Alumni of the Year
Nominations are now being accepted for Alumni of the Year 2017. Nominations should be for alumni from the 2017 honor classes - 1957, 1962, 1967, 1972, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2007.
Alumni of the Year Nomination Form
Meet the 2016 Alumni of the Year candidates who were recently honored for service and achievement that embody the spirit of their alma mater.
Photographs by Chris Drake
Fekede Gemechu '66
Fekede Gemechu was born and raised near schools built by Seventh-day Adventist missionaries in Ethopia. This access to Christian education from early childhood changed the course of his life. Not long after graduating from high school, he met two Adventist missionary physicians—Carl Houmann and Robert Rigsby—who gave him a scholarship to Walla Walla University. He left his home in Ethopia with a promise to Houmann and Rigsby to return one day.
His trip from Ethopia to Walla Walla in 1962 took five weeks and ended with a four-day trip across the United States on a Greyhound bus that dropped him off in Milton-Freewater. He was amused, but willing, when his fellow students promptly changed his name from Fekede to Fred.
Gemechu completed a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at WWU and graduated from medical school at Loma Linda University. He went on to finish a clinical internship at Kettering Medical Center and a surgical residency at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. He worked as a surgeon with Southern California Permanente Medical Group for many years while a series of protracted civil wars raged in Ethiopia.
When he returned in 1992 he was not prepared for the widespread devastation, poverty, and starvation he encountered. His wife, Azeb, encouraged him to choose just one community and to start doing what he could. With the help of the local people, they established Kalala Learning Village a few miles east of Addis Ababa. The village is a community resource center that provides education; infrastructure improvements such as electricity, roads, and bridges; medical care; and work and learning opportunities at small-scale industries. With the help of friends and colleagues, Gemechu has also established the charitable organization International Medical and Academic Alliance, which provides support and guidance for Kalala Learning Village projects.
Today, more than 1000 children attend kindergarten through grade eight at Kalala Learning Village, and a high school that is currently under construction is scheduled to open this September.
Laurel Dovich '86
Since graduating from Walla Walla University, Laurel Dovich has worked as a professional civil engineer and—in what she calls her “real calling” of teaching—at Gonzaga University, University of Idaho, Eastern Washington University, and Walla Walla University.
While studying at the University of Michigan—a top 10 engineering school where she earned a doctorate—Dovich was the first woman at the university to conduct experimental research for a doctorate in structural engineering. Within a year of completing her research, her findings were implemented in Southern California to make buildings safer. Her study led to a three-month National Science Foundation appointment in Japan where she worked to discover the cause of building collapse during the 1995 Kobe earthquake.
When Dovich was young, her family moved from Canada to the West Indies, which was an experience that shaped her relationship with God, made the world a smaller place for her, and increased her love of adventure. God has used Dovich’s world-wise adventurous spirit throughout her professional life. She has participated in symposiums to improve concrete in third world countries and has spent a month in Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010 inspecting buildings and making recommendations. She filled a one-year volunteer teaching position at North Caribbean University and worked for a time in Alaska designing pipeline bridges and bush schools built on permafrost.
Dovich and her husband, Michael Fallon, love spending time in nature where they enjoy mounting biking, backpacking, hiking, climbing mountains, and running rivers. She has turned this love of the outdoors into a lifelong research mission of correlating God’s superior structural designs and materials in nature to concepts she presents in the classroom.
She is an active member of the American Concrete Institute and has served as a peer reviewer for technical publications and for National Science Foundation research awards. She has spoken for the Biblical Foundations of the Academic Disciplines Conference and the Christian Engineering Conference, and she frequently publishes scholarly articles.
Throughout her career, Dovich has mentored and ministered to countless students and colleagues in their walk with God. She encourages all to hold high standards, to follow their passions rather than money, to use time wisely so they can pack as much as possible into life, to seek rejuvenation and connection with God in nature, and to love the people God puts in their lives.
James Christianson '96
For James Christianson, the most important aspect of the Christian walk is letting Christ live in you and dying to self. As found in Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Christianson graduated from Walla Walla University with a bachelor’s degree in health science and medical school on his mind. After completing a master’s degree in public health and studying epidemiology at Loma Linda University, plans for medical school gave way to his love for young people, and he spent the next five years teaching at Loma Linda Academy.
In 2004 Christianson launched his career as a professional photographer. During the last 12 years, he has built an acclaimed wedding photography business, and he now travels across the United States and beyond capturing the legacy of his clients that include notable venture capitalists, hedge fund managers, and Hollywood producers and celebrities such as Ralph Lauren and the Bush family.
Most recently, he and his business partner, Lief Sorensen, started a new business in the payment services industry. That company, called P3, works across many sectors, but focuses primarily on health care payment services. Through P3, Christianson supports Adventist education by donating 50 percent of company profits to the educational system that was so influential in his life. Christianson says that Godly mentors throughout his time spent in the Adventist educational system, such as Tim Windemuth, Gary Hamburgh, and Ralph Perrin from the WWU health and physical education department, had a profound effect on his academic and spiritual experience.
When he isn’t working, Christianson; his wife, Charlene; and their three boys can be found biking, hiking, camping, fishing, skiing, and golfing near their Colorado home. He says his future goals are simple: to continue to be an active, helpful member of his community and church, and to further the success and mission of Adventist education through his latest business venture.
Charles Scriven '66
With the exception of his first year out of the seminary, Charles Scriven has had an editorial role or other direct responsibility for a magazine or journal his entire adult life. As a Walla Walla University student he was editor of the student newspaper, The Collegian; he was founding associate editor of Insight magazine; and he has served on the board of Adventist Forum, publisher of Spectrum magazine, since 2004. Scriven is also a writer who has contributed more than 100 essays and features for religious and devotional magazines.
His influence within the Adventist church, however, extends well beyond the printed page. He taught journalism at WWU from 1974 to 1975 and theology from 1981 to 1986. He was senior pastor at the Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church from 1985 to 1992 and president of Washington Adventist University from 1992 to 2000. He retired in 2013 as president of Kettering College where he led a team that renovated college learning and office spaces, oversaw the transition of the college from a two-year to a master’s-degree-granting institution, and saw enrollment increase from 500 students to nearly 1,000.
Scriven has a bachelor’s degree in theology and biblical languages from Walla Walla University, a master of divinity degree from Andrews University, and a doctorate from Graduate Theological Union with concentration in systematic theology and social ethics.
Since retirement, he continues scholarly writing for Adventist publications and others, such as The Christian Century and the Anglican Theological Review.