Each year, United invites nominations for the Distinguished Alum Award. Distinguished Alums are graduates of the seminary who have made a meaningful and lasting contribution to making the world a better place through their work and ministry. A committee of the Alum Council reviews the nominees and selects the Distinguished Alum Award recipient, who is recognized at the annual United Days/Spring Convocation Alum Dinner each spring.
Nominations are open through November each year. The Distinguished Alum has graduated at least 10 years ago from United, Yankton or Mission House Seminary and has demonstrated exceptional achievements and special qualities in her/his ministry in the church or society. Nominations are due November 1 each year.
2015 Distinguished Alum
The recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Alum Award is Anita C. Hill ’87 ’00. Anita will be honored at the Alum Dinner during United Days on Thursday, May 14.
Anita C. Hill earned her Master of Arts in Religious Studies from United in 1987 and her Master of Divinity in 2000. She is deputy director of Reconciling Works, assigned to work with congregations in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota to help them live into the new policies of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in both pulpit and pew. Anita served St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church as pastor from 1994 to 2012. Her ordination there in 2001 was an act of ecclesiastical disobedience; the prevailing ELCA policy precluded LGBT persons who were in a committed, same-gender relationship from serving in the church as ministers, no matter how qualified they otherwise were for ministry. In 2009, the Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA voted to remove that policy barrier to ministerial service, and in 2010, Anita was formally received onto the clergy roster of the ELCA.
As a child of the old South, Anita actively seeks to establish racial and economic equity through faith-based community organizing. In 2009, Anita and her partner Janelle Bussert welcomed into their home and their hearts a family seeking asylum in the United States. Anita loves being “Gramanita” to Thabiso, an active preschooler. Kathleen Remund, director of church relations and grants, and associate director of the Kaleo Center for Faith, Justice & Social Transformation, says, “She is a true prophet with a true pastor’s heart.”
Anita was nominated by ELCA minister Shari Seifert. In Seifert’s letter supporting Hill for Distinguished Alum, she wrote, “I am thankful for Anita’s powerful work of transforming my denomination into one that I am excited to be part of, and for helping to transform my state into a place where I could legally marry my longtime partner in a Lutheran church by my beloved pastor, who happens to be gay. I am tremendously thankful for her presence in my life.”
Congratulations to Anita!
2014 Rufus Campbell ’90, Sharon Wilson ’94
2013 Karen Smith Sellers ’76, Norma Rae Hunt ’84
2012 Jon Gunnemann ’66
2011 Kimberly Vrudny ’95
2010 Susan K. Ebbers ’78, Rick Yramategui ’87
2009 Howard J. Vogel ’78
2008 Peg A. Chemberlin ’82
2008 Herbert Zimmerman ’46
2007 Paul Olm-Stoelting ’46 ’74
2006 Christie Cozad Neuger ’80
2005 Gene E. Miller ’83
2004 Robert H. Tucker ’81
2003 Gary Reierson ’78 ’86
2002 Kathi Austin Mahle ’78, Ernest Strandberg ’67
2001 Sheila C. Gustafson ’77, Helen Wells O’Brien ’90
2000 Obid Hofland ’68 ’88
1999 John Heinl ’61
1998 Thomas Townsend ’60
1997 Eugene Grau ’44
1996 Marva Jean Hutchens ’80, Gary Miller ’68
1995 Carla Bailey ’81 ’92, Hobart (Fid) Sailor ’69
1994 Martha Ann Baumer ’73, Nelda Lockwood ’51, Alma Stepanek ’51
1993 Vernon Jaberg ’47, Fred Schneider ’43
1992 Theodore Bader ’51, Ralph Ley ’39
1991 John Krueger ’63