On Sunday, July 31, family and friends gathered at Las Posadas Ranch for the Jimmy J. Ha Endowed Scholarship dinner. The event, coordinated by the advancement and alumni relations office, celebrated the life of Dr. Jimmy J. Ha, beloved PUC professor, on what would have been his 48th birthday. Professor Ha passed away in 2010 following a heroic battle with cancer.
Over 100 people attended the celebration, which featured a catered dinner, lawn games, and several musical selections, including a piece performed by Sophie Ha, the 9-year-old daughter of Jimmy and his wife Sonia. Many people gave generously to continue to fund the scholarship, with over $60,000 received in donations, a large part of which was matched by an anonymous donor.
“Jimmy Ha left a lasting imprint on PUC. His love for the underdog, and his deep love for his students will always be remembered. His legacy continues to live on in the lives of the many students he touched, and those who benefit from his scholarship fund. We’re honored to further his impact on PUC through the loving care of his wife and PUC Board Member, Dr. Sonia Ha. Her leadership will ensure that Jimmy’s legacy is felt for generations to come,” says Walter Collins, vice president for advancement and alumni relations.
The Jimmy J. Ha Endowed Scholarship was established in 2010 by the Ha family to honor professor Ha’s love of PUC and higher education, with the first scholarship awarded in 2011. Ha graduated from PUC in 1991 with a degree in theology, and taught in the department of religion (now the department of theology) from 2005-2010, teaching courses in theology, ethics, Christian history, and philosophy. Faculty from the department recommend religion or theology majors who demonstrate a desire to serve humanity, an attitude of servant leadership, authenticity, and a passion for life and learning, along with other qualifying criteria.
During the program, Sonia shared how it was Jimmy’s dream to teach at PUC, and how he was interested in helping students considered to be “the underdog”; students who might not be at the top of their class academically or captain of the basketball team, but who are really trying. With that in mind, the scholarship was created to help these students with great potential. “That’s what Jimmy would have wanted, and that’s why it’s important. … It’s really not about me or about Jimmy, it’s really about the hope that lives in those people. It’s not about the person you think is going to win, because God sees potential in all of us.”
Since its inception, six PUC students have received the Jimmy J. Ha Endowed Scholarship: Danny Chung, ’14, Matthew Frias, ’13, Sam Smith, ’14, Zachary Surovec, ’15, and current PUC students Kim Thompson and John Mangan, who are studying religion and theology, respectively. A special part of the dinner included short video clips from the four graduated scholarship recipients, who thanked donors for their generosity and shared how the scholarship impacted their lives.
Danny Chung was the first student to receive the scholarship in 2011, and he recalled how much he enjoyed professor Ha’s classes and listening to him speak at the local Korean church. “I loved every moment I was there listening to him,” he shared. He was honored he was chosen to receive the scholarship in honor of someone he loved and respected, saying, “This is what it feels like to receive grace.” The scholarship enabled him to remain at PUC. Since graduating, he has served as a missionary in Micronesia, teaching English to well over 100 kids.
Since 2013, Matthew Frias has served as a missionary at Sahmyook University in South Korea, an experience he describes as life-changing. He’s passionate about serving God, meeting new people, and thankful for the opportunity to fully immerse himself in another culture. “Having the scholarship reaffirmed my calling and helped me to believe in myself and to continue to do the work that I had been called to do,” he said.
Sam Smith currently serves as an associate pastor of the Sonora Seventh-day Adventist Church. He is grateful the scholarship allowed him to finish his degree on-time, which in turn helped him enter the workforce, get married, and avoid taking out a significant loan. “The Jimmy J. Ha scholarship helped me because it was able to get me into the position of being a pastor, and I’ve been able to share the Gospel with so many kids.” He shared he has baptized 16 kids within the last two months, saying, “Through professor Ha and Sonia’s influence, these kids have gotten to know about Jesus.”
The most recent graduate of PUC to receive the scholarship, Zachary Surovec says the scholarship couldn’t have come at a better time in his life: “It came just when I needed it, not just financially but also spiritually. I was seeking out God and trying to understand what his calling on my life was.” He currently serves as a youth pastor for the Peoria-Sun Cities Seventh-day Adventist Church as well as at Thunderbird Adventist Academy as chaplain.
Scholarships are a critical part of helping PUC students afford a quality, Seventh-day Adventist Christian education. You can support the Jimmy J. Ha Endowed Scholarship by making a donation online at puc.edu/alumni. For more information, call (707) 965-7500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
See photos of the Jimmy J. Ha Endowed Scholarship dinner.