3 alumni focus of Cal Lutheran ceremony

They serve Haitians, LGBTQ people, Lutheran colleges

Rebecca (Costa '08) Smith, who co-founded Destined for Grace Children’s Relief in Haiti, will be honored as an Outstanding Young Alumna. 

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., - Oct. 12, 2016) California Lutheran University will highlight three alumni during its Founders Day Convocation – the founder of a Haitian relief organization, an advocate for the LGBTQ community, and an ordained minister who spent nearly two decades supporting Lutheran higher education.

The convocation will be held from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 28, in Samuelson Chapel on the Thousand Oaks campus. The 57th annual event is organized to give thanks for the university’s heritage and to pray for its continued success in fulfilling its mission of educating leaders for a global society.

The Rev. Jeff Johnson will speak on “Living Out our Mission, Sent Into the World.” The Berkeley pastor earned a bachelor’s degree from Cal Lutheran in 1984. While studying for a master’s degree in divinity at Pacific Lutheran Theology Seminary, which is now part of the university, he came out as gay to his candidacy committee. In 1990, he founded Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries to challenge the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s policies regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning people and to provide outreach in the San Francisco Bay area.

Rebecca Costa Smith of Carpinteria will be honored as an Outstanding Young Alumna. Smith co-founded Destined for Grace Children’s Relief in Haiti in 2008, the same year she earned a bachelor’s degree from Cal Lutheran. The nonprofit organization raised money to open a Haitian school in 2011. The organization also provides daily meals, distributes solar lights, runs a water filtration program and organizes after-school activities. Smith opened two thrift stores in Santa Barbara to fund the nonprofit, which employs 15 people in Santa Barbara and 25 in Haiti.

Paul Evenson of Thousand Oaks will receive the Christus Award for making significant contributions to higher education in the ELCA and strengthening the bridge between the church and university. Originally a Lutheran pastor, Evenson earned an MBA from Cal Lutheran in 1985 and went on to serve as a vice president at PLTS and, until May, a planned giving officer at Cal Lutheran. Evenson and his wife, Louise, have been generous donors to Cal Lutheran and endowed a scholarship for students earning teaching credentials or doctoral degrees in education.

The University Choir will perform during the convocation. The service will also feature the commissioning of the Board of Regents and Convocation. The Convocation ratifies the university’s Board of Regents, works to strengthen the university’s Lutheran identity, and cultivates ties with ELCA congregations in the Southwest region and with other constituencies.

The event is free and open to the public. The chapel is located at 165 Chapel Lane. Parking is available in the lots at the corner of Olsen Road and Mountclef Boulevard. For more information, call the Office of Mission and Identity at 805-493-3589.

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