posted April 6, 2009

Hope to Honor Alumni with Awards

Hope College will honor three alumni with awards during the college's annual Alumni Banquet on Saturday, May 2.

Milton Nieuwsma of Holland, who is a 1963 graduate, and Dr. Gerald Sittser of Spokane, Wash., who is a 1972 graduate, will each receive Distinguished Alumni Awards.  Jeffrey Bates of Ann Arbor, who is a 1998 graduate, will receive a Young Alumni Award.

The annual Distinguished Alumni Awards are presented by the Alumni Association Board of Directors in recognition of the awardees' contributions across decades or even across a career to society and service to Hope. The award, inaugurated in 1970 and presented during the college's Alumni Banquet, is the highest honor that alumni can receive from the college's Alumni Association.

The Young Alumni Award was established to honor the talents and contributions that young alumni have made to their professions, their communities and to the college, and was first presented in 2007.  Criteria include having been a member of the Alumni Association for 15 or fewer years; notable prominence through professional endeavor, research, volunteerism, and/or involvement with the local or global community or the college; and demonstrating significant initiative by starting innovative service projects, research, businesses or other original enterprises.

° Milton Nieuwsma is a two-time Emmy Award-winning documentary writer and producer, and the author of "Kinderlager," an acclaimed account of three young concentration-camp survivors.

Nieuwsma started his writing career as a reporter for the "Holland Sentinel" while in high school.  Immediately after graduating from Hope, he was a public information officer at WayneStateUniversity in Detroit and hosted a weekly radio program on WQRS-FM, a Detroit fine-arts station.

He completed a master's degree in literature and communication at the University of Illinois-Springfield in 1978, and became vice president of GrantHospital in Chicago, Ill., a year later.  Also in the late 1970s he contributed historical features and travel articles to the "Chicago Tribune."

In 1990 he became the vice president for development at New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Jersey and also taught journalism at RutgersUniversity.  While in New Brunswick, he met Tova Friedman, believed to be the youngest survivor of Auschwitz, which inspired him to write "Kinderlager" (1998).  "Kinderlager" has earned multiple honors, including being named a "Best Book for Teens" by the New York Public Library and selection by the Institute for Higher European Studies as one of the top 10 books written on the Holocaust.

In 2005 the book was reissued as "Surviving Auschwitz: Children of the Shoah" as a companion to a PBS documentary of the same name which Nieuwsma wrote and co-produced.  The film won honors including an Emmy Award from the Michigan chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for best historical documentary, and a First Place Gold Camera Award at the International Film and Video Festival in Los Angeles.  He won a second Emmy in 2006 for writing and co-producing "Defying Hitler," a documentary about a Jewish fighter in the Polish resistance.

Nieuwsma has lived in Holland since 1997.  In 2001, he co-founded the Amicus Group, a fundraising and consulting firm.

He and his wife, Marilee, have three children:  Jonathan; Greg, a 1993 Hope graduate; and Elizabeth; and four grandchildren.

° Gerald Sittser is a professor of theology at WhitworthUniversity in Spokane, where he has taught since 1989 and also chairs the new MA in theology program and co-leads the Africa Initiative Program.  He has received multiple honors through the years for both his teaching and his scholarship.

The university's senior students have voted him the Most Influential Professor seven times.  He has also won both Whitworth's junior and senior faculty teaching awards, decided by peers.

He is the award-winning author of seven books, which have been widely translated.  "A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss," informed by his own experience of enduring the death of his wife Lynda (a 1971 Hope graduate), daughter Diana Jane and mother Grace in a 1991 automobile accident caused by a drunk driver, is a best-seller that has been translated into more than 15 languages.  "When God Doesn't Answer Your Prayer" won the 2005 Gold Medallion Award in the Christian Living Category from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.  His most recent book, "Water from a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries," won the Logos Book Award.

Sittser speaks frequently at churches, Christian conferences and pastors' conferences, as well as on college campuses.  He delivered the Opening Convocation address at Hope in 2000, and also presented lectures at Hope in 2006.

He serves on many committees and boards at Whitworth and in the community, teaches a variety of Sunday school classes and leads a theology reading group for area pastors.

Sittser grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich. After graduating from Hope, he earned an M.Div. degree at Fuller Theological Seminary.

He served as an associate pastor at Emmanuel Reformed Church in Paramount, Calif., for five years, and then as chaplain at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, for six years before returning to school, this time at the University of Chicago, to earn his doctorate in the history of Christianity under Dr. Martin E. Marty.

He has three children:  Catherine, age 25; David, age 24; and John, age 19.  His hobbies include woodworking, backpacking and gardening.

° Jeffrey Bates, who majored in history and biology at Hope, is a co-founder of the online news and discussion site "Slashdot.org" and currently serves as vice president of platform with SourceForge Inc., of which Slashdot is now a subsidiary.

Bates and Hope classmate Rob Malda created Slashdot while students at Hope, subsequently running the site with Hope friends including Kurt DeMaagd, Nate Oostendorp and Tim Vroom.  Bates Malda, Oostendorp and Vroom have continued to be involved in the site since its sale to Andover.net in 1999 and Andover's acquisition by SourceForge in 2000.  Bates's emphasis through the years has been on editorial operations.

Operating with the motto "News for nerds. Stuff that matters," the popular Slashdot site has earned news and feature stories in publications including the "New York Times," "Washington Post," "Wall Street Journal," "Wired" and "Time" magazines, and numerous others.  Slashdot.org has won a number of community awards, a Weeby, a Reader's Choice Award from "Linux Magazine" and the Golden Penguin Award in 2004.  Bates has presented addresses at numerous conferences and has written chapters in multiple books.

Bates has helped a number of non-profits develop their Web sites.  Slashdot has run charity auctions to raise funds for online civil liberty groups as well as for legal defense funds involving free speech, receiving commendations from the Free Software Foundation, the Electronic Freedom Foundation and others.

Bates and his wife, Adrienne, have three children, Bella, Grace and Josiah.