Since 1995, the PSR Alumni/ae Council has presented its annual Distinguished Alumni/ae Award to graduates who have provided outstanding service in their ministry or profession and shown distinguished leadership in faith communities on a local, regional, or national level. Winners for 2011, who will be honored on campus January 26 during the Earl Lectures, are:
George Aki (MA 1940): On May 6, 1940, two days before his graduation from PSR, George Aki was interned at the Tanforan Detention Center in San Bruno, along with more than 6,000 other Japanese Americans. He was ordained in the camp and served in ministry in 3 different internment camps. Aki then volunteered to serve as the chaplain of the Asian-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which saw combat in Italy, France, and Germany, and was the most decorated unit in US military history. In 1960, Aki became the first Asian-American minister at the Congregational Church of San Luis Obispo, where he served until retirement in 1978. Rev. Aki has considered it his lifelong personal mission to do what he could to honor the men who died in World War II, far from home, without loved ones and friends to be near them.
Roberta Rominger (MDiv 1982): Roberta Rominger’s first call was as pastor of the Tombstone, AZ Community Congregational Church (just down the street from the OK Corral). In 1985, Rominger received a call to a large congregation in suburban London that was part of the United Reform Church (URC), a denomination formed through unions of English Presbyterians, English, Welsh and Scottish Congregationalists, and members of the Churches of Christ. From 1998-2008, Rominger served as synod moderator of URC churches in the London area. In 2008 she was appointed the general secretary of the URC, the first woman and the first American to hold that position. Through her position as general secretary, Roberta is involved in ecumenical movements, including “Fresh Expressions,” an emerging church collaboration between the URC, the Church of England, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, and several other Protestant denominations. In her spare time, Rominger plays the cello and performs with two string quartets in the London area.
Fred Plumer (MDiv 1984): Plumer is the founding pastor of Irvine, CA UCC. In 1989 under his leadership the church agreed to host a Reconstructionist Synagogue. The congregations shared space, operating expenses, teaching forums, mission outreach projects, special services, and meals for more than 15 years. In 2000, with the synagogue’s approval, a mosque joined this dynamic mix of religious traditions sharing space and ideas. Plumer has also been involved in the Open and Affirming movement for full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) members of the UCC. He was the executive producer of a video and workbook on the Open and Affirming process, “A Journey of Faith,” which has been used in five countries and in thousands of churches in several denominations. Plumer currently serves as president of the board of the Center for Progressive Christianity. He has led workshops, preached sermons, and published articles and on church development, building faith communities, and redefining the purpose of the enlightened Christian Church.
John Vaughn (MDiv 1985): Vaughn has been active in community organizing and advocacy, particularly in improving prospects for the education, employment, and health of black men and boys. Ordained in the American Baptist Churches, Vaughn has served in important positions in a wide variety of churches and organizations, including as a senior minister for education and social justice at Riverside Church in New York City, executive director of East Harlem Interfaith, Inc. (a community development organization), executive director of the Peace Development Fund in Amherst, MA, and director of community development at the Community Training and Assistance Center in Boston. Most recently, he served as program director of the Twenty-First Century Foundation, where he led the foundation’s response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and created the Black Men and Boys program that is forming a national policy agenda shaped both by and for local communities. Rev. Vaughn now serves as executive vice president of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City.