the summer school programs of PSR and Claremont School of Theology. Rev. Williams is the recipient of many awards, including a Women of Distinction award from Soroptimist International of the Americas, and a Black Women Achievements Against the Odds award, presented by the Richmond Museum, which houses her personal archives.

2003 Distinguished Alumni/ae

Kealahou Alika, Lynne Hinton, Robert Rue Parsonage


Kealahou Alika (MDiv ’79) is the pastor of Keawalai Congregational Church in Kihei, Hawai‘i, where he strives to unite his Christian faith with his Hawaiian culture. An historic missionary church, Keawalai Congregational Church now provides mission services to its own extended community through food, shelter, health care, and other programs. Alika is a former Program and Fundraising Director for the Pacific and Asian American Center for Theology and Strategies in Berkeley and has also worked as an administrator for the Presbytery of San Francisco. He holds undergraduate degrees from the University of Hawai‘i Hilo College.


Writer Lynne Hinton (MDiv ’88) is the pastor of First Congregational Church of Christ in Asheboro, North Carolina. She is the author of five books, includingMeditations for Walking, Friendship Cake, The Things I Know Best, Garden of Faith, and Forever Friends. Hinton is former pastor of Mt. Hope United Church of Christ in Whitsett, North Carolina, and has served as a chaplain with Hospice of Rockingham County and Hospice of Alamance and Caswell Counties. A native of North Carolina, she has also studied at Wake Forest University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and in the filmmaking program of the North Carolina School of the Arts. Hinton lives in rural Guilford County, where she divides her time between her writing and her work as a minister.


Robert Rue Parsonage (BD ’63) is a United Church of Christ minister with over 40 years of experience in higher education and the church. A former executive for Higher Education and Education for the National Council of Churches, he has served as Chaplain and Associate Professor of Religion at Springfield College and President and Professor of Religion at Northland College. Parsonage is the author of several works on church-related higher education and campus ministry, and is a national spokesperson for independent higher education. A resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, he earned his PhD from Hartford Seminary and a ThM from Harvard University Divinity School.

2002 Distinguished Alumni/ae

Stewart M. Hoover, Linda Seger, Michael Yoshii


Stewart M. Hoover (MA 1976) is Professor of Media Studies in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Hoover’s research interests center on media audience and reception studies rooted in cultural studies, anthropology, sociology. Within this field, he has concentrated on media and religion, looking first at the phenomenon of televangelism and later at the professional, cultural and discursive construction of religion by the press. Hoover is author of The Electronic Giant, Mass Media Religion: The Social Sources of the Electronic Church, Religion in the News: Faith and Journalism in American Public Discourse and  Religion in the Media Age. He is also co-author of Media and Family Identity and has co-edited three collections, Religious Television: Controversies and Conclusions; Rethinking Media, Religion, and Culture and Practicing Religion in the Age of Media. Hoover earned his PhD from the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania.


Screenwriter Linda Seger (MA 1973) created and defined the job of script consultant, and has worked on over 2000 scripts for feature films and television projects. Her clients have included TriStar Pictures, MGM/UA, Ray Bradbury, William Kelley, Linda Lavin, Suzanne de Passe, Tony Bill, as well as production companies throughout Europe. Seger is an renowned speaker, having lectured on screenwriting in 17 countries around the world. She presented the first professional screenwriting seminar in Moscow and Bulgaria, and has trained script consultants in Germany, New Zealand, Scandinavia, and Italy. She also offers seminars for studios, networks, production companies, television series, and film commissions. Seger has appeared in more than 60 radio and television shows, and is the author of Making a Good Script Great, Making a Good Writer Great, Creating Unforgettable Characters,and From Script to Screen. She holds a ThD from the Graduate Theological Union in Drama and Theology.


Before beginning his studies at PSR, Michael Yoshii (MDiv 1986) worked in the nonprofit sector doing re-settlement work with Asian immigrants and fostering an alternative criminal justice program. Since his graduation, he has served as pastor at Berkeley Methodist United Church and then Buena Vista United Methodist Church in Alameda, where he has been since 1988. Yoshii’s ministry affirms Asian American cultural and spiritual needs while embracing the practice of spiritual wholeness and social justice. His community organizing — a source of inspiration for the PSR students he mentors in field education — includes work with the Sansei Legacy Project, the Organization of Alameda Asians, the Alameda Multicultural Community Center, Renewed Hope Housing Advocates, and the Asian American Summer Youth Institute. Yoshii also finds time to chair the Race and Community Relations Working Group of the Faiths Initiative of the San Francisco Foundation, the California Nevada United Methodist Church Conference Commission on Religion and Race, and the United Methodist Western Jurisdiction Asian Caucus Coordinating Committee. He is a member of the National Policy Board of the United Methodist Community Developers Program.

2001 Distinguished Alumni/ae

Edwina Hunter, Paul Jeffrey, David Kaupu, Lyda Pierce


Edwina Hunter (MDiv ’79) has had a distinguished career as a minister, professor and author. After receiving her MDiv from PSR in 1979, she continued her education with an MA and PhD from Northwestern University. Hunter taught speech and oral interpretation at the college level and served as chair of the Speech Department at Georgetown College in Kentucky. In 1983 she was appointed Associate Professor of Preaching at PSR, becoming one of only a few women to hold a seminary position in homiletics in the nation. An ordained minister of the American Baptist Church, Hunter pastored a number of American Baptist churches in the Bay Area and edited the Graduate Theological Union Center for Women and Religion’s Journal of Women and Religion. She later moved to Union Seminary where she served as Professor of Preaching. Now retired and living in Santa Rosa, Hunter remains active in teaching and preaching.


Paul Jeffrey (MDiv ’80) served as a rural pastor for four years in western Washington, then moved in 1984 to Central America, where he has lived ever since. A United Methodist missionary since 1985, Jeffrey covers the region as a journalist and photographer. He’s filed stories from 30 countries in the region, and last year traveled to Ethiopia to cover the drought and war there. He’s written about everything from indigenous spirituality to prostitutes unions. His work appears in church-related media such as New World Outlook, Response, Latinamerica Press, Christian Century, National Catholic Reporter,and Sojourners, as well as in secular publications like the Chronicle of Higher Education and Multinational Monitor. He has written chapters for several recent books, and his 1998 book, Recovering Memory, which examines the role of churches in Guatemala’s peace process, will soon become a documentary for public television. In Honduras, where he lives now, he is a consultant on communications issues with the Christian Commission for Development.


Since his graduation from PSR, David Kaupu (MDiv ’72) has worked as a pastor and chaplain in the Hawaiian Islands. Kaupu received his BA and BTh degrees from Yankton College and his BD and MDiv degrees from PSR. A native Hawaiian and gifted religious leader, Kaupu has made significant contributions to the UCC Hawaiian Conference. Since 1970 he has worked as the Associate Chaplain for the Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu, presiding over the building of a beautiful chapel featuring native Hawaiian materials. He has also served as a co-pastor of the historic Kaumakapili Church in Honolulu. Kaupu is former pastor of the Puna-Ka’u Parish and Coordinator of Hawaiian Ministry for the Council of Hawaiian Congregational Churches. He has chaired the Ethics Commission of the State of Hawaii and served for nine years on the PSR Board of Trustees.


After her graduation from PSR, Lyda Pierce (MDiv ’80) served four years as a United Methodist pastor in western Washington, where she helped set up a shelter for abused women and spent ten days in jail for attempting a citizen’s arrest of a train carrying nuclear weapons components. In 1984 she moved to war-torn Nicaragua, volunteering as a consultant on gender and theology for a Protestant development agency. In 1985 Pierce became a United Methodist missionary, continuing her work in Nicaragua. In 1994 she moved to Guatemala, where she did such a good job of coordinating a program of indigenous women’s empowerment for the Guatemalan Methodist Church that church leaders — all men — fired her. Living in Honduras since 1996, Pierce is a consultant on gender for the Christian Commission for Development and a professor at the Honduran Theological Community, an extension campus of the Latinamerican Biblical University in San José, Costa Rica. She is currently working on a Doctor of Ministry degree in international feminist theologies at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

2000 Distinguished Alumni/ae

W. Bruce MacKenzi, Ronald Parker, Pat Schneider


Since his graduation from PSR, W. Bruce MacKenzie (MDiv ’53) worked as a minister for forty-six years, first with a small parish in Calaveras County, California, then as Director of Youth and Student Work with the Northern California Congregational Conference. He then served for ten years at the United Church of Christ Church in Washington Park, Denver, CO before becoming pastor at First Congregational Church in Boulder. For the next twenty-seven years, MacKenzie broadened and deepened his congregation’s role in the lives of its members and the local community, exemplifying Christian commitment to compassion and optimism, and spiritual and human wholeness. MacKenzie was named Minister Emeritus of the church when he retired in 1997. In his retirement he has served as Minister-in-Residence at PSR and Chicago Theological Seminary.


Ronald Parker (MDiv ’66, PhD ’74) has a long and distinguished career of service to faith communities and theological education. A former Dean of Enrollment and adjunct faculty member at PSR, Parker has pastored both rural and urban United Methodist congregations in California and has been active in the California-Nevada Annual Conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry, Executive Committee, and Pastor’s School. Parker is former president of the Board of Directors of the Berkeley Emergency Food and Housing Project and has served as Writer in Residence at Epworth UMC in Berkeley. He is also a defense counsel for 40 United Methodist ministers charged with participating in a same-gender Holy Union service in Sacramento (see article). A poet, writer, and long-time PSR Bulletin columnist, Parker is the author of Do I Belong in Seminary?


Internationally acclaimed poet and writer Pat Schneider (MA ’59) is founder and director of Amherst Writers and Artists and the Amherst Writers and Artists Press. Schneider has published widely in literary journals and magazines and is the author of The Writer as An Artist: A New Approach to Writing Alone and With Others, and three books of poetry. Her most recent book, Wake Up Laughing: A Spiritual Autobiography, details the story of her spiritual journey and escape from poverty. Schneider is a highly popular adjunct professor at PSR and leads workshops in Ireland and throughout the U.S. Her pioneering work in creative writing as a means of empowering low-income women is the subject of the award-winning documentary, Tell Me Something I Can’t Forget, which has been featured on public television.

1999 Distinguished Alumni/ae

Robert Leland, Daniel Romero, Robert John Russell


Robert Leland (MDiv ’62), a leader in the Canadian ecumenical movement, is former Regional Minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Canada and pastor of Disciples congregations in Montana, California and Ontario. From 1972–1978, Leland chaired the Committee on Union and Joint Mission of the United Church of Canada, an effort that would have created the Church of Christ in Canada as the successor to the Anglican Church in Canada, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Canada and the United Church of Canada. After the Anglican Church withdrew from the process, he played a critical role in guiding ecumenical discussions between the two remaining church bodies. Leland has served as Executive Secretary of the Toronto United Church Council and member of the board of the College of Churches of Christ (Disciples) in Canada.


Working with diverse communities to shape authentic ecumenical and multicultural ministries, Daniel Romero (MDiv ’70), Conference Minister for the United Church of Christ Southern California Nevada Conference, is known as a strong advocate for social justice in the local, national and international church. Romero is former General Secretary for Mission for the United Church Board for World Ministries and has served in a variety of roles in the UCC, the National Council of Churches, and the UCC/Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) ecumenical partnership. A former pastor of congregations in Chula Vista and Morningside, California, Romero is an attorney with particular interests in immigration and international law. He is the author of Our Futures Inextricably Linked: A Vision of Pluralism, published by the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries.


Robert John Russell (MDiv, MA ’72) is recognized internationally for his pioneering work in the conversation between theology and the natural sciences. The founder and Director of the renowned Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences in Berkeley, Russell’s research and teaching focuses on human genetics and theological anthropology; ecojustice; creation and cosmology/evolution; divine action and the laws of nature; technology and human values; Christian spirituality and nature; and philosophical elements in scientific theories. Russell is the editor of Chaos and Complexity, Quantum Cosmology and the Laws of Nature: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action,and Physics, Philosophy and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding.Ordained in the United Church of Christ, Russell holds a PhD in physics from the University of California at Santa Cruz.

1998 Distinguished Alumni/ae

Diane Kennedy, Michael Rhodes, Harold Schulweis


For over 25 years, Diane Kennedy, O.P. (DMin ’79) has devoted her energies to the collaboration of women and men in spirituality and ministry. Kennedy is the President of the Association of Theological Schools in the U.S. and Canada, and the Academic Dean of the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis. Her studies at PSR explored biblical and theological principles for equality and mutuality, and her continuing work focuses on psychological and social factors influencing gender roles, and transformative models of leadership and ministry. Kennedy was the founding Director of the Parable Conference for Dominican Life and Mission, and is former Vicaress General of the Sinsinawa Dominicans. She serves on the Board of Trustees of Dominican University and on the Directorium of Pontifica Universita Santa Tomasso in Rome.


Five-time Emmy Award winning director/producer Michael Rhodes (MDiv ’72) got his start as a film maker at PSR in 1967, when, as a field education student, he helped his youth group at Oakland’s Laurel Methodist Church make a movie. Through this labor of love, Rhodes discovered his passion to tell stories through film, a process which he says, “so often results in moments of brilliant epiphany, revealing the powerful, loving and creative hand of God in the world.” After studying cinema at the University of Southern California, he joined Paulist Productions in Los Angeles, where he produced the company’s feature film Romero and many award-winning specials. He has directed numerous television programs including Christy, Fame, Little House on the Prairie, Star Trek: A New Beginning, and a Paulist Productions film on Dorothy Day, Entertaining Angels.


Harold Schulweis (ThD ’72), a nationally renowned rabbi, theologian, and activist, has guided his congregation, Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, CA for almost 30 years. He is founder of such programs as The Jewish Foundation for Christian Rescuers, the Para-Rabbinic Program for para-professional counselors, and the Institute for the Righteous Acts, which documents the work of individuals who saved Jews during the Holocaust. Schulweis’ books includeFor Those Who Can’t Believe (1994), Evil and the Morality of God (1983), andApproaches to the Philosophy of Religion (1954). He is the senior editor ofSh’ma, and has served as adjunct professor of Jewish Contemporary Civilization at the University of Judaism, Los Angeles, and lecturer in Jewish Theology at Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles. Schulweis received the Israeli Prime Minister’s Medal in 1975.

1997 Distinguished Alumni/ae

Diane Kennedy, Michael Rhodes, Harold Schulweis


Wilbur W.Y. Choy (MDiv ’49, DD ’69) is the first Asian-American Bishop of the United Methodist Church, named to the episcopacy in 1972. Choy served parishes in Stockton and Sacramento, CA and was District Superintendent of the Bay View District from 1969-1972. As bishop, he was president of the UMC Council of Bishops from 1983-1984. Choy also sat on the Executive Committee of the National Conference of Chinese Churches. An active member of the PSR Board of Trustees from 1970–1984, Choy worked to strengthen PSR’s focus on Pacific Basin cross-cultural dialogue, diversity and excellence in ministry. “Bishop Choy’s commitment to equality, liberation and a world free from racism and war are evident to all,” wrote Board Chair Robert Riddell on behalf of the trustees in 1984. “As bishop, superintendent and local church pastor, Choy has brought to his ministry pastoral sensitivity, prayerful depth, the strengthening of diverse ministries, administrative care, and a saving sense of humor.”


Richard Gelwick (ThD ’65) is Professor of Bioethics and Chair of Medical Humanities and Behavioral Medicine at the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the University of New England, Bideford, ME. Before becoming a teacher and ethicist, Gelwick served as an ordained UCC chaplain at several colleges and universities. He chaired the religion and philosophy department at Stephen’s College in Colombia, MO for twenty-three years, and then began a second career as a medical humanist, reconstructing medical humanities and ethics training at the University of New England and helping to create the Maine Bioethics Network. Gelwick is also an expert on the thought of Michael Polanyi, having written extensively on Polanyi’s work and founded the North American Polanyi Studies Group. He is former chair of the Section on Religion, Health and Medical Ethics of the American Academy of Religion, and is a member of the editorial board of The Journal of Medical Humanities, the American Society of Law and Medicine, the Society for Health and Human Values, and the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics. Gelwick is listed in Who’s Who in Theology and Science.


The late Susan Lyon (MDiv ’83) was Co-director of Hartford Hospital’s Pastoral Services Department and Director of Clinical Pastoral Education in Hartford. Before coming to Hartford, Lyon was a chaplain in Ann Arbor, MI and San Francisco, and initiated a chaplaincy training program in Puerto Rico. She also served as Adjunct Professor of Clinical Pastoral Education at Hartford Seminary. Long active in the UCC, Lyon was Covenant Minister at Elmwood Community Church in West Hartford, and a member of the UCC Connecticut Conference Personnel Committee and the National Committee on Persons with Disabilities. Lyon had rheumatoid arthritis and became blind at an early age. “Sue’s particular strength lay in her ability to contemplate and then to accept and reach beyond her humanness,” says her father, Pro Lyon. “Driven in part by her own pain, Sue probed beyond her humanity to discover what was somehow a touch of God. Having found that in herself, it became easy for her to find that same touch of God — of divinity — in all she met. I believe Sue would have us know that if she could find a way, so can we.”


1996 Distinguished Alumni/ae

Carole Keim,

Bishop Roy Sano

Mary Jacobs