Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients


Each year men and women of exceptional accomplishment are selected by President Michael G. Scales and the Nyack College/Alliance Theological Seminary Board of Trustees to receive honorary doctorates. In 2008, Dr. Scales expanded this tribute to the honorees and established The President’s Hall of Distinction, a tradition that annually commemorates recipients of our Nyack/ATS doctorates and other select people of outstanding public influence. Nyack College’s 2015 honorary Doctor of Letters (Lett.D.) recipients are Juan Hernández, Frances Pratt and Datuk Edward Ong.


Mr. Juan Hernández

Political Advisor

Juan Hernández was born in the city of Fort Worth, Texas to a Mexican father and a Texan mother. He completed his undergraduate studies at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin at 19 years of age and earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Texas Christian University by the age of 25.

Dr. Hernández, who has served as a professor at several universities, has dedicated himself to the study of U.S.-Mexico relations, and established the Center for U.S.-Mexico Studies at the University of Texas, Dallas. In 1995, the Center was launched to recognize and to preserve the rich legacy of Mexican-American history.

Another pivotal point in his career occurred in 1996, when Hernández introduced then Texas Governor George W. Bush to the Mexican State of Guanajuato Governor Vicente Fox, marking a historic new outlook in Mexico-U.S relations. This meeting also launched Hernández into the role of political advisor to both President Bush and President Fox.

To date, he has advised 22 presidential hopefuls in countries around the world and in many international corporations. Featured on the cover of Fortune Magazine and named “Humanitarian Man of the Year” by Latin Trade Magazine, he was also hailed as one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States” by Hispanic Business Magazine. Hernández is known for his passion for defending the rights of immigrants and for being the first U.S. citizen to serve as cabinet member under the president of Mexico.

Hernández hosts a weekly segment on CNN en Español and has appeared on ABC’s “Nightline” and on “World News Tonight,” anchored by the late Peter Jennings, the Spanish-language news channel, Univisión, and Fox News. He is a published author of volumes of poetry and books on politics.


Mrs. Frances Pratt

Nyack Branch, NAACP

Frances Ethel Powell Pratt was born in Chester County, South Carolina into a family of 10 children. She received her primary education in the Chester County public school system and the high school division of Friendship Junior College, Rock Hill, South Carolina. At Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina, she majored in religious education, though her studies were interrupted for a time as she worked to help her mother support the family.

She arrived in New York City in the early 1950s, and while working for a nursery school in Manhattan, she met and married her husband, the late Marshall Pratt. The couple made their home in South Nyack. New York.

Mrs. Pratt’s unfulfilled desire was to be a student in the missionary program at Nyack College. Eventually, her compassion for helping others led Mrs. Pratt to study and earn a nursing degree at Rockland Community College. In 1959 she was hired as a pediatric nurse’s aide at Nyack Hospital. With characteristic determination, she climbed the ranks to become the hospital’s first African American registered nurse and head nurse in the Emergency Room.

In 1999, Mrs. Pratt ended her tenure at Nyack Hospital. However, few were surprised when she was called out of retirement to serve as the hospital’s manager of employee health services. Her second successful retirement became official on December 27, 2012.

Being the quintessential wearer of multiple hats, Mrs. Pratt has served the community tirelessly. Since 1981, she has been president of the Nyack Branch NAACP. Public recognition for her exemplary leadership includes being inducted into the Rockland County Civil and Human Rights Hall of Fame in 2003. Among other numerous awards, she received the New York State Senate Women of Distinction Award in 2004. In 2006, she was Nyack College’s first recipient of the Social Justice Day Award, and in the same year received the Harriet Tubman Award at the New York State Museum in Albany.


Datuk Edward Ong

Founder of the Sutera Harbour Resort, Malaysia

Datuk Edward Ong is an accomplished builder and property developer. By the age of 40, Datuk Ong had completed numerous highly acclaimed projects including The Singapore General Hospital, Apollo and Adelphi Hotels, Regency Park Condominium, and civil engineering works in 3 MRT Stations. The group operations also covered projects and assignments in Malaysia, Burma, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island – Saipan and Guam. He accepted the Lord at the age of 40 despite strong family objections and thus began his journey of faith.

In the mid‐90s, he started the Sutera Harbour Resort project which is designed as a world‐class resort in the heart of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia on 384 acres of prime seafront reclaimed land. The Resort offers two 5‐star hotel accommodations, the Pacific Sutera Hotel (500 rooms) and the Magellan Sutera Resort (456 rooms). This is complemented by a 27‐hole Graham Marsh designed championship golf course with day and night golfing, 104‐berth marina, and extensive facilities at Sutera Harbour Marina, Golf & Country Club—a $450 million project. The Resort employs 1,800 staff, making Datuk Ong’s company the second largest employer in the state.

Currently, Datuk Edward is embarking on a new journey of faith by developing the $300 million integrated resort in Dili, Timor‐Leste, complete with a 492‐room hotel, golf course, hillside villas, a business park, and condominiums. The resort is expected to employ at least 1,200 staff at completion. This will also be a project not so much for its financial achievement but more of giving back to society, to provide training to the locals and with the skills learned, to give them a chance of a better life for them and their families.