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02/03/2014 | Created by Darla Martin Tucker

From a statistical point of view, it was highly improbable that an in-depth, comprehensive study on Seventh-day Adventist education would transpire, much less lead to a PBS documentary on the matter.

California Hospital Association Senior Vice President, La Sierra University alumnus Bill Emmerson, and Dr. Elissa Kido, La Sierra University education professor were this year’s Charles E. Weniger Society honorees.

And yet the four-year CognitiveGenesis project, directed by La Sierra University education professor Elissa Kido, surveyed nearly 52,000 K-12 students at 800 Adventist schools around the United States, Canada and Bermuda. The results proved the substantive benefits of an Adventist education and ultimately led to the documentary, “The Blueprint: The Story of Adventist Education” airing on PBS this April.

Kido noted the improbability of such events, described their backstory, and showed a trailer of the PBS film during a keynote address for the 2014 Charles E. Weniger Society Annual Awards. The ceremony was held at Loma Linda University Church on Sat., Jan. 18 and included a concert by the renowned Wedgwood Trio with violinist Christina Thompson. The society honored Kido along with La Sierra alumnus, former California State Senator Bill Emmerson, for their contributions to their communities, the church and broader world.

The Weniger Society also posthumously honored Australian theologian and historian Arthur Patrick, noted for his insight into denominational academic issues and for his significant contributions to Avondale College. Over the course of 17 years his work there included serving as director of the Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre, and later as honorary senior research fellow. Patrick died last year following a battle with cancer.

In addition to leading the CognitiveGenesis research project, Kido directs the Center for Research on K-12 Adventist Education, or CRAE at La Sierra. Her background includes academic administrative posts at several universities and colleges including St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., and Webster University in St. Louis, Mo.

Kido’s academic career, which includes degrees in English and biology and a doctorate from Boston University, encompasses significant fundraising achievements. At St. John she secured a $165,000 Xerox Corp. grant, and raised $1 million for the CognitiveGenesis project at La Sierra.

“I’m deeply grateful and also humbled” to receive the Weniger award, said Kido during her address. “This also really honors Adventist education.”

Emmerson learned several months ago that he had been selected for a Weniger award. “I was thrilled,” he said following the ceremony. “I’d known Dr. Weniger my entire life. My father was active with the society for years and so this was truly an honor.”

Emmerson resigned effective Dec. 1, 2013 from a nine-year career as a California state legislator. He now serves as senior vice president handling state relations and advocacy for the California Hospital Association in Sacramento. Previously he emulated his father’s path and pursued a career in dentistry specializing in orthodontia. He attended La Sierra University and graduated from the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry in 1980.

During 26 years of private practice in Hemet, Emmerson entered the world of legislation and politics by chairing the California Dental Association’s Council on Legislation and its Political Action Committee. In 2004 he was elected to the California State Assembly and then to the California State Senate in 2010 during a special election. In the senate, continued his work on health policy as vice chair of the Budget, Business and Professions, and Human Services committees, and the Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

Charles Weniger was a long-time friend of Bill Emmerson’s parents, Clinton and Patricia Emmerson. Clinton Emmerson, along with the Congressman Jerry Pettis and John Osborn founded the Weniger Society in 1974, 10 years after Weniger’s death.

Weniger, a beloved Seventh-day Adventist educator known by many as “Uncle Charlie,” served as an English professor and later as dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Washington D.C. and Michigan from 1948 to 1961. He was known for his kindness, expertise, broad professional influence and dedication to excellence. The society was founded for the purposes of honoring those who exemplify Weniger’s humility, character and commitment. Each year the Weniger Society selects three individuals as recipients of the Weniger medallion.

The society this year also embarked on a scholarship fundraising effort toward jointly granting an annual Weniger Fellows Student Scholarship for students attending accredited North American Seventh-day Adventist colleges and universities. The scholarship is matched or exceeded by the student’s school.

Weniger scholarship recipients must demonstrate excellence in spirituality, academics, civic service and leadership. The first nine scholarship winners from the following schools were announced during the ceremony: Andrews University, Adventist University of Health Sciences, La Sierra University, Loma Linda University, Pacific Union College, Southern Adventist University, Southwestern Adventist University, Union College and Walla Walla University.