TAKOMA PARK, Md. (July 23) - Retired NBA Legend, Dikembe Mutombo, will headline a group of distinguished honorees at the Washington Adventist University (WAU) Inaugural Visionaries Gala, scheduled for Congressional Country Club, Sunday, September 22. The gala is envisioned as an annual event to support Vision 2020, a blueprint for campus development over the next seven years.
“This will be a watershed moment in the history of Washington Adventist University,” said President Weymouth Spence, Ph.D. “We are signaling our intention to grow this university and to deepen our footprints as a higher education institution in the Washington, D.C. area and the country in general.”
Mutombo will receive the Gateway Award for excellence in humanitarian service, recognizing his work in healthcare in The Democratic Republic of the Congo, his homeland. Originally intending to study medicine, Mutombo’s 7’2” frame caught the eye of the basketball coach at Georgetown University. He was soon drafted into the NBA where he spent 18 years as one of the league’s most celebrated players. He retired from the Houston Rockets in 2009.
Mutombo never forgot his intention to take medical care to his people, however. He created the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation in Atlanta, GA in 1997 and after 10 years of intense work, numerous challenges and $23 million of his own money, he completed the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital in Kinshasa, July 2007. The hospital, which is named in honor of his mother, opened its doors to patients in December 2007. The total cost was $29 million.
Other honorees on this year’s program, are: educator, businesswoman, activist and philanthropist, Evelyn Bata, Ph.D., for excellence in service to Washington Adventist University; head of the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, Rory Pullens, for excellence in community transformation; and chair of the WAU music department, James Bingham, Ph.D., for excellence in the arts and humanities.
Guided by the motto, Vision 2020–Growing with Excellence, WAU aims to improve all facets of its operations to become a thriving university in the competitive higher education market. In academics, the University aims to exceed accreditation standards; develop a strong curriculum in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; expand service learning; conduct ongoing program review; make strategic reinvestment in the quality of programs; and promote and strengthen support services that reflect 21st century best practices.
At the centerpiece of the plans, is the Health Professions and Wellness Center, conceived as a collaboration with like-minded organizations, the center will provide vibrant opportunities for holistic development through education, health, and wellness for the WAU community and beyond.
Also, on the drawing board is Phase Two of the Leroy & Lois Peters Music Center. The performance hall would connect to the Music Center to facilitate the practice, teaching, and study of the performing arts, integrating performance and curriculum for students.
“When the plans and actions are implemented, every person, program, and building associated with the school will be transformed,” Spence said.