Dr. Henry J. Fordham III and his wife, Sharon Fordham, have been truly inspiring in their unwavering dedication to living their daily lives through Christ and undertaking His ministry to share with others. It is with a heavy heart to report that on Sunday, July 18, 2021, the Fordhams were tragically lost in a house fire. Therefore, we take this moment to reflect on their lives and honor them for what they have done for Christian education and the positive impact of their ministry to the larger community worldwide.
Elder Fordham has served the Seventh-day Adventist church and Christian community diligently throughout his life. After graduating from Oakwood University in 1973, he immediately went on to complete his master’s degree at Ohio State University. Then, he received a teaching position at Pine Forge Academy, before being called to minister as an ordained pastor. At the time of his passing, he had been serving as the President of the Allegheny East Conference (AEC) in Pennsylvania, a position that he held steadfast since October 2012. He was also a part of several conference committees and university boards, including being a valuable member of Washington Adventist University’s Board of Trustees.
His wife, Sharon Fordham, was always there to support and aid in their commitment to being a blessing to others. As the first lady of the AEC, she acted in generous endorsement to its mission and accompanied her husband in support of his ministry to the US and around the world. The Fordhams also treasured and dedicated time to being with their family and raising their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
On Monday, July 19, President Weymouth Spence, in remembrance of Dr. Henry and Sharon Fordham’s legacy and with the support of the Officers of the University and the WAU Religion Department, announced the naming of the Dr. Henry and Sharon Fordham Department of Religion. On September 18, 2021, at 4 pm, during the annual WAU dedication weekend, WAU will formally conduct a dedication service at the Sligo SDA Church in tribute to the Fordhams’ legacy. We hope to honor that legacy and motivate future generations to serve and lead by their example.
Dr. Weymouth Spence, President of WAU, remarked, “Washington Adventist University is proud to celebrate the life of Dr. Henry and Sharon Fordham through the Religion Department. May we hold on to their legacy and be inspired by their faith in God and their service to humanity. The Religion Department, now named Dr. Henry and Sharon Fordham Department of Religion, will hold on to the Christ-centered vision of ministry they shared locally and internationally. The entire Washington Adventist University learning community will continue to pray for God’s comfort and peace for the Fordhams’ family, coworkers in ministry, and friends. According to Paul in Romans 8:18: ‘I consider that our sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.’”
Dr. Dave Weigley, President of the Columbia Union Conference and chair of the WAU Board of Trustees, commented, “It’s fitting that our university would honor the Fordhams in this way. As a couple, Henry and Sharon Fordham spent their entire ministry serving God in the Columbia Union. They gave their hearts and souls to ministry and led with such love, compassion, and grace. Henry was an admirable teacher, pastor, ministerial director, administrator, and true Christian who impacted so many and whose legacy will be felt for generations to come.”
Dr. Cheryl H. Kisunzu, WAU Provost, shared her sentiments, “When I think of Doctor Henry and Sharon Fordham, I immediately think of the Gen 12:2 declarative, ‘I will bless you and make your name great & you shall be a blessing.’ This cherished couple’s commitment to be a blessing was never more evident than during our 2021 Baccalaureate Service, when though undergoing surgery that same Sabbath morning, Sharon supported Dr. Fordham as he provided the baccalaureate message to the graduating Class of 2021. Noting also that prior to this message, Dr. Fordham had requested the name of each graduate so that for 40 Days he could pray for them by name and thereby empower them as they too, would leave WAU, as competent moral leaders, blessed to be a blessing to the world …‘for such a time as this,’ for which we will be forever enriched and eternally grateful.”
The chair of the newly named Dr. Henry and Sharon Fordham Department of Religion, Bogdan Scur, shared, “The news of Elder Fordham and his wife’s passing was devastating for all of us who work and study in the Department of Religion at Washington Adventist University. Words cannot describe the magnitude of this loss for all of us. Elder Fordham was not only a faithful shepherd of the people of God and a dedicated trustee of Washington Adventist University but also a great friend and supporter of the Department of Religion. We are very grateful for his enormous legacy and very heartbroken to hear the news of his and his wife’s tragic passing. On behalf of the Department of Religion at Washington Adventist University, I wish to express our deepest condolences to the leadership of the Allegheny East Conference and the entire Allegheny East family. We stand with them in solidarity and mourning, and we pray for all our colleagues in ministry and our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
LaTasha Hewitt, Director of Communication & Church Ministries Coordinator at AEC, said, “The naming of WAU’s Religion Department after the Fordhams, our beloved first family of Allegheny East Conference, is well-fitted. Both were passionate advocates for Adventist Christian education and possessed a remarkable dedication to ministry. They would have been extremely humbled by the honor.”
Washington Adventist University is grateful to have witnessed and been a part of the Fordhams’ ministry and their support of Christian education. We continue to pray for the Fordham family and the AEC family as we mourn the loss of beloved leaders who worked towards the mission of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. We all look forward to the day of His return when we shall see them again.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NKJV).