Established in 1994, the Unitas Distinguished Alumni/ae Awards bear witness to the faith and perseverance of living Union alumni/ae who exemplify the Seminary’s academic breadth, its diversity and inclusiveness, and the range of vocations its graduates follow.
The 2019 ceremony—which will be free and open to the public—will be held on Friday, October 4, at 5:00 p.m., in James Memorial Chapel, and will honor Dr. Teresa Delgado ’93, ’05, David Hornbeck ’66, Dr. Ichiro Nakata ’74, Dr. David Sánchez ’06 (1960 – 2019), Dr. Ronald Stone ’63, and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis ’04, ’14. Following the free public event, Union will host a banquet on campus to celebrate the honorees.
2019 Unitas Distinguished Alumni/ae Awardees
Dr. Teresa Delgado ’93, ’05
Teresa Delgado is Director of the Peace and Justice Studies Program and Professor and Chairperson of the Religious Studies Department at Iona College (New Rochelle, NY). She received her doctorate from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, under the guidance of the trailblazing womanist theologian Dr. Delores S. Williams. Her interests and scholarship prioritize the experiences of minoritized people to articulate a constructive theological and ethical vision. She has published on topics ranging from diversity in higher education, transformational pedagogies, constructive theology and ethics, and justice for racially, ethnically and sexually minoritized persons. Dr. Delgado’s book, A Puerto Rican Decolonial Theology: Prophesy Freedom, was published in September 2017 (Palgrave Macmillan).
Addressing the need for greater diversity, equity and inclusion in theological education, Dr. Delgado mentors doctoral students of color in theology and religion to nurture their success in the academy, church and world. She has also served on the board of the Hispanic Theological Initiative; as well as a member of the mentoring consortium of the Forum for Theological Exploration. She is a Senior Fellow of the Ford Foundation, and her work has been supported by grants from the Louisville Institute and the Wabash Center. She is a highly sought after speaker as well as a regular invited presenter at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, the largest national professional organization of scholars of religion and theology.
Dr. Delgado serves as President of the Board of WESPAC (Westchester People’s Action Coalition), a leading force of social justice activism in Westchester County, and as a member of the Board of Trustees of Colgate University.
Mr. David Hornbeck ’66
After graduating from Union, Mr. Hornbeck served as Maryland’s State Superintendent of Schools for 12 years and Philadelphia’s Superintendent of Schools for 6 years. He was an architect of Kentucky’s comprehensive education reform law that resulted in the state moving from 48th to 33rd in the nation in student performance. Mr. Hornbeck was a partner in the law firm of Hogan and Hartson (now Hogan Lovells) and Co-director of the National Alliance for Restructuring Education. As Senior Education Advisor to the Business Roundtable, working with the Governors and Fortune 200 CEOs in 20 states, he supervised the development of a strategic plan for education change in each state. Mr Hornbeck also served as chair of the board of the Children’s Defense Fund for 11 years.
Mr. Hornbeck’s current professional priority is Strong Schools Maryland. Strong Schools is developing the public grassroots will to support policies that result in on-time graduation of all students prepared: to succeed in college without remediation, secure a job that is satisfying and pays enough to support a family, and to engage in effective citizenship. Since Mr. Hornbeck founded Strong Schools in 2017, it has organized nearly 200 Teams of Ten throughout Maryland in faith communities, schools, non-profits and civic organizations that meet monthly and engage in different education advocacy activities.
Mr. Hornbeck is the author, with Katherine Conner, of Choosing Excellence in Public Education, Where There’s a Will There’s a Way and co-editor with Lester Solomon of Human Capital and America’s Future. He has authored chapters of other books as well as other journal and periodical articles.
Dr. Ichiro Nakata ’74
Dr. Nakata studied at Waseda University in Tokyo (1959-1963) and at its Graduate School (1963-1964). While he was at Waseda, he received an Interfaith Fellowship from the Hebrew Union College (HUC) in Cincinnati, Ohio and a Fulbright Travel Grand from the USA and spent two years at HUC (1964-66), mainly studying the Hebrew Bible. He then moved to Columbia University/Union Theological Seminary on a fellowship from Columbia and did his doctoral work there (1966-1974). His dissertation, entitled Deities in the Mari Texts and written under the guidance of Professors Theodor H. Gaster and Moshe Held, was accepted with “Pass with Distinction” (1974).
After having taught part-time for two years and a half at different universities back in Japan, he was given a permanent teaching position at Chuo University in Tokyo and taught in its Department of European and American History as Associate Professor (1977-1983) and as Professor (1983-2007) until his retirement at the age of 70. He also taught at the Graduate School of Waseda University (1979-1988) and at the Graduate School of Tokyo Union Theological Seminary (1987-2012). He served the Ancient Orient Museum in Tokyo as Director (2010-2016). He served the Society for Jewish Studies in Japan as a member of the Board of Directors (1975-present) and the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Japan as a member the Board of Directors (1986-2008) and as a Managing Director (1994-1996).
Dr. Nakata published The Code of Hammurabi, with Japanese Translation, Philological Notes and Commentary, Lithon: Tokyo, 1999 (in Japanese), Introduction to the Mesopotamian Civilization, Iwanami Publishing Co.: Tokyo, 2007 (in Japanese) and King Hammurabi, Yamakawa Publishing Co.: Tokyo, 2014 (in Japanese). He was also deeply involved, as Editor-in-Chief, in the publication of the Dictionary of the Ancient Near East, edited by the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Japan in commemoration of its 50th anniversary, Iwanami Publishing Co., Tokyo, 2004 (in Japanese). Click here to read his articles written in English.
In 2015 Dr. Nakata was awarded Prince Mikasa Prize for Distinguished Academic Contribution (established by the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Japan in 2010).
Dr. David Sánchez '06 (1960 – 2019)
Dr. Sánchez was Associate Professor of Early Christianity and Christian Origins at Loyola Marymount University. He began his career driving trucks before he found his way to graduate school. Associate Professor Sánchez was a creative scholar, whose studies of the murals of Los Angeles blended theology, migration stories, art, social movements, political identity, and L.A. history. He specialized in New Testament studies with an emphasis on the Apocalypse of John as a literary performance of counter-imperial resistance, in conversation with modern modalities of sociopolitical resistance. Associate Professor Sánchez also studied the role that end-time eschatologies played in early Christian mythmaking and social formations, Guadalupan studies, and contemporary Guadalupan iconography. He authored “From Patmos to the Barrio: The Subversion of Imperial Myths from the Book of Revelation to the Present,” which won the 2009 Hispanic Theological Initiative Book Award.
Associate Professor Sánchez contributed many book chapters and journal articles in his field, served as the book review editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and wrote popular essays that touched his wide range of interests, from American cultures to sports. He was also a frequent expert guest on radio, television, and film, where he was lauded for his engaging manner and profound insight. He served the university in many capacities, including as the Theological Studies Graduate director, as a member of more than a dozen committees, as a respondent at the 2nd annual Hispanic Ministry and Theology Lecture, and as director of the American Cultures Studies program.
Unfortunately, he died unexpectedly of heart complications while hiking on Saturday, April 6th, 2019. He is survived by two young daughters and mourned by hundreds of people across several continents who were touched by his gracious kindness, his insightful and honest writings and most of all his friendship.
Dr. Ronald Stone ’63
While at Union as Chair of the Social Action Committee Ron worked on unionization of employed staff and challenging segregation of the Methodist Church at its General Conference in Pittsburgh. Frequent trips to Washington D.C. were undertaken for lobbying against nuclear weapons, testing in the atmosphere and voting rights. Significant experiences included Martin Luther King’s march in 1963, and a later visit to Poor People’s campaign. He organized the first Union demonstration against Vietnam war at Idlewild to confront Madam Nhu. The following year he organized a sit in at the South Africa Counsel offices petitioning to save Nelson Mandela from the death penalty.
Short term teaching appointments at Union, Vassar, and Assistant Professor at Columbia preceded their move in 1969 to Pittsburgh to serve as the John Witherspoon Professor of Christian Social Ethics. While writing and editing a couple of dozen books on the social ethics of Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, and ethics and international relations he served as chair of Allegheny County’s Ethics Commission and the local neighborhood’s economic development committee..
Following the Presbyterian Church’s request to help develop the Peacemaking Program for the church, he joined East Liberty Presbyterian Church serving as an elder and trustee. He chaired for the denomination the policy formulating groups on humanitarian intervention, politics and faith, resistance to militarism with Dana Wilbanks, terrorism, and served for ten years on the Advisory Committees to the Presbyterian Church on social witness and issues.
Ron was a Union man, consistently giving Union credit for his becoming the person he was. There he melded social action with scholarship, and learned to live with the ambiguity of faith and politics. After retirement in 2005, he continued to serve the church and the Allegheny County’s ethics commission through 2018, and to produce several books including the autobiography, Between Two Rivers: A Memoir of Christian Social Ethics and Action (2015) and a book on his time with Reinhold, Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1960s (2019).
The Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis ’04, ’14
The Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis is an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church, the director of the Kairos Center for Rights, Religions, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary and the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. She has spent the past two decades organizing amongst the poor and dispossessed in the United States. She has led and won major economic and racial justice campaigns across the country, organized hundreds of trainings and bible studies with grassroots leaders, written in major national and international publications and recently published Always with Us?: What Jesus Really Said about the Poor and Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing.
In 2018, alongside the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber, Theoharis helped to launch the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Over the coming years, the campaign will organize poor people across race, religion, geography, political party and other so-called lines of division to fuel a moral revolution of values in the country. Theoharis has been recognized for her work by many national bodies, including the Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn for Peace, the New York Council on American-Islamic Relations and the 2018 Politico Magazine Top 50 list of “thinkers, doers and visionaries who are driving American politics and policy.”
The 2018 award ceremony, held on Friday, October 5, honored Union alumni/ae, the Rev. Dr. Norman J. Kansfield ’67, the Rev. Dr. W. Eugene “Gene” March ’66, the Rev. Dr. JoAnne Marie Terrell ’90, ’94, ’97, and Dr. Janet R. Walton ’79. Watch video of the ceremony below.
Know An Outstanding Alumnus/a?
The Unitas Award is the highest honor presented by Union’s Alumni/ae Council on an annual basis and is typically given during ReUnion weekend each fall. Recipients are nominated by fellow Alumni/ae, reviewed by the Alumni/ae Council, and then recommend to the seminary President for approval and final selection.
All Union alumni/ae are encouraged to submit nominations for the annual Unitas Distinguished Alumni/ae Award. To nominate a fellow alumnus/a for a 2020 award, please complete and submit a nomination form by January 31, 2020.
- Nominations will be reviewed by the Alumni/ae Council and then recommend to the seminary President for approval and final selection.
- Each submission should include as much detail about the nominee as possible, e.g., articles, publications, curriculum vitae, newspaper clippings, or other citations.