Spotlight on the 2021 President’s Hall of Distinction Honorees

Commencement ceremonies for Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary were held virtually again this year, as they were in May 2020 due to restrictions imposed by the ongoing impact of the global pandemic.

On Commencement Day, it is customary each year that honorary doctorates are presented to men and women approved by the President and the Board of Trustees. In addition to conferring the doctoral degrees, Dr. Michael G. Scales, 12th president of Nyack and ATS established the President’s Hall of Distinction in 2007. This group of individuals, acknowledged for exceptional accomplishment and public influence, embody and esteem the ideals of Nyack’s core values of being academically excellent, globally engaged, intentionally diverse, personally transforming, and socially relevant.

Though the traditional ceremony was postponed in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions, in this final year of his tenure as president, Dr. Scales and the Board named the three honorees. The recipients are Dr. Bobby Gruenewald (Doctor of Divinity), Dr. Jennifer Jones Austin (Doctor of Letters), and Dr. Scott Slocum (Doctor of Divinity).

Dr. Bobby Gruenewald, pastor and innovation leader at Oklahoma-based Life.Church, is a household name to subscribers who use the free YouVersion Bible app he created in 2008. The app is now downloaded on more than 480 million smartphones, tablets and computers around the world. There are some 2,062 Bible versions available in 1,372 languages. Dr. Gruenewald has helped pioneer the missional use of technology that allows Life.Church to reach people in every country on the planet.

As one of the leading voices on innovation and use of technology in the global Church, Dr. Gruenewald frequently writes and speaks on these topics and has been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, NBC Nightly News, TechCrunch, CNN, CBS and other media outlets.

Dr. Jennifer Jones Austin, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, a prominent social policy and advocacy organization with 200-member human service agencies operating throughout New York City. Before joining FPWA, Ms. Jones-Austin served as senior vice president of United Way of New York City and was the City of New York’s first Family Services Coordinator appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Her tireless work brings a profound understanding of the link between race, poverty, and social policy in America, and the role religion plays in addressing economic injustice.

Dr. Jones Austin was appointed Scholar in Residence at the Nyack College Center for Racial Reconciliation in 2020. Also an attorney, she currently serves as chair of the NYC Board of Correction, is a board member of the National Action Network, a member of the Feerick Center for Social Justice Advisory Board, and a member of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Fair Recovery COVID-19 Task Force in NYC. Previous board service includes the National Marrow Donor Program, the New York Blood Center, the Icla da Silva Foundation, Citizens’ Committee for Children, and the New York Women’s Bar Association Foundation.

Dr. Scott G. Slocum is chairman of the Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary Board of Trustees. A minister and speaker since 1979, Dr. Slocum has served for nearly three decades as the senior pastor of Essex Alliance Church in Essex Junction, Vermont—the largest church of any denomination in the state of Vermont and one of the fastest growing congregations in New England. Passionate about reaching lost people, especially those who are anti-church and anti-Christian, his emphasis is on demonstrating how the Church and Christianity are relevant to life today.

He has served on The Christian and Missionary Alliance National Board of Directors for more than a dozen years and is a member of The Alliance New England Executive Committee. As he seeks to help ministries fulfill their mission of loving and serving their communities, he is a much sought-after speaker at churches and conferences.

Congratulations to the new honorary alumni and 2021 President’s Hall of Distinction inductees!