posted April 6, 2010

Hope to Honor Alumni with Awards

 Hope College will honor five alumni with awards during the college's annual Alumni Banquet on Saturday, May 1.

The college's Alumni Association will present Distinguished Alumni Awards to the Rev. Dr. Carol Bechtel of Holland, who is a 1981 graduate; Dr. Robert Donia of La Jolla, Calif., who is a 1967 graduate; and Dean Overman of Washington, D.C., who is a 1965 graduate.  The association will present Young Alumni Awards to two 1997 graduates:  Jalaa' Abdelwahab of New York City, and John Conlon of Byron Center.

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.

° Carol Bechtel is being honored for her scholarship and her extensive service on behalf of the Reformed Church in America. Bechtel has been a professor of Old Testament at Western Theological Seminary since 1994.  She is also currently serving as moderator of the General Synod Council of the Reformed Church in America (RCA), and was president and vice president of the General Synod during 2008-09 and 2007-08 respectively. Born in Fulton, Ill., she was the first woman ordained by the Classis of Illinois.  She was also the first woman in the RCA to be ordained as a General Synod Professor of Theology.

She is the author of numerous scholarly articles and devotionals, and the author of editor of books including "Glimpses of Glory," "Esther: A Commentary for Teaching and Preaching," "Life after Grace," and "Touching the Altar: The Old Testament for Christian Worship."  She also preaches and teaches widely at both national and international events.

She triple-majored in English, religion and ancient civilizations, and as a graduating senior received the Southland Medal (Gerrit H. Albers Gold Medal), which is awarded to the outstanding woman of the class.  She subsequently completed a Master of Divinity degree at Western Theological Seminary, and a doctorate in Old Testament at YaleUniversity.

Prior to joining the Western Theological Seminary faculty she was an assistant professor of biblical studies at the PresbyterianSchool of Christian Education in Richmond, Va.

She is the niece of the late Dr. Lawrence (Doc) Green, who was a member of the kinesiology faculty at Hope from 1952 until his death in 1982.  Her involvement in the life of the college has included speaking on campus and preaching during chapel, and serving on the committee for her 20-year reunion.

Her husband is Thomas Mullens.  She has four grown children, Andrew Lawrence Reynolds, Ellen Elizabeth Reynolds, Elyssa Mullens Chub and Ian Thomas Mullens.

° Bob Donia is being honored for decades of engagement as a scholar and human rights advocate with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Donia graduated from Hope with a major in history and an interest in the country and peoples of Yugoslavia.  After teaching high school English for one year in Onaway, Mich., he spent three years in the U.S. Army with service in Germany, Korea and Vietnam.

After military service, he attended graduate school and received a Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan in 1976.   His publications include the books "Islam under the Double Eagle:   The Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1878-1914," "Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Tradition Betrayed" and "Sarajevo: Biography of a City."

Donia worked for Merrill Lynch from 1981 to 2000 as a financial advisor and office manager. Since his retirement from Merrill, he has worked as a consultant for various international and U.S. government agencies with programs and interests in the former Yugoslavia.  He has provided testimony as an expert historical witness in the trial of former Yugoslav President Milo?evi? and 12 other trials at the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, and he has provided training in the history and culture of the former Yugoslavia to units of the U.S. military prior to their deployment as peacekeepers to Bosnia-Herzegovina and to Kosovo.

He has stayed involved with Hope through the years, serving on class reunion committees and returning to campus frequently, including as a visiting lecturer.  He and his family established the Tom Donia Memorial Organ Fund in the memory of his brother Tom, a 1971 Hope graduate who died in 1990, to enable the college to bring a distinguished guest organist to campus for a concert each year.

Donia and his wife, Jane Ritter, divide their time between California and Ann Arbor, Mich., where he teaches as a visiting professor of history at the University of Michigan.

°  Dean Overman is being honored for his distinguished career as a lawyer, public servant and scholar. He is retired from serving as a senior partner with Winston & Strawn, and was partner-in-charge of the firm's Washington, D.C., office for many years.  He is currently chairman of The Arbella Company Ltd.

Prior to joining Winston & Strawn, he served in the Ford White House, first as a White House Fellow for Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, and then as associate director for policy review. He was previously a partner in the law firm of D'Ancona, Pflaum, Wyatt & Riskind.

His many publications include not only law books and law review articles but also the books "A Case for the Divinity of Jesus: Examining the Earliest Evidence," "A Case for the Existence of God" and "A Case Against Accident and Self-Organization," as well as books on effective writing style for business and the profession, and on financial valuation of an acquisition candidate.

Among other honors and service, Overman has been a Templeton Scholar at OxfordUniversity, a visiting scholar at HarvardUniversity, an adjunct fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia Law School. He co-authored the plan that led to creation of the nationwide "Communities in Schools Inc.," which now serves more than three million students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

He graduated from Hope with a psychology major. He was class president, co-founded Young Life Leadership at the college, co-captained the men's basketball team and was on the golf team. He completed his law degree at the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, and also attended Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of California and University of Chicago Graduate Schools of Business.

Overman has been actively involved in Hope in numerous ways, including as a guest lecturer in the Washington Honors Semester for several years, and delivering the 1978 Commencement address and the 2002 Opening Convocation address.

He and his wife, Linda, have two grown daughters, Elisabeth and Christiana.

°  Jalaa' Abdelwahab is being recognized for his dedicated service in public health, with a particular emphasis to global polio eradication.

Abdelwahab has been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since 2000.  He is currently seconded to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Headquarters in New York as a Health Specialist focusing on polio and overall immunizations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, the Horn of Africa, and the Middle East and North Africa Region.

Prior to joining UNICEF in 2009, Abdelwahab was seconded to the polio unit of the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office of the World Health Organization as a technical officer and epidemiologist.  During his fellowship with CDC as Public Health Prevention Specialists he worked with New York City Department of the Health and Mental Hygiene as an epidemiologist in the Tuberculosis Control Program.

He has published extensively on epidemiology and other health-related issues, including articles in the "Journal of Clinical Microbiology" and the "Journal on Infectious Diseases."  Among other honors, he received a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Recognition Award in 2008 for supporting polio eradication efforts in the critical countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan, and the WHO EMRO Appreciation Award in 2006 for contributions for polio eradication in Egypt. In 2003, Abdelwahab was awarded the Distinguished Service and Achievement Award of his CDC's Public Health Prevention and Service fellowship.

Abdelwahab received a scholarship at HopeCollege after finishing his high school diploma at the Friends Quaker Schools in Ramallah, Palestine.  At Hope, he majored in biology and minored in biochemistry at Hope but also enjoyed various art classes such as painting and acting.  As a student, he was an active member of Mortar Board and the BBB honor biology society, and an award-winning member of the college's team in the Model Arab League, and recipient of the Sigma Xi Research Award. Among other activities he was the president of the International Relations Club, published poems in Opus literary magazine, served as a resident assistant for two years and spent a semester studying abroad in Adelaide, Australia.  He completed a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree at the University of Michigan in 2000.

He has returned to Hope as a guest speaker on multiple occasions.  In October 2008 he spoke about his work with the World Health Organization during the college's Critical Issues Symposium, "Global Health:  From Catastrophe to Cure."  In 2005 he was among the alumni speakers featured during the opening of the MarthaMillerCenter for Global Communication and presented the A.J. Muste Memorial Lecture.

°  John Conlon is being honored for his recognized excellence as a high school soccer coach.

For the past 10 years, he has been the varsity soccer coach for both the boys' and girls' teams at East Kentwood High School in addition to teaching fifth grade at Endeavor Elementary and serving as director of coaching and player development at the Kentwood Soccer Club.  He is currently serving a two-year term as president of the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association (MHSSCA).

In January 2008, he received the 2007 "National High School Soccer Coach of the Year" Award from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and Adidas (NSCAA/Adidas).  He had previously been named a Division One Regional NSCAA coach of the year.  In the fall, his team had become the first from the western half of the state to win the Michigan Division I boys' state championship.

Conlon has received numerous other awards through the years, including recognition as the "Michigan High School Soccer Coach of the Year" in both 2007 and 2008, nine-time recognition as the MHSSCA District Coach of the Year and three-time recognition as MHSSCA Regional Coach of the Year.  His teams have won two state, three regional, nine district and 10 conference championships.

He graduated from Hope with majors in communication and psychology, and he completed a master's degree in teaching at Aquinas College in 2000.  As a stand-out member of the men's soccer team at Hope, he was team captain as a senior and received multiple external honors across his collegiate career, including being named the MIAA MVP in 1995 and NCAA All-American recognition.  For 10 years he served on the staff of the Hope College Soccer Camps, beginning as a Hope student and through 2003.

Conlon and his wife, Kelly, have a young son, Brody, and are expecting their second child this spring.