Adventist News

​Weniger Society Honors La Sierra Education Professor and Former Senator

, La Sierra University, University Relations

From a statistical point of view, it was highly improbable that an in-depth, comprehensive study on Seventh-day Adventist education would transpire, much less lead to a PBS documentary on the matter.

And yet the four-year CognitiveGenesis project, directed by La Sierra University education professor Elissa Kido, surveyed nearly 52,000 K-12 students at 800 Adventist schools around the United States, Canada and Bermuda. The results proved the substantive benefits of an Adventist education and ultimately led to the documentary, “The Blueprint: The Story of Adventist Education” airing on PBS this April.

Kido noted the improbability of such events, described their backstory, and showed a trailer of the PBS film during a keynote address for the 2014 Charles E. Weniger Society Annual Awards. The ceremony was held at Loma Linda University Church on Sat., Jan. 18 and included a concert by the renowned Wedgwood Trio with violinist Christina Thompson. The society honored Kido along with La Sierra alumnus, former California State Senator Bill Emmerson, for their contributions to their communities, the church and broader world.

The Weniger Society also posthumously honored Australian theologian and historian Arthur Patrick, noted for his insight into denominational academic issues and for his significant contributions to Avondale College. Over the course of 17 years his work there included serving as director of the Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre, and later as honorary senior research fellow. Patrick died last year following a battle with cancer.

In addition to leading the CognitiveGenesis research project, Kido directs the Center for Research on K-12 Adventist Education, or CRAE at La Sierra. Her background includes academic administrative posts at several universities and colleges including St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., and Webster University in St. Louis, Mo.

Kido’s academic career, which includes degrees in English and biology and a doctorate from Boston University, encompasses significant fundraising achievements. At St. John she secured a $165,000 Xerox Corp. grant, and raised $1 million for the CognitiveGenesis project at La Sierra.

“I’m deeply grateful and also humbled” to receive the Weniger award, said Kido during her address. “This also really honors Adventist education.”

Emmerson learned several months ago that he had been selected for a Weniger award. “I was thrilled,” he said following the ceremony. “I’d known Dr. Weniger my entire life. My father was active with the society for years and so this was truly an honor.”

Emmerson resigned effective Dec. 1, 2013 from a nine-year career as a California state legislator. He now serves as senior vice president handling state relations and advocacy for the California Hospital Association in Sacramento. Previously he emulated his father’s path and pursued a career in dentistry specializing in orthodontia. He attended La Sierra University and graduated from the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry in 1980.

During 26 years of private practice in Hemet, Emmerson entered the world of legislation and politics by chairing the California Dental Association’s Council on Legislation and its Political Action Committee. In 2004 he was elected to the California State Assembly and then to the California State Senate in 2010 during a special election. In the senate, he continued his work on health policy as vice chair of the Budget, Business and Professions, and Human Services committees, and the Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

Charles Weniger was a long-time friend of Bill Emmerson’s parents, Clinton and Patricia Emmerson. Clinton Emmerson, along with the Congressman Jerry Pettis and John Osborn founded the Weniger Society in 1974, 10 years after Weniger’s death.

Weniger, a beloved Seventh-day Adventist educator known by many as “Uncle Charlie,” served as an English professor and later as dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Washington D.C. and Michigan from 1948 to 1961. He was known for his kindness, expertise, broad professional influence and dedication to excellence. The society was founded for the purposes of honoring those who exemplify Weniger’s humility, character and commitment. Each year the Weniger Society selects three individuals as recipients of the Weniger medallion.

The society this year also embarked on a scholarship fundraising effort toward jointly granting an annual Weniger Fellows Student Scholarship for students attending accredited North American Seventh-day Adventist colleges and universities. The scholarship is matched or exceeded by the student’s school.

Weniger scholarship recipients must demonstrate excellence in spirituality, academics, civic service and leadership. The first nine scholarship winners from the following schools were announced during the ceremony: Andrews University, Adventist University of Health Sciences, La Sierra University, Loma Linda University, Pacific Union College, Southern Adventist University, Southwestern Adventist University, Union College and Walla Walla University.

About La Sierra University

La Sierra University, an institution nationally acclaimed for its diverse campus and its service to others, offers a transformational experience that lasts a lifetime.

U.S. News & World Report for six years named La Sierra University the most racially diverse university in the western United States. In December 2008 the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching included La Sierra on its 2008 Community Engagement Classification lists consisting of 119 colleges and universities around the United States. In 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 the Corporation for National and Community Service announced La Sierra’s inclusion in the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll awards. The awards include the prestigious 2013 Presidential Award, the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement. The awards recognize La Sierra’s students for providing thousands of hours of service including international economic development projects by La Sierra’s World Cup-winning Enactus team, and community projects through La Sierra’s campus-wide, Service-Learning program.

The Seventh-day Adventist denomination established La Sierra University in 1922 on acreage formerly part of the Rancho La Sierra Mexican land grant. Today the institution provides more than 120 bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees for more than 2,000 students. Programs are offered in the Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business, the School of Education, the H.M.S. Richards Divinity School, the College of Arts and Sciences and in the Evening Adult Degree Program.

“To Seek, To Know, and To Serve” is the key to the mission that drives La Sierra University, with all areas of campus encouraging students to develop a deeper relationship with God.

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