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PUC President Addresses Campus at Opening Convocation

The opening ceremony featured a processional of representatives from each of PUC’s academic departments, and they took to the stage with banners depicting the fields of study available on campus. Following the departmental display, Jennifer Tyner, vice president for student life, enrollment, and marketing, gave a short welcome address, mentioning that the day’s colloquy, “symbolizes the start of an amazing journey we are about to start together.” 

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A Conversation with Fall Revival Speaker Josue Hernandez

Josue Hernandez is in the middle of his third year of ministry as associate pastor at the Modesto Central Seventh-day Adventist Church. He graduated from Pacific Union College in 2015 with a degree in theology, and will begin MDiv classes in January. 

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Social Work Study Tour to Estonia

In 2012, Helo Oidjärv, associate professor of social work, went home to Estonia to visit her parents. While there, she had a few preliminary meetings with social workers at the Tartu city government, and worked with them to develop a 3-4-week program to learn about the social welfare system in Estonia, based on that in Tartu.

Alumni & Friends

News Notes

Written and compiled by Herbert (Herb) Ford, ’54

We are proud of the achievements of our alumni family and we encourage you to share yours! Simply submit an update to have yours added to the list.


Jane (O’Ffill) Pihl, att. ’35-36, has lived long enough to see 16 U.S. presidents live in the White House. That fact, along with her recently turning 100 years of age, has made her the subject of a feature article in the “Record Gazette” newspaper, located in Banning, Calif. In her century-long life journey, Jane has served in medical missionary work with her late husband, Dr. Kern Pihl, in Baghdad, Iraq, and in Peru. What is the reason she has lived more than a century? “Two reasons,” she says, “Love the Lord, and stay healthy.”  


Retired Seventh-day Adventist pastor and “Your Bible Speaks” radio host Richard E. Tottress, ’43, reached the age of 100 in November 2017. Today he remains active in ministry, and is a colorful figure as he drives himself around Atlanta, Georgia, in his big gold Mercedes automobile. Richard can usually be found every Wednesday afternoon at Atlanta’s Berean Outreach Community Center food distribution center, greeting the participants, and sharing the Gospel message with them. He is the author of the widely-distributed book “Heaven’s Entrance Requirement for the Races.” During his years at PUC, Richard served as the editor of the religion section for the “Campus Chronicle.”


Robert M. Johnson, ’53, retired New Testament scholar of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, was recently honored at a meeting of the Adventist Society for Religions Studies in San Antonio, Texas, by the publication of a Festschrift, a collection of essays by colleagues, one of the highest tributes scholars may receive for their work. Johnson’s service to his church spans 60 years, and includes Bible teacher at Fresno Adventist Academy; head of the department of religion for the forerunner colleges of Sahmyook University in Korea; acting dean of the graduate School of Religion at Philippine Union College; and New Testament professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary from which he retired in 2002. Throughout his career, Robert has been accompanied and aided in his service by his wife, Madeline (Steele) Johnson, ’55.

Marilyn (Schilling) Rentfro, ’53, after nearly 20 years of service, first in the PUC business office and then at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine, she now lives in “active” retirement in Mariposa, Calif. Recently, Marilyn had to cope with being an evacuee from one of California’s big wildfires, but her day-to-day involvement is with Bangla Hope, an organization devoted to changing the lives of orphans, destitute women, and children in the country of Bangladesh. 

Herbert (Herb) Ford, ’54, former journalism and public relations profesor and PUC vice president, has recently left his Angwin home in favor of semi-retirement on his daughter—Cindy Evans’, ’80—fruit ranch near Exeter, Calif. From a “south campus” office of the Pitcairn Islands Study Center in downtown Visalia, Calif., Ford continues all internet direction and caring for administrative duties of the widely-known PUC research-museum facility, while PUC librarian Katherine Van Arsdale handles all on-site matters of the Center. Ford’s second in-retirement duty continues to be that of writing PUC alumni news notes, and the obituaries of PUC alumni for “ViewPoint” and the web. Ford can be reached at hford@puc.edu, (559) 732-0313, or by snail mail at 303 N. West St., Visalia, CA 93291. All PUC alums are invited to send news of happenings in their lives or obituary information to Ford, or to the PUC alumni office at alumni@puc.edu, or by mail to One Angwin Ave., Angwin, CA 94508.

In June, Beth (Loop) Petersen, ’55, who makes her home Glendale, Calif., walked her 56th marathon, the Rock ’n Roll Marathon in San Diego, Calif. Beth is 84-years-old. Her participation in the San Diego event adds miles to the many other marathons, totaling some 30,000 miles, including what she’s walked in the past 30 years. “Being 84-years-old in as good shape as I’m in, my marathon participation encourages others, and because of my experience, they’ve taken up exercising too,” writes Beth.

Though retired from a distinguished teaching career, Nancy Vhymeister, ’58, and her husband Werner have recently given service to several institutions overseas, including the Adventist University of Africa, where Werner was influential in planning for the new university, and where in 2006 Nancy taught the first course offered by the institution.

Joseph Leininger Wheeler, ’59, known to thousands as “America’s Keeper of the Story,” has recently seen the 25th book of his “Christmas in my Heartseries published by the Pacific Press Publishing Association and made available in Adventist Book Centers. Wheeler has edited and compiled 94 books of stories that have sold more than 1.5 million copies. Professor emeritus of English at Washington Adventist University, he is one of America’s leading story anthologizers. He is also a PUC Honored Alumnus and lives in Conifer, Colo., with his wife and publishing partner, Connie.


Andrews University has recognized Jon Dybdahl, ’65, for his outstanding contributions to Seventh-day Adventist education and theology. He was named a 2016 Honored Alumnus of Andrews at its recent Homecoming. Dybdahl’s service to his church has included being a pastor in the Northern California Conference; a professor at Southeast Asia College; two periods of mission service in Thailand; faculty member and president of Walla Walla College; president of Thailand Mission College; director of the Institute of World Mission, and chair of Andrews University’s department of world mission. He currently serves as president of Gospel Outreach. Dybdahl is the author of eight books, and the editor of the “Andrews Study Bible.”

Prolific author George R. Knight, ’65, has had another book published, titled “Adventist Authority Wars, Ordination, and the Roman Catholic Temptation.” Known for their provocative approach, Knight’s books have had a wide readership around the world, and his new book will not disappoint, according to his publishers, Oak & Acorn Publishing. The book raises issues critical to the Seventh-day Adventist faith and points to possible solutions. More information about the book can be found at adventistfaith.com/oakandacorn.

Dennis Gibbs, ’68, a teacher at the Redlands (Calif.) Adventist Academy was recently the subject of a feature article in the Loma Linda (Calif.) City News newspaper, which told of his massive collection of sundry items and memorabilia from throughout the world.  One of the prizes in Gibb’s collection is a fire nozzle from the Angwin (Calif.) Volunteer Fire Department dated 1953. Before teaching at the Redlands school, Gibbs served as a Seventh-day Adventist missionary for 16 years in Singapore, Palau, Hong Kong, and Sri Lanka.

Two PUC alumni, Mames Ford, ’69, and Robert Zdor, ’83, were recently honored by Andrews University, for 25 years of service to that institution. Ford is the associate director of the Center for Adventist Research while Zdor is a professor of biology.


Merlin Burt, ’77, whose home is in Berrien Springs, Mich., is director of the Center for Adventist Research and the Ellen G. White Estate branch office at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. Merlin is the author of a recent article, “Remember the Mighty Acts of God,” in “Adventist World” magazine in which various Adventist historical sites are highlighted.

Cheryl Van Ornam, ’77, ’96, is now the traditional music director at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Richmond, Va. She is also the organist at the First Church of Christ Scientist in Richmond, and has an active piano studio. In addition, she serves as adjunct faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University. Active with the American Guild of Organist, Cheryl is dean of the Richmond Virginia chapter of the guild.

Elizabeth J. (Taylor) Rocke, ’77, is currently serving as a library technician at the California State Prison, Los Angeles, Calif., in Lancaster, Calif. Previously, Elizabeth served at the Avanel State Prison in Avanel, Calif., and at the California State Prison, Solano, in Vacaville, Calif.

Karen Tilstra, Ph.D., ’77, is co-founder of Florida Hospital’s recently created Innovation Laboratory, which is a design-thinking, creative, and problem-solving unit that serves the hospital’s employees, patients, and community. Karen is listed as an “inventor, creative researcher, coach, consultant, and trainer to large companies and their employees. She wants to live in a world where work is fast, people are free, and chocolate is devoid of calories.” Florida Hospital is comprised of 25 distinct hospital campuses from the east coast to the west coast of central Florida.

Deborah (Morel) Tonella, ’77, who earned her master’s degree in education at PUC in 1988, has served as a teacher at Angwin’s Howell Mountain Elementary School. She has taught some courses at PUC in the department of education as a contract teacher, and today is vice president of Tonella Vineyards in Rutherford, Calif. Committed to supporting many Napa Valley performing arts organizations, Deborah served for six years on the Napa Valley Symphony Board of directors, including a stint as board president. For another six years, she was a member of the Music in Vineyards board of directors, including two years as board president. Committed and consistent supporters of PUC, Deborah and her husband, Raymond Tonella, donated an airplane to the college’s Flight Center in 2015. 

Monty Knittel, ’78, has recently been chosen as president and chief executive officer of the Feather River Hospital in Paradise, Calif. Knittel most recently has served as president and CEO of Walla Walla General Hospital in Walla Walla, Wash. He has worked nearly 30 years for the Adventist Health system.

Steven Vistaunet, ’78, has recently received the “2017 AMC Lifetime Achievement Award in Communication” for his long-time contribution to Seventh-day Adventist mass communications, a service that “exceeds the communication standards” of the church. Vistaunet currently serves as assistant to the president of the North Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and is also editor of the “GleanerNow” publication of the conference.

Cynthia (Case) Ackerman, ’79, has recently been named the principal of the Galt Seventh-day Adventist School. In addition to serving as principal, Cynthia also teaches kindergarten through grade two in the mornings, and up to grade four in the afternoons at the 20-student parochial school. “Finding time to do everything is challenging,” says Cynthia, but now that she has her hands on the reins she is planning for growth and a facelift for the school grounds. Cynthia’s husband, Craig Ackerman, ’76, attended PUC during his education studies.

Steve Case, ’79, who is a veteran spiritual leader of young people, is now president of Involve Youth, which develops books, magazines, websites, games, DVDs, and CDs. He is also coordinator for the youth and young adult ministry concentration in the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary Doctor of Ministry program. Steve recently teamed with Eddie Heinrich, ’91, who is the director of youth ministries for the Northern California Conference of Adventists, in writing “Sabbath Orphans,” an article published in the Adventist World magazine that calls for a strengthening of youth Sabbath schools in the church.

Douglas A. Tilstra, ’79, has recently been elected vice president of student life at Walla Walla University in Walla Walla, Wash. Tilstra is making the move to Walla Walla after 17 years as director of outdoor education and leadership at Southern Adventist University. Earlier, Doug was a pastor in the Gulf States Conference, the Northern California Conference, and the British Columbia Conference. He is married to Lorraine (Bouma) Tilstra, ’78, who has been serving as a hospice nurse.


Laura (Herman) Canby, ’80, now lives on Whidbey Island, Wash., and has a life full of interesting and varied communication activities. She edits a quarterly, full-color magazine, works on her church’s website, and has delved into low-cost video for nonprofits. She has even built a studio of her own right in her her basement. She also works for widely known religion author Philip Yancey, administering his website, helping edit some of his books, and serving as one of several editors of his memoir. “One of these years I have a goal of doing some writing of my own,” writes Laura.

Cynthia R. (Ford) Evans, ’80, after having taught grades 1-4 at Sierra View Junior Academy in Exeter, Calif., for some 30 years, has recently retired and is enjoying life on her (and husband Bruce L. Evans’, ’79) pomegranate ranch near Exeter. Cindy also enjoys babysitting her three (and soon to be four) grandchildren, and doing church and community service. Bruce is the owner and operator of the large Bruce Evans Property Management firm in Visalia, Calif.

Tim Cook, ’83, who has been serving as senior vice president/administrator for Florida Hospital Apopka, including executive accountability for Florida Hospital Winter Garden since 2016, has recently had the added responsibility of being CEO of Florida Hospital Altamonte placed on his shoulders.  Cook was previously the CEO for Florida Hospital DeLand. Earlier he served as CEO of the Florida Hospital Heartland Division from 2007 until 2013, and earlier, CEO of Adventist LaGrange Memorial Hospital in Illinois.

Melvin Santos, ’83, was recently named Vice President for Administration of the Alaska Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, headquartered in Anchorage.  After receiving a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, Melvin was senior pastor of the Nashville (Tenn.) First Seventh-day Adventist Church, when he received the call to his new post in Alaska.e

Yvonne Fankhanel, ’84, has been honored by the International Nurses Association with the publication of her name and nursing background in the “Worldwide Leaders in Healthcare” publication. Fankhanel is currently serving patients at Loma Linda University Medical Center as a wound, ostomy, and continence registered nurse. She is a member of the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society, and the United Ostomy Association of America.

Russell K. Weis, ’85, is currently the general manager of Silverado Vineyards, a group of five Napa County vineyards. After his graduation from PUC, Weis taught English language and literature for two years at a small liberal arts college in Japan. Returning to the U.S., he served as a tour guide at the Christian Brothers Winery in St. Helena, Calif. In 1993, he joined the Robert Mondavi Winery where he initially led the winery’s Asian/Pacific export business, before becoming senior vice president for international business development. In 2004, Weis moved to his present position at Silverado Vineyards.

Hundreds of delegates to the 69th Regular Constituency Session of the Oklahoma Conference of Seventh-day Adventists voted recently to make James Shires, ’86, executive secretary of the church conference. Before his election to the leadership position, James was prayer ministries coordinator of the Oklahoma Conference.

James (Jim) E. Adams, ’86, formerly chief executive officer – 2000-2012 – of REACH Air Medical Services, has recently been elected to the board of directors of Angel MedFlight, a worldwide air ambulance service.  Jim is presently president of Endeavor Quest, Inc., a consulting and advisory firm focused on operational enhancements in the healthcare sector.

Scott Reiner, ’87, chief executive officer of Adventist Health, with headquarters in Roseville, Calif., has been cited by the trade publication “Becker’s Hospital Review” as one of 135 nonprofit healthcare CEO “Leaders to Know” in its 2016 rankings. The health system Reiner directs provides care through 20 hospitals, more than 260 clinics, 15 home care agencies, seven hospice agencies, a health plan, and four joint-venture retirement centers serving more than 75 communities in California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington.

Tamara M. (Testman) Shankel, ’88, has recently been named the senior associate dean of Medical Student Education at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, located in Loma Linda, Calif. She is an associate professor in the department of pediatrics with secondary appointments in the departments of internal medicine and medical education. Previously, Shankel was the associate dean for clinical education at the medical school from 2001.


Christopher K. L. Tsai, ’90, a physician who specializes in urology in Southern California’s San Bernardino County, has recently been named secretary of the San Bernardino Medical Society, at the society’s annual 125th officers’ installation and recognition dinner.

James Appel, ’94, who is a physician at and the director of Moundou Adventist Surgery Center and Baraka Adventist Hospital in the Republic of Chad, was awarded the University Global Service Award by Loma Linda University School of Medicine.

Victoria D. Wood, ’94, has recently been appointed as a judge of the Napa (Calif.) County Superior Court. A graduate of the University of California-Davis School of Law, Victoria is the second PUC graduate – after Richard D. Barnett, Jr., ’83 – to be a Superior Court judge in Napa. Victoria joins a growing number of other PUC graduates who are serving or have served as judges in California Courts. Other PUC graduate-judges include, Judge Terry A. Bork,’82, of The Superior Court of Los Angeles County; Judge Terrence M. Finney,  Att. 1950’s, retired judge of The Superior Court of El Dorado County; Harold H. Hopp, ’83, Presiding Judge of the Riverside County Superior Court; Judge Franklin Bondonno, ’65,’70, of the Superior Court of Santa Clara County; and Judge Charles Umeda, Att ’70s, of The San Bernardino County Superior Court.  

Raymond W. McAllister, ’97, a member of the Semitic Scholars, a group of three blind academics who have created a Braille code for ancient biblical languages, has received the prestigious Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind, an award that includes a $20,000 cash prize. The award recognizes individuals working in the field of blindness who have made outstanding contributions toward achieving the full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality. McAllister is an adjunct teacher for the School of Distance Education & International Partnerships at Andrews University.   

  Scott Eastman, ’98, assumed the duties of chief executive officer and director of the Siskiyou Family YMCA in Yreka, Calif., in March 2018, according to the Siskiyou Daily News.  Formerly senior program director of the organization, one of Scott’s first big assignments in his new position is to complete the building of a children’s fitness center at the Y.

Joy Fackenthall, att. ’98, has been teaching for a number of years, along with her husband, Peter, who has been principal at Pacific Union College Preparatory School. They are moving with her family to Auburn Adventist Academy in Auburn, Wash., where she will teach Spanish, religion, and English as a second language, while her husband serves as principal of the school.

Greg Taylor, att. ’98, has recently been appointed youth director of the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Previously Taylor was youth director for the Wisconsin Conference, a teacher in two church conferences, and a congregational pastor in Indiana.


Barbara Harrison, ’02, who has been a member of the nursing staff of St. Helena Hospital, has recently been named clinical associate professor of nursing at Andrews University, and is now teaching at that educational institution.

Kevin Camato, ’06, was ordained as minister of the Seventh-day Adventist faith in December 2017, at the Upper Room Fellowship church in Temple City, Calif., where he is currently senior pastor.  In his ministerial career, Kevin has previously served as youth pastor of the Napa (Calif.) Korean Adventist church; as youth and associate pastor of the Cerritos (Calif.) Korean Adventist church; and as associate pastor of the Living Word Fellowship Adventist church.

Stephanie Leon, Att. 2000s, is now a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps.  She is a motor transportation operator at the marines’ Camp Pendleton in Southern California, but it was a personal battle and a march to even enter the elite military service.  When she applied to join the marines, Stephanie was a bit over a hundred pounds too heavy to qualify. Determined to be a marine, she want of a crash diet: a breakfast smoothie, a salad for lunch, a piece of chicken no bigger than the palm of her hand and a cup of broccoli for dinner; she did daily intensive exercises in the gym, and cross-country running with her brother Michael.  The Marine Corps recruiting staff at Thousand Oaks, Calif., were greatly surprised when Stephanie showed up again some months later having lost enough weight to qualify to enter the service. Stephanie’s future? “One day I’d like to complete the pre-veterinary medicine degree I started at Pacific Union College,” she says, “but for now, I love my job.”

According to the Lake County (Calif.) News, Martin McCarthy, ’06, is a candidate to become the sheriff of Lake County, Calif.  A graduate of PUC’s Criminal Justice Administration program, McCarthy has 25 years of law enforcement experience, which includes service as a police officer in three California cities, and various other public safety and security positions.


Lauren Armstrong, ’13, has recently been appointed communication director of the Southern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, with headquarters in Glendale, Calif.  Formerly a communication intern with the Conference, Loren is studying for a master’s in Strategic Communication. For a time before her internship, Loren worked as an associate editor, then editor at a business-to-business communication firm in Los Angeles, Calif.

Seven PUC alumni were among the 157 students graduating as physicians at the 2017 graduation exercises at Loma Linda University School of Medicine. Following is a listing of the graduating PUC alums, the area of medicine in which they are now interning, and the medical center at which they are interning:

Daniel Betat, ’13, internal medicine, Loma Linda University Medical Center; Robert Chi, ’13, family medicine, Loma Linda University Medical Center; Calvin Fesler, ’13, physical medicine and rehabilitation, Loma Linda University Medical Center; Jeremy Lam, ’13, medicine-prelim, Loma Linda University Medical Center; Beverly Lauw, ’13, pediatrics, Loma Linda University Medical Center; Mark Monterroso, ’12, emergency medicine, Kaweah Delta Health Care, Visalia (Calif.); and Matthew Phelps, ’13, medicine-prelim, Riverside Community Hospital.

Alexandra “Alex” Dunbar, ’14, recently accepted a position as community education specialist for Shasta County Health and Human Services, Public Health branch, Healthy Communities Division. She is a member of the Social Emotional Resiliency Unit, the Coordinator for Adverse Childhood Experiences in the Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health Unit, and the Coordinator for the Strengthening Families Collaborative. Alex’s work before her assignment to Shasta County included completing her MPH in Health Education and Promotion in 2017, and working as a enrollment counselor for PUC from 2015-2017.

Jeffrey Maxwell, ’14, was recently elected as risk management director of the Northern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. His tasks include handling crises, mitigating liability, and preventing problems. Maxwell’s work before his assignment to the risk management post included service for two lay Adventist ministries, a lifestyle retreat in Georgia, and a literature ministry in Tennessee.

Former PUC Faculty and Staff Updates 

According to “The Grundy County Herald” newspaper, Irene Wakeham Lee, who taught at PUC in 1946, is a busy woman and is looking forward to her 106th birthday!

Born of Seventh-day Adventist missionary parents in England, Lee’s varied, adventuresome life found her in Honolulu on December 7, 1941, where she witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor. She taught at Hawaiian Mission Academy, and after teaching at PUC she was off to a teaching mission in the Philippines for 24 years. On a furlough to the U.S. she earned a Ph.D. in linguistics at Stanford University. After her service in the Philippines, Irene taught at Oakwood College, La Sierra University, and Weimar College, as well as Antillean College in Puerto Rico. In between teaching assignments, she found time in 1982 to marry James Lee; both were 70 at the time.

How does she do it all? According to “The Herald,” “Lee credits her longevity to good genes and the ‘good fortune of being born into a Seventh-day Adventist family.’ Her daily routine includes trust in God, exercise, fresh air, water, sunshine, and rest. She eats temperately. Lee has never smoked or used fermented or caffeinated drinks of any kind, and stays away from junk food, and takes care of her daily needs.”

Former PUC President Richard Osborn was awarded the prestigious Charles E. Weniger Award at a ceremony in Loma Linda, Calif., on January 30, 2018.  The award is given to persons in Seventh-day Adventist education and other denominational work who best exemplify the professional excellence of its namesake, Charles E. Weniger, ’18, who was a professor at PUC before becoming dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary.  Also receiving a Weniger Award was George Knight, ’65, an educator and author of some 30 books.

After having had a hugely successful return to campus during Black History Month 2018, former PUC faculty member and member of the “Little Rock Nine” Terrence J. Roberts, was a featured speaker on the campus of Penn State University-Altoona in Pennsylvania.  “There is no such animal as race – never has been, never will be,”Roberts told his Penn State audience.  “Race has nothing to do with you or the fact that you are unique and different from all others.”  After teaching at PUC, Roberts was a mental health director at St. Helena (Calif.) Hospital, an assistant dean at the University of California Los Angeles School of Social Welfare, and a faculty member of Antioch University, Los Angeles, Calif.  He is now principal of the management-consulting firm, Terrence Roberts Consulting.   

Yew Chong Wong, who worked in PUC’s development office in 2005, was named as a 2016 Honored Alumnus of Andrews University at the school’s most recent Homecoming. Dr. Wong’s career has included serving at Southeast Asia Union College, Hong Kong Adventist College, Walla Walla College, CEO of Adventist Health in Hong Kong, Dean Witter Reynolds, and Advent Links-SAUC Singapore. He earned a Ph.D. at Andrews in 1976 and received an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from Asia-Pacific International University in Thailand in 2010.