Elmhurst to Honor Alumni and Chaplain with Merit Awards

October 14, 2014 | by the Office of Communications and Public Affairs

On Saturday, October 18, as one of the highlights of its 2014 Homecoming and Family Weekend, Elmhurst College will present Alumni Merit Awards to four of its graduates who have made exemplary contributions to society and to the College.

The College also will present the Dr. Andrew K. Prinz Faculty and Staff Merit Award to Elmhurst College Chaplain H. Scott Matheney.

Established in 1962 by the Alumni Association of Elmhurst College, the Alumni Merit Awards are given to alumni who embody and achieve excellence in community, career or service to the College. Awardees are nominated by the College community and voted on by a select committee of Elmhurst College alumni.

Alan J. Kromholz ’60, of Whitewater, Wis., will receive the College’s Distinguished Service to Alma Mater Award. In 2000, Alan and Ruth Kromholz (nee Meyer) funded the Meyer-Kromholz Endowed Scholarship, which is awarded annually to a student majoring in education.

Kromholz graduated from Elmhurst with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, and earned divinity degrees from Eden Theological Seminary in 1964 and 1979. He served the United Church of Christ as a pastor in Evansville, Wis., and Watertown, Wis., and also served as minister to the business community at Frieden’s UCC in Milwaukee and as interim pastor at Spring Lake Presbyterian Church in Spring Lake, Fla.

His career in the ministry came to a dramatic climax in May of 1968, when he was released from the Congregational UCC in Watertown for being “too socially and politically active,” according to his biography. His ministry in Watertown was detailed in a 1972 book, Crisis in Watertown: The Polarization of an American Community­. He left the ministry in 1968 but continued to be politically and socially active, in voter registration in Mississippi and in the development of open housing in Wisconsin.

For much of Kromholz’s professional life, he has worked in the waste industry. He was director of sales for Waste Management, Inc.; vice president of sales at ARS Waste Management Partners; and vice president of North America United Waste. He retired in 2012 as the senior partner of OTA Services LLC, a family-owned business now operated by his son.

David Watkins ’93, of Snohomish, Wash., is the recipient of the College’s Distinguished Service to Society Award. Watkins is the founder of the Ironheart Foundation, whose goal is “to get the world heart-smart and heart-healthy,” as well as to inspire, educate and motivate individuals, organizations and communities to live a heart-healthy life.

Watkins graduated from Elmhurst with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Thirteen years after graduation, at the age of 34, Watkins flatlined during emergency open-heart surgery. He recovered, only to suffer a stroke a month later. But a decade later, Watkins not only had recovered but also had competed in three Ironman triathlons and started the Ironheart Foundation.

Over the past 10 years, Ironheart has helped thousands of patients and athletes with heart disease to connect with his network of top minds in cardiac medicine, and top medical centers. As of 2014, the Ironheart Foundation has helped patients and families in 47 states and 18 countries. Watkins also has begun to fund the placement of cardiac defibrillators in schools, athletic clubs and active-community organizations. In 2015 his story will come to the big screen in the feature-length documentary, HEART: Flatline to Finish Line.

Scott Tharp ’05, of Chicago, will receive the College’sYoung Alumni Award. Tharp graduated from Elmhurst with a double major in sociology and philosophy, and a minor in intercultural studies. His time at Elmhurst inspired a passion for social justice work, and influenced his decision to pursue a master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

For the last eight years, Tharp has worked as a diversity and social justice educator in higher education and as an independent consultant. Currently serving the DePaul University community as associate director of the Center for Intercultural Programs, Tharp oversees the Center’s curricular social justice education program; creates and facilitates diversity and social justice education workshops for students, faculty, staff and community partners; and coordinates a new online education initiative.

Tharp is pursuing a doctorate in education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. After earning the degree, he intends to continue his career doing research on social justice education and facilitating workshops in partnership with local communities.

Vincent Thomas Jr. ’04, of Evanston, will receive the College’s Young Alumni Award. Thomas double majored in philosophy and theology at Elmhurst. During his sophomore year, he was selected to be a United Church of Christ student envoy and travel to South Africa to attend the World Conference Against Racism.

After obtaining his master’s degree in theological studies, Thomas returned to Elmhurst College as an adjunct professor of philosophy. He later answered the call to serve his country, and enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard as an operations specialist. While deployed, Thomas honed his skills in leadership, policy and governmental affairs.

During his time in the Coast Guard, Thomas began doctoral work as a full-time student in the field of public policy and administration. He plans to complete the degree next summer. Thomas continues to serve Elmhurst College and his community as a proud member of the Elmhurst College alumni board and an associate board member of AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC).

The Dr. Andrew K. Prinz Faculty and Staff Merit Award recognizes past and current faculty and staff members of the College who have demonstrated a commitment to the students and alumni of Elmhurst College by helping to promote a lifelong relationship between students and alumni and the College, and by encouraging other faculty and staff members to help develop students into alumni who maintain a lifelong association with the College. The award bears the name of the late Dr. Andrew K. Prinz, Elmhurst College professor of urban studies (1969-2003), who epitomized the qualities that this award endeavors to honor.

This year’s recipient, the Rev. H. Scott Matheney, heads the Office of the Chaplain at Elmhurst College. Matheney, an Elmhurst resident, has devoted himself to building the College community in many different expressions: through service, with particular interest in Habitat for Humanity; interfaith and interreligious life with the Spiritual Life Council; development of a more diverse and multicultural campus life; connecting the College to broad networks of people and organizations; and providing pastoral care for the entire College community.

A native of San Diego, Calif., Matheney is a graduate of Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash., with degrees in political science and sociology and special areas of emphasis in Latin America. Following graduation, Matheney taught English as a second language in Salvador, Bahia, in Brazil, while preparing for a career in the United States Foreign Service. Matheney took graduate courses at San Diego State University, which led to master’s degrees in Hebrew scripture and pastoral care at Princeton Theological Seminary. During this time, he also interned at the University of Capetown, South Africa, and was appointed a visiting fellow at the University for Peace in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Matheney was ordained in 1982 by the Presbyterian Church USA, and has had standing in the United Church of Christ since 1984. His first appointment was at Columbia University/Barnard College in New York City (1982-1997) as director of religious life for the University and Presbyterian/UCC Chaplain of Columbia University. He continues to serve as a USA trustee for the World Student Christian Federation and a trustee for Operation Crossroads Africa.

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