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Five Concordia Alumni Honored for Exceptional Achievements

Concordia University, St. Paul presented this year’s Alumni Distinguished Service Awards (ADSA) to Gretchen (Gienapp, ’67) Beecroft, Rev. Dr. Eugene Bunkowske (Acad. ’53, J.C. ’55), Sally (Clingenpeel, ’55) Cordes, Dr. Rebecca Thomley (M.A. ’02), Rev. James Vehling (Acad. ’58, J.C. ’60) for their exceptional achievement in their profession, the community and the church. A celebration honoring these alumni was held Oct. 4 at the Buenger Education Center on campus.

2013 Alumni Distinguished Service Awards honorees:

Gretchen Beecroft has dedicated her life to Lutheran churches and schools. She began her career as a Lutheran school teacher and then served the rest of her career at Concordia. Nineteen of her early forty years at Concordia were spent as the president’s assistant. She was known by many to be efficient, trustworthy, graceful, positive, dependable, respectful, humble, welcoming, inclusive, open-minded and a skillful communicator. She embraced much change during her tenure as evidenced by being Concordia’s first word processor operator, development secretary, publications keyliner and alumni newsletter author, among her many other roles. Beecroft, now retired, continues to volunteer with her church and local high school.

Rev. Dr. Eugene Bunkowske has served the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod for more than 50 years as the church body’s vice president, a faculty member, Bible translator, author, volunteer and overseas missionary. He has been awarded honorary doctorate degrees by St. John’s College, Winfield, Kan.; Concordia University, Irvine, Calif.; and Concordia University, St. Paul, Minn. Bunkowske is the Fiechtner Chair emeritus professor of Christian outreach in the Hoffmann Institute at Concordia.    

Sally Cordes has provided countless volunteer hours to Concordia since 2004.  She serves as the Golden Reunion coordinator and Alumni & Friends Travel coordinator in addition to her service on the Alumni Council. Sally and her husband, Rev. Robert Cordes (’55), served several parishes in the Midwest and a 27 year chaplaincy in Michigan. Sally has held a variety of positions while caring for their family including a 35-year career as a Mary Kay consultant.

Dr. Rebecca Thomley became the chief executive officer of Orion Associates and its associated companies in 2000. Since then, she has helped the social services organization pursue new and innovative opportunities that have resulted in significant growth in revenue, employees, clients, and services for the physically and mentally challenged. Thomley founded the non profit, Headwaters Relief Organization, and has led substantial efforts for Orion’s employees to serve the greater community in the wake of local, national and international disasters.

Rev. James Vehling has dedicated his career to serving the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. He served as a missionary in Japan for 20 years and as a parish pastor in St. Paul and Hollywood, Fla., for 17 years. Vehling has also helped prepare undergraduate and graduate students for church work careers through his service to Concordia House of Studies and The Hoffmann Institute at Concordia University, St. Paul.

A list of previous ADSA recipients can be found here.


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