The SFTS Distinguished Alumni Award is a prestigious award honoring Seminary graduates who have demonstrated exemplary dedication and service to the ministry of Jesus Christ, regardless of public prominence.
Each year, the award is presented during the Spring commencement ceremony, where the SFTS community formally acknowledges and celebrates the ministry of the recipient. Not only does this award recognize the dedicated ministry of our alums, it also spurs on the imagination and energy of our students for outstanding service to Christ’s Church.
The Alumni Council of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, along with the Office of Alumni Relations, invites you to nominate an alum of SFTS that exemplifies the spirit and mission of SFTS to be honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award. This award is designed to recognize SFTS alumni who have advanced the interest and standards of excellence of SFTS through distinctive professional or volunteer service.
Nominees must exhibit one or more of the following criteria:
- Achievement of excellence in his or her profession or vocation to the extent that it brings recognition and honor to the Seminary
- Unselfish rendering of service over a period of years to his or her community
- Possession of integrity, stature or demonstrated ability that inspire and instill pride in faculty, staff, students and alumni
Read about this year’s Distinguished Alumnus
SFTS Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
2018 – Rev. Norman Fong
2017 – Rev. Sarah Stephens
2016 – Alison Harrington, Dr. James A. Noel
2015 – Jane Spahr, Deana Reed, and Herbert Valentine
2014 – Pamela Byers
2013 – Byron Bland
2012 – ChangBok Chung
2012 – Joseph Kang
2011 – Bruce Reyes-Chow
2010 – Aleida Jernigan
2009 – Blaine Clarke Vestal
2008 – John Turpin
2007 – Mikel Baird Taxer
2006 – Marilyn Chilcote
2005 – James Moiso
2004 – Jerry Van Marter
2003 – Roland Gordon
2002 – Naim S. Ateek
2001 – Harriet A. Nelson
2000 – Lynnell Jones
1999 – Paul J. Baird
1998 – Robert E. Williams
1997 – John S. Hadsell, Iris Weber Martin
1996 – H. Eugene Farlough, Margaret J. Veneman
1995 – Douglas K. Huneke, Donald B. Register
1994 – Donald Griggs
1993 – Roy Fairchild
1992 – Glenda Hope, William E. Clawson
1991 – Dorothy May Callecod, Elmer R. “Bud” Frimoth
1990 – Franklin Woo
1989 – Frederick Appleton, Eugene Hessel, Proceso Udarbe
1988 – Alfonso Esquibel, Richard Gray
1987 – He Ra Kim
1986 – Benjamin Weir, Carol Weir
1985 – James W. Hall
1984 – Miner E. Bruner, Jong-Sung Rhee
1983 – Frank von Christierson, Roe B. Lewis
1982 – Masao Hirata
1981 – Clifford Drury, Kenneth Thomas, Margaret Orr Thomas
Creating Change in Chinatown:
2018 Distinguished Alumni Award
Rev. Norman Fong (MDiv 1980), Executive Director of San Francisco’s Chinatown Community Development Center (Chinatown CDC), has been selected to receive the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award from San Francisco Theological Seminary.
A pastor in Chinatown for nearly 40 years, Fong has become a nationally recognized leader in advocating for affordable housing and community empowerment. He was named a “White House Champion of Change” in 2013.
“Norman has demonstrated over the decades that church and society can work closely together in creating change,” says Rev. Harry Chuck (MDiv 1962), who nominated Fong for the Distinguished Alumnus award. “His vision and mission for the church is grounded in his understanding of the imperatives of scripture and the challenges of an evolving theology consistent with his foundational studies at SFTS.”
At Chinatown CDC, Fong oversees a staff of 200 seeking to meet the needs of an underserved, immigrant community. Founded in 1977, the award-winning community development organization has a long history of community organizing, neighborhood planning, affordable housing development, property management, and resident services.
Chinatown CDC manages and provides housing for 3,600 residents in 30 affordable housing properties throughout San Francisco.
Fong grew up in Chinatown in the 1950s and 1960s, when segregation policies forced San Franciso’s Chinese residents to develop their own hospitals, schools, and churches. He began his career working at the Donaldina Cameron House, a social services organization founded by the Presbyterian Church in 1874 as a mission to Chinese girls and women.
Ordained to the ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 1981, Fong was called to the Presbyterian Church in Chinatown, where he continues to preach and serve as parish associate. He has served on committees of the Presbytery of San Francisco working for social justice. He has also brought together church and community groups to feed the hungry and helped organize town hall meetings on tenant rights, safety, and other issues.
In the 1990s, Fong developed the Adopt-An-Alley (AAA) program, which empowers youth to become effective community leaders through advocacy. Young AAA participants planned and led activities to improve alleys and open spaces throughout Chinatown.
“Norman is a tireless, energetic individual who is also gifted with incredible social skills,” Chuck says. Fong founded a dance band that draws crowds at community fairs, nonprofit fundraisers, and weddings. The band just celebrated its 50th anniversary.
“While Norman is close to what most would consider retirement age, he is still going strong,” Chuck says. “Hardly a week goes by when he doesn’t remind us of our own potential as Christ’s messengers of love and justice.”
When asked about his experience as a seminary student, Fong says, “For me, it has always been about the link between faith and action, loving God by loving your neighbor, doing justice and loving compassion... SFTS pulled it together for me in a progressive and relevant way. Power to you SFTS.”