Alumnus of the Year- Rik Swartzwelder '93
Rik Swartzwelder is a writer-director-actor and also a producing partner at Skoche Films, LLC. Rik’s feature film debut was this Valentine’s Day Weekend 2015 with Old Fashioned. However, he has directed numerous award-winning short films and worked on several other projects as a writer and producer, participated in 145 film festivals worldwide and garnered over 50 major awards.
One of his best known works, a 35mm short The Least of These, was a film festival phenomenon and it broke new ground in terms of secular crossover and artistic kudos for a film with a strong faith message. His other accolades include the “Student Emmy” for his graduate thesis film, Paul McCall, a CINE Special Jury Award, four ITVA-DC Peer Awards, five ICVM awards, a “Reel Spirituality” award, a Rebel Planet “Best in Show,” and the Sprint PCS Filmmaker of the Future Award. In March 2008, Rik was honored invited to lead the very first filmmaking workshop offered (“The Craft of Film Directing”) as part of their newly launched Heartland Truly Moving Pictures Institute.
Rik’s work has scored distribution deals with Freestyle Releasing, Comcast OnDemand, First Look Entertainment, PBS, Frontier Airlines, Big Film Shorts, Family Bookstores, and more. His projects have also received extensive press, including coverage in Time, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Christianity Today, The Desert Sun, The Indianapolis Star, The Lakeland Ledger, The Times-Reporter, and The Grand Rapids Press.
Rik is a graduate of Columbia Union College where he earned a B.A. in Communication and the Florida State University’s Graduate Film Conservatory, where he earned an M.F.A. in Motion Picture Production. He grew up in New Philadelphia, Ohio, and spent many years living in both central Florida and Washington, DC. He currently resides in Los Angeles.
Young Alumnus of the Year- Berny Jacques '09
Berny Jacques moved to the U.S. from Haiti at the age of 7 and was raised in Naples, Florida. He received his Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Studies from Washington Adventist University. During college, Berny was a Legislative Intern to Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart. On WAU's campus, Berny served as President of the Student Association from 2008-2009, and a member of both the Track and Field and Mock Trial teams.
Berny received his law degree from Stetson University College of Law. Berny currently serves an Assistant State Attorney, where he is responsible for prosecuting felonies. Very active in his community, Berny served as President of the Pinellas County Young Republicans from 2013-2015, is currently a member of the Pinellas County Leadership Council for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay and is a Rotarian.
In 2014, Maverick PAC, a national organization whose mission is to engage the next generation of leaders in Politics and Business, named Berny as one of its "Future 40" award recipients. The award highlights forty individuals under the age of forty who represent the next generation in leadership in business and politics. Berny recently launched his own political action committee named Young Floridians for Opportunity, aimed at supporting young conservative candidates in Florida.
Zella Holbert Service Award- Tom Hughes '75
Tom Hughes was raised in Newark DE. Tom graduated from Columbia Union College, now Washington Adventist University, in 1975 with a BA in Theology and Psychology and from Andrews University with an MA in Religion. He married Debbie in 1981 after a whirlwind courtship that started at a Christian skate night. They have three children and nine grandchildren. The couple currently serves in the Ohio Conference of Seventh-day Adventists where Tom is a district pastor and motorcycle evangelist. The couple has an active music and media ministry, including the Bible Biker Online Radio Program, (Six people have been baptized through the radio program so far) where they work together to share Christ’s love with others.
Tom is the founder of a unique ministry program that all started with a Vespa that a friend offered to sell him. After three years of riding, at age 19 Tom accepted Jesus as his savior and began a lifelong “ride” with him. He founded Bible Biker Ministries in 1998 when God told him to "Buy that Harley", and has led it for the last 17 years. His ministry bridges a gap between the biker and Christian communities. He has traveled thousands of miles on his Harley to all 50 states and even the Arctic Circle on “soul-searching” mission trips. As he travels he shares God’s love and acceptance with other bikers he encounters along the way. Some call him the Mountain Circuit Rider.
In addition to the Bible Biker Ministry, he is also a member of the Christian Motorcycle Association; the director of Rev it UP! an annual biker camp meeting in Ohio, (2 people have been baptized so far) ; and is the chapter President of Adventist Motorcycle Ministry Ohio. He helped create "The Ride of Your Life" Biker-"Steps to Jesus", (Published by the Review which sold over a half million copies) and recently authored a book “The Skull and The Cross,” where Pastor Tom outlays an eye-opening history of the well-known symbol of the skull and crossbones and their little-known origin in Christianity. (Published by Remnant Publications)
Honorary Alumnae of the Year - Joan Francis
Joan Francis currently serves as the Chair of the Department of History and Political Studies at Washington Adventist University. She is known for her challenging, creative, and rewarding classes. She works tireless to enhancing her teaching with the resources of the Nation’s Capital and exposing her students to a wide variety of educational opportunities. In addition to her academic role on campus, she also serves as the sponsor of the Black Student Union, the 2016 graduating class, and varies other programs on the university’s campus.
She has a doctorate in History from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and an M.A. from Andrews University. She is a member of the National History Honors society, Phi Alpha Theta; chosen as a Black Scholar of New England, 1992; and received the Zapara Award for Excellence in Teaching, 1991. She has taught and lectured at a number of colleges and universities including: Caribbean Union College; Northern Caribbean University; Antillean College; as well as Atlantic Union College in South Lancaster, MA.
Outside of the classroom she is a School teacher and head of Women’s Ministry at Sligo Adventist Church. She has also authored many articles for professional journals and church papers, e.g. Ministry, Journal of Adventist Education and Dialogue. But most of all she is a concerned, compassionate, and a committed Christian, eager to listen and unafraid to speak her mind.
Honorary Alumnus of the Year - Mayor Bruce Williams
Mayor Bruce Williams has served in elected office in Takoma Park since 1993. He was a Councilmember from 1993-2007, and has been Mayor since 2007. He has had an active leadership role in many local, regional and state organizations. He was appointed by Governor O’Malley to the Chesapeake Executive Council’s Local Government Advisory Committee on the Chesapeake Bay in 2009, and to the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission in 2013.
Mayor Williams has been active with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) for over twenty years and has held a number of positions, including serving on their board of directors and the National Capital Region Emergency Preparedness Council. He was recognized by the MWCOG as an outstanding public servant in the Washington metropolitan region when he received the Elizabeth and David Scull Metropolitan Public Service Award in 2004. He has also been active in the Maryland Municipal League and the Maryland Mayors Association, serving both organizations as the associations president.
Passionate about community and local government, Mayor Williams has helped revitalize the city of Takoma Park, known as the azalea city. Locally, Mayor Williams has served on the Takoma Park Volunteer Fire Department’s Board of Directors since 2002, and he is a founding board member and treasurer of the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts–a summer wooden bat college-age baseball team that supports local youth.
Mayor Williams has lived in Takoma Park with family since 1981.
- THE SCHOOLS -
The School of Arts & Social Sciences offers a curriculum focused on fostering the development of the skills essential to be successful in the global service economy of the 21st Century: writing, critical thinking, debate, analysis, and an understanding and appreciation for cultural diversity.
The School of Health Professions, Science & Wellness employs a philosophy that balances practical training and theory in approaching education for future health sciences professionals. We bridge the gap between concept and practice.
For more than 30 years, WAU has been a leader in providing career building undergraduate degree programs for working professionals. WAU has continued to expand those offerings by adding graduate programs. This provides undergraduate students the opportunity to transition into graduate programs and continue to enhance their skills and competitive marketability.