Ruth Webster and Lyell Heise

Avondalians get Homecoming honours

Monday, September 2, 2019
Top alumni awarded for putting people first

Avondale honoured two of its own and one forging a career in care and church in the presentation of the top alumni awards at Homecoming (August 23-24).

Ruth Webster’s lifetime of ministry to children and church saw her named as Alumna of the Year. After a career in schools, including more than 25 years in administrative and teaching roles at Avondale School, the graduate of 1969 continues to serve in key children’s roles, notably at Avondale College Seventh-day Adventist Church. “Seeing the world through the eyes of children is refreshing,” she says, adding: “It’s important for them to experience love and care from those outside their immediate family.”

Classmate Dr Lyell Heise received the Alumnus of the Year award for mentoring musicians and women in ministry and for using the arts to inform and adorn his ministry. The latter has defined a career that includes forays into evangelism, chaplaincy, pastoral leadership, institutional leadership and ministerial and theological education. The highlights: pastoring churches on the campuses of tertiary education institutions and establishing and directing an Institute of Worship for the past 15 years. And as a trustee of Women in Ministry, Heise has raised $750,000 for women in Seventh-day Adventist pastoral ministry across the South Pacific. “Church community and witness is a multigenerational and multicultural commitment and challenge,” he says. “Nurture those coming before and after you.”

Tahlia Freeman received the Young Alumnus of the Year for demonstrating holistic care in her professional and personal life. The 2013 graduate is a clinical nurse specialist at Royal North Shore Hospital but her training continues, albeit in a new field—theology. Freeman and her husband, active in their local church, are preparing to enter a life of ministry.

Eight other alumni received citations from their classmates in recognition of commitment to service and dedication to achieving personal goals. To share the moment as widely as possible, particularly with family and friends who could not attend Homecoming, all received their citations during the live streamed worship service on Saturday.

The most poignant: minister Pr Peter Knopper’s from the class of 1979. Wife Sherry Knopper-Kelemen received the posthumous citation on behalf of her husband, whose call to Homu in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea came to a brutal and abrupt end on March 16, 1988, with a gun shot wound to the head. The class remembered Knopper for his “selfless missionary spirit.”

Joining Knopper as citation recipient: Avondale’s Associate Dean (Research) Dr Carolyn Rickett, a recipient of an Australian Learning and Teaching Council citation for empowering student writers and coordinator of the New Leaves writing project where people experiencing life-threatening illnesses find expression and connection through poetry. The class of 1989 honoured her for “sharing an authentic Christianity centred on ‘engaged compassion.’”

Author and partner in ministry Elaine Fletcher (1949), retired teacher Beverley Currie (1959), retired minister Pr Douglas Robertson and wife, retired accountant Angela Robertson (1969), accounting academic Ronald Day (1979), and teacher Anne Thorneycroft (1999) also received citations.

The honour year reunions, the heart of Homecoming, again proved popular, with about 80 alum and their family and friends enjoying lunch with the class of 1969. Other reunions, notably 1979 hosted by Avondale academic Professor Daniel Reynaud and 2009, were well attended, too.

Homecoming concert
Many stayed for the Homecoming concert, a celebration of the Christian tradition of hymn and song singing with Heise and the Institute of Worship. As if to demonstrate the mentorship for which he received his award, Heise delegated responsibility for conducting the 50-piece Institute of Worship Orchestra to Ray Lecciones. The violinist and conductor of the Perth Adventist Orchestra joined soloist Marian Moroney to help Heise host a choose-your-favourite-hymn segment. The spontaneity added to an appropriate level of levity, with Heise in a relaxed mood as master of ceremonies.

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Brenton Stacey

Brenton Stacey

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Brenton is Avondale University’s Public Relations and Philanthropy Officer. He brings to the role experience as a communicator in publishing, media relations, public relations, radio and television, mostly within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific and its entities.

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